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Feb. 2, 2008

An otherwise masterful MAN falls into a familiar formula

by Johanna Gretschel, Online Managing Editor
As the curtains unfurled to reveal Magnet Arts Night (MAN) 2008 on Feb. 1, a strange sense of déjà vu seemed to permeate the Blair auditorium.

Senior Cynthia Xu commanded the audience's attention during the show's introduction with a flowing delivery of Sergei Rachmaninov's "Prelude to Op. 23 No. 5" on the piano. The first routine of the evening featured an ensemble of cross-grade Magnet girls performing a traditional Indian dance, "Dhol Baaje." The ladies were attired in sparkling crimson and their full skirts spun majestically around them as they bounced and turned to the driving drumbeat. Masterful choreography abounded, but only two performances into the night, the progression seemed strangely familiar.

A feeling of been-here, seen-this pervaded the entire showcase. Many of the performances were impressive and even breathtaking, but while representing an academic program that boasts the development of progressive thinking, many of the acts seemed content to take their cues from performances of years past.

The early acts were received better than those saved for the end. In the first half, sophomores Kyujoo Choi and Adam Detzner complemented each other well on the violin and piano with their interpretation of Beethoven's "3rd Movement of Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 4 in A minor." The somber strains of the violin and the melodic piano chords worked together to build up a beautiful crescendo of sound before bringing it back down.

Unfortunately, the drawn out and overlong classical pieces became tiring by Act II. The students performing were talented, but a more enjoyable experience could have been attained by making the acts shorter. Senior Soraya Chanyasubkit's performance of "Samkumneung" on the ranad-ek, a Thai folk instrument, was an unusual auditory treat that preluded Act II.

The rock groups, which separately performed Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Snow (Hey oh)," both excelled on the same points. The technical skill and musicianship of the members in each band is indisputable, as both the sophomore-fronted "Paralyzer" and senior-laden "Snow (Hey oh)" groups played their cover songs without error and probably could pass for the radio versions. Initially a little awkward, both groups grew more comfortable and personable during the courses of their performances. Sophomore Alex Bae, who wielded a bass guitar bigger than he was, brought squeals from the audience. A pulse-pumping guitar solo as well as airborne guitar-playing from the "Snow (Hey oh)" act's seniors Junqian Zhang and Alex Wang brought a concert-like feel to the auditorium.

The unplugged guitar-twanging act went over even stronger — teachers Karen Collins and Robert Donaldson accompanied the dynamic, smooth voice of junior Julie Ufford on Boudleax Bryant's "All I Have to Do Is Dream." The folksy 60s song was catchy and well-performed, but again simply brought back memories of last year's MAN, where Donaldson also performed an acoustic song with a female student.

The gold stars for "Best Act of the Night" go to freshman Ari Schaler, junior Elaine Chung and seniors Brian Chang, Wenbo Dou, Daniel Quang and Tina Zhang for their mixed martial arts skit, "The Ultimate Showdown of Doom." The boys challenged Chung and Zhang to a rumble, overseen by a mysterious wise man in a straw hat and bathrobe played by Dou. The girls put the boys in their place with a mix of wushu flips and splits. After prodding from the boys, the mysterious martial arts master announced himself the victor as he departed the stage with his arms around Chung and Zhang. The act combined humor and impressive fight choreography to successfully create the most entertaining performance of the evening.

MAN concluded with the traditional senior act, a live-band rendition of "I Want Those Straight A's," an original rewrite of the Backstreet Boys' 1999 hit "I Want it That Way" penned by 2007 magnet graduate Allen Zhang. A band of seniors backed up seniors Song Fu, Eddie Tang and Jarren Zheng as they sang and danced to simple, goofy choreography. The act was amusing, especially as the boys used their bodies to spell out the object of their lust — the letter "A."

MAN 2008 featured 14 performances, any one of which could have stood strongly alone. But the acts grouped together as a whole produced a showcase all too similar to previous years. The annual talent show has unfortunately seemed to let itself settle into a familiar pattern that it must break out of in order to maintain its reputation for excellence. If organizers are interested in maintaining the show's high attendance rates as well as the level of prestige that comes with making the cut to perform in MAN, they must realize that not everything works best in a formulaic fashion, mathematical or otherwise.

Schedule of Performances

"Prelude to Op. 23 No. 5
Cynthia Xu

SSM Dance - Dhol Baaje
Monica Ashok, Anika Manzoor, Jasleen Salwan, Debattama Sen, Poorva Singal, Naina Soni, Tripti Soni and Ruhi Vasavada

"3rd Movement of Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 4 in A minor"
Kyujoo Choi and Adam Detzner

Who's On First
Song Fu and Eddie Tang

"Think of Me"
Yifan Li and Cindy Sui

"Paralyzer"
Alex Bae, Vincent Hu, Matthew Hwang and Matthew Kannan

"Samkumneung"
Soraya Chanyasubkit

"Danse Macabre
Belinda Juang and Pin-Koe Ko

Halloween
Bryan Huang

"Toccata"
Brian Chang

"Snow (Hey oh)"
Sam Du, Song Fu, Kun Li, Alex Wang, Junqian Zhang and Lance Zhao

"All I Have To Do Is Dream"
Karen Collins, Robert Donaldson and Julie Ufford

The Ultimate Showdown of Doom
Brian Chang, Elaine Chung, Wenbo Dou, Daniel Quang, Ari Schaler and Tina Zhang

I Want Those Straight A's
Francesca Blume, Sam Du, Song Fu, Kun Li, Eddie Tang, Alex Wang, Junqian Zhang and Jarren Zheng

Masters of Ceremonies: Jason Arora, Nilan Schnure and Scott Yu



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  • man on February 2, 2008 at 10:48 PM
    this makes a very valid point. we need new stuff. everyone knows magnets can play piano. what is needed is more audience interaction and creativity...also, more acts!

    lets see if 09 got game.
  • Z on February 2, 2008 at 11:18 PM
    I didn't go, but looking at the program, the claim that there are too many classical pieces is validated. And classical music itself is currently constricted and not particularly popular with the masses.

    Maybe there wasn't enough time, cuz making the "original and creative" stuff takes a hell of a lot of time. Things like Matrix ping-pong and 5 minutes of bird noises may not have been possible.
  • ambivalent on February 3, 2008 at 12:08 AM
    I'm not really sure what to think actually.
    I think that there is only so much "progress" to be expected out of such events. I think the point to Magnet Arts Night is to give the students a chance to express themselves, to show that in spite of all the academics and competitiveness, there is a uniqueness and individuality to everybody... So if classical music is their passion, who are we to deny them the opportunity to perform? Who are we to call their act formulaic or unoriginal?
  • former magnet on February 3, 2008 at 12:40 PM
    well, this article was obviously not written by a magnet. The whole point of magnet arts night is that it is always similar. That's what the magnets like about it, the familiarity. Yes, it is nice to have some original acts, but I think that the senior act and the martial arts showdown, not to mention the antics of the emcees, filled that quota nicely. My only complaint for this year's MAN is that the asian population of the magnet was over-represented. All the students in the magnet should be encouraged to participate.
  • repetitive? (View Email) on February 3, 2008 at 12:50 PM
    I'd like to think of it as...traditional. I do agree that there were too many classical acts, however.
  • magnet on February 3, 2008 at 1:21 PM
    its not repetition, its tradition
    the author of the article should ask any magnet what they think before deeming the play as repetitive- nonmagnets don't understand magnet culture

    I agree that there were too many classical acts, but that's probably just because the teachers want it to be more sophisticated

    our comedians and bands were unique, the emcees had new lines, and even we've never had opera...give more support before you can say we can't do art because we're so "formulaic". and that last line was quite offensive- its basically saying we're dorks and think of everything in terms of formulas.

    don't criticize what you don't understand

  • another former magnet on February 3, 2008 at 1:55 PM
    "Well, this article was obviously not written by a magnet"... well, as another former magnet I have to say by my junior I was completely bored my magnet arts night. I mean, it's nice and all so many magnets came from backgrounds where they started to take piano or violin lessons at the age of 5, but seeing them execute those skills in the show was always boring and emotionless. It always seemed they were just going through the motions of showing how competent they were at some instrument as they are at math or science. The point of magnet arts night, I think, should be students going out of the box to challenge themselves creatively -- not something normally accomplished through most magnet arts nights.
  • ??? on February 3, 2008 at 2:47 PM
    who actually wrote i want those straight A's?
  • Magnet on February 3, 2008 at 2:53 PM
    Yes, it is true that they're was probably too much classical music and many of the acts weren't all that great. However, there could only be so much diversity, especially as we ARE magnets and many of us excel in classical music, so why shouldn't we showcase what we're good at? In addition, I don't recall many rock songs last year or in years past.
    In fact, MAN is still prestigious and this year, an especially high number of good acts were cut because there is so much talent. Many groups have worked very hard to prepare for MAN and so what if its similar to years past? It just means that magnets are still into the same things, such as classical music.
  • lol on February 3, 2008 at 3:17 PM
    i'm a mysterious wise man in a straw hat and bathrobe LOL
  • Magnet on February 3, 2008 at 4:51 PM
    I don't know why everyone has to get so huffed up about these articles. Every year, the MAN article is criticized for not talking enough about a certain act or leaving something out.

    I thought MAN was a good show but do think that there was a lot of classical music and that a lot of the acts were similar to other years. Whether that means it is really repetitive is subjective, so don't take this article personally.
  • lolbbq on February 3, 2008 at 5:28 PM
    Sorry, gotta agree with the article. MAN does kind of get repetitive and it has nothing to do with magnet culture. That last line was a zinger. Just ouch, it hurt right here. But it was the truth in my opinion. If you ever hear a person talk about MAN auditions before the acts are picked, a lot of "at least one Indian dance is going to get in," or "there's always a senior act," or even "I hope they don't accept TOO many classical acts this year." It is pretty formulaic.

    But I also have to point out that it isn't entirely the Magnet students' fault. There were a lot more interesting, or at least different, acts that tried out. A tango, a ballet, a hip hop dance, and a big skit that parodied "Yellow Fever," all auditioned. None got in. A big part of this year's lack of originality was due to the judging process (no offense to the teachers). There was also a lot less organization this year. Most of the people auditioning didn't get any solid notification about Magnet Arts Night auditions. News and information had to be obtained by rumor and "Do you have any idea?" until a week or two before auditions started. Most groups weren't well prepared. The auditions and rehearsals really felt like it was patched together. I think we were lucky MAN turned out as well as it did this year.
  • tina on February 3, 2008 at 5:34 PM
    At least we rocked? (and I got an kickbutt picture on SCO)

    Lawl, nice comment Wenbo. Mysterious wise man in a straw hat and bathrobe, indeed.
  • very Juicy on February 4, 2008 at 12:29 PM
    I am a senior magnet, and I am disappointed that this article did not criticize MAN more. Paralyzer was no where near the "radio" version; the wu shu act was boring, unfunny, and awkward; the bhangra had no energy; and the music (although fantastic) was too long and too many. The comedy acts were not unique at all. I have a great respect for the magnet teachers but I don't know how they don't see how bad some of the acts really are.

  • SUPERMAN on February 4, 2008 at 1:02 PM
    I believe somewhere along the way, the statement "BRYAN IS AWESOME" got left out of the article.
  • :-) on February 4, 2008 at 6:08 PM
    I thought this was a really bad magnet arts night. The martial arts thing wasn't very good compared to what it has been in years passed. This is like the sixth time I've heard Bryan do the exact same Seinfeld thing. The Indian dance seemed like the same thing we've had every year (I understand this wasn't entirely their fault, apparently they had something else planned that the organizers wouldn't let them do). The obligatory song from phantom of the opera was pretty bad. And did we really need four acts which were someone playing a classical piece on the piano?

    On the other hand, Wang was really funny.
  • Alex Bae (View Email) on February 4, 2008 at 9:28 PM
    BASS GUITAR BIGGER THAN I AMMM
    Excuseee me~~

    I didn't know I was 3 feet tall haha
  • Song - sry, I ramble (View Email) on February 6, 2008 at 5:58 PM
    You know it seems like a lot of you who criticize the classical music on the basis of it being "boring" don't really think before you speak. It seems to me like you agree that they were performed very well but that it was "boring". Think, if you go to a music concert, would you come out of it and say that it was boring? No, because you expect to hear classical music at the concert. The same goes for MAN. You should expect to hear classical music at MAN. If you don't enjoy classical music to begin with, then just say so, don't say that it was "boring" just because you personally do not enjoy the genre of music.

    That aside, I do agree that there were probably too many classical selections this year. Although, the "formulaic" designation sort of took me by surprise. I thought most of the acts were original. In fact, everything except for classical music and the indian act was original (wasn't it?)

    "The annual talent show has unfortunately seemed to let itself settle into a familiar pattern that it must break out of in order to maintain its reputation for excellence." This claim seems a bit unrealistic. What should we break out into? I don't think the quality of the show has degraded. Maybe we didn't have that ONE act that made the night "excellent", such as matrix ping pong or whatever the writer was referring to that made previous MANs "excellent". What would make MAN different? Wasn't the excellence of MAN established because we had this so called "formulaic" routine?

    And, "they must realize that not everything works best in a formulaic fashion, mathematical or otherwise" - This was just written in poor taste.

    The bottom line is, I think everyone agrees that maybe the recent MAN could have cut one or two classical acts. But the whole point of MAN is to represent the magnet students, and if playing piano and dancing the indian dance is what we do best, why shouldn't we showcase those talents?
  • stop hating on February 10, 2008 at 7:08 PM
    whoever wrote the article has no clue what they r talking about.
    and all you people should stop getting worked up. appreciate the talent, and if you don't like it, then u should have the guts to go do something yourself. don't be hating if you don't got what it takes.
  • on March 8, 2008 at 8:46 PM
    the "SSM" group definitely stole their name from the original Indian dance group that graduated over the past couple of years. be creative and think of a new one!!
  • whatever on October 9, 2008 at 7:38 PM
    to the person below me: we didn't "steal" the name, we're just holding on to tradition. stop being so pressed.
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