By Cami Gore
Creative, unique, funny, compelling, and emotional do not even begin to describe undergraduate dance major, Sydney Lemelin’s second season performance. The weekend of October 19th, Sydney’s work titled “Rockfish” graced the Dance Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
“Rockfish” began with Lemelin standing in front of the closed red curtain. Lemelin began her performance casually, asking the audience if they have ever seen the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” She proceeded to teach the audience song, “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” that appeared in the movie, encouraging them to sing along.
The curtain then opened as Lemelin swiftly moved around the stage. The song concluded and Lemelin began to portray 2 characters: herself and her “Chinese fairy godmother” who was teaching her how to reconnect with her Chinese identity.
Lemelin confidently shifted from character to character, changing both her voice and her movements. The audience laughed hysterically as she kept their full engagement. Lemelin shared with me, “I don’t know if this piece has made me more in touch with my culture but I do believe it has connected me to my family.
As “Rockfish” progressed, it became more emotional as she explored the history of her Chinese ancestors. Lemelin had a suitcase filled with photographs that she showed the audience and spread on the stage.
After the beautiful moment with the photographs, she began a riveting movement phrase. The phrase was essentially stationary with the lighting projecting a window frame onto the stage. She seemed to be moving through the different parts of the frame, almost appearing trapped. Lemelin’s contrast of dynamics and changing levels made her energy fill the entire stage.
Another special moment was when a video of her mother talking about the history of Lemelin’s ancestors was projected on stage. Lemelin sat on the stage watching it and then began walking closer to it. Lemelin stated, “The beautiful thing about culture is it connects you to your ancestors and that’s what this piece does for me.”
She began working on the piece after her grandmother passed away. Lemelin revealed, “I realized that I hadn’t listened to her when I had the chance.” Through movement and acting, Lemelin was able to explore her ancestor’s stories and share them with the audience, too. She said, “It’s a solo work but when I am onstage I don’t feel alone because I am connected and supported by all my ancestors.”
The most remarkable moment of the piece, in my opinion, was the end when Lemelin began stacking a pile of rocks. She was verbally telling the story of her grandparents traveling from China. She announced to the audience “when they got there, they found their suitcases were filled with..” She stopped mid-sentence and let the pile of rocks fall. That concluded her performance.
This, however, is not the last anyone will see of “Rockfish.” Lemelin said, “I think I will continue to work on this piece for a long time.” When first creating it, she had trouble trusting herself. She confessed, “I kept telling myself I had nothing to say and that I wouldn’t be able to make anything good.”
Her challenge of trusting herself was absolutely defeated in her impeccable performance. Lemelin is extremely talented and creative. I am looking forward to seeing “Rockfish” expanded on, as well as her future works.
Featured Photo Credit: Sydney Lemelin in Rockfish, by Geoff Scheil, courtesy The Clarice
Cami Gore is a freshman journalism and dance major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.