NextNOW Fest 2017 jumpstarts the school year, creatively

By Ally Tobler

There’s no better way to kick off the school year and energize your brain after a long summer than to let your creativity flow.

The NextNOW Festival 2017 is University of Maryland’s annual music, dance and arts festival to welcome back Terps with two nights of innovative and intriguing artistic performances at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

This year, the festival hosted 43 different performing arts –visual arts, experiences and installations — that included over 35 artists.

Students gather outside of The Clarice before the start of the NextNOW Fest 2017. Photo by Ally Tobler.

“This is an opportunity to connect with people, be creative and have fun together,” said Executive Director of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Martin Wollesen.

The festival hosted new events along with student favorites, such as the Silent Disc-Glo, a dance party where everyone listens to either one of two live DJs through personal headphones, which was the brainchild of UMD students four years ago.

“I didn’t go [to the Silent Disc-Glo] last year, so I really wanted to go this year,” said sophomore computer engineering major Raveesha Arora.

Other performances included Big 10 New Play Reading: Twilight Bowl, which is an initiative to promote the writing and production of plays about women; Milck, a feminist musician; Alumni Play Commissions, which consisted of “bite-sized” plays written by UMD theatre alumni; Delta Chi Xi Honorary Dance Fraternity classes; TEMPO 72-Hour Composition Project, just to name a few.

But many of the performances focused on addressing key issues in today’s society, one of which was the TOTUS Spoken Words performance presented in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy.

TOTUS, named after the Latin word meaning ‘whole,’ strives to let “students to explore marginalized identities and silenced voices in and through poetry to spark dialogue and action around identity, social justice and lived experience,” according to The Clarice’s website.

TOTUS poets answer audience questions. Photo by Ally Tobler.

The performance showcased UMD student poets and their writing, and topics ranged from childhood to family life to police violence and more.

“[TOTUS] has given writers the ability to write about their experiences and write about all of the sadness and political nonsense happening in these contemporary moments,” said a TOTUS member. “[It] gives us a medium to write down all of our experiences and to hopefully make them clear for us and clear for others.”

But not all performances addressed societal issues verbally.

NextDANCE, a collection of dance performances by undergraduate and graduate students from the UMD School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, conveyed the concepts of the earth and global warming, appearances, familial relationships and more through movement.

One dancer, Amber Lucia Chabus, a senior performance and kinesiology major, said she believes dance is a way to understand and build connections with one another.

Amber Lucia Chabus performs in NextDANCE. Photo by Ally Tobler.

“I think a lot of people look at dance as people rolling on the ground and not really doing things, but I think, as last night shows, that a lot of people can get things out of dance,” she said. “I think that if just one person is impacted by it, then it’s important.”

According to sophomore theatre and communications major Ariana Caldwell, NextNOW and other related campus events are a good opportunity to foster open dialogue amongst the UMD community.

“I think [the NextNOW Fest] is an outlet for students for their voices to be heard and and everybody’s opinions to be respected and taken into consideration,” Caldwell said. “It’s a safe space because there are so many different pieces of art that address the same issues in various ways. I think it’s important for us as young people to get that exposure.”

The event has not only been successful in amplifying student voices, but has also encouraged student involvement in the arts, despite one’s major or artistic interests.

“One of the things that was clear to me when I arrived four years ago was that I wanted to make sure we were creating opportunities for our students on campus to engage in the arts and to find a place to connect through the arts,” Wollesen said.

Wollesen said that over the past four years, student involvement has been vital to the production of the NextNOW Fest because the event relies on student voices to bring artistic perspectives to the table. Every year, more and more UMD students join the festival’s curatorial team, which plans program experiences and installations, he said.

“Our big goal on this is to create an annual Terp tradition,” Wollesen said.


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