WELCOME TO THE SPRING 2018 edition of the English House Gazette, the official blog of Bryn Mawr College’s ART264 News and Feature Writing class where we post a sampler of the diverse stories reported and written by student journalists in the class.

 

Stories range from on-campus profiles and trends to ventures outside the bubble, all based on beats selected by the students.

This year we have a particularly interesting lineup.

Bryn Mawr’s RACHEL LIGHTSTONE clues us in on the latest trends iin tattoos on campus, including the popular pick and poke style.

YI GAO, a Bryn Mawr student, writes about the growing use of ancient and modern artifacts in the college classrooms, with an emphasis on some striking Japanese prints.

Bryn Mawr’s AZALIA SPRECHER, who made immigrants her beat, offers nuanced and often poignant tales of two Bryn Mawr students who are “Dreamers” who were born in Mexico, raised in the United States and now are among the 600,000 so-called DACA men and women facing possible deportation under President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants. Sprecher also profiles Bryn Maw sociology professor Veronica Montes, who arrived in the U.S. from her home in Mexico as a teen.

YUQI ZHA, a Bryn Mawr senior, chose the Chinese in America as a beat. One story reveals how a Bryn Mawr student from China manages to bring a suitcase full of food from home. It’s called The Smuggled Dumpling Caper into the U.S. The descriptions can make your mouth water. Zha also writes about Pangpang Lulu, a niche delivery service that delivers food to Chinese students yearning for their country’s food. Try the Chicken Feet stew.

To test the attitudes of Bryn Mawr’s growing cadre of Chinese students, Zha surveyed them all and lays out her results. It’s amazing how a bad bowl of white rice can ruin your day.

Haverford College senior SEAN WOODRUFF goes beyond the confines of campus to cover his beat on high tech. For starters, there is a bar in Fishtown that offers virtual reality headsets to its customers.  And he looks into the popular and successful Hackathon held each year by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Finally, Woodruff accompanies a group of accomplished Lower Merion students as they compete in a regional robotics competition with their robot Everest. Can he do it?

Haverford’s STEVE LEHMAN has a funny and endearing tale about a would-be student movie maker who reveals how hard it is to make a movie without lights, a camera and actors. Lehman’s classmate JOSEPH STARUSKI, who is a mass transit freak, adds to the canon with a look at the rage for electric bikes.

Covering the arts, Bryn Mawr’s COURTNEY EU writes about how diversity has come to the comics. Superman make way for an Afro-Latino Spiderman, a gay Iceman, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel.

Bryn Mawr’s ANIKA VARTY, whose beat was the arts, gives us an update on creative dance groups breaking new ground in ballet.

 

The ‘Invisible Yellow’ Speak

Bryn Mawr gets high marks from Chinese students….

But many wonder if the understands them.

By Yuqi Zha

The number of Chinese students at Bryn Mawr College has increased 20 times in 10 years, from only nine students enrolled in 2008 to 181 Chinese students enrolled in 2018, according to Patricia Lausch, the director of International Student and Scholar Services and Advising at Bryn Mawr College. Chinese students now represent 13% of the total student population, the largest single group of international students.

What do Chinese students think of Bryn Mawr College?

To find out the answers, we surveyed all of the Chinese students on campus, including a few recent graduates, and interviewed eight respondents. Seventy-nine students answered our survey, which is a 43% response rate, high for a voluntary survey. In addition, 31 students appended anonymous comments to the survey sent out through Survey Monkey in late April. Chinese students are willing and eager to share their feelings and opinions.

Overall, Chinese students are pleased with their experience at Bryn Mawr, with 24% rating it excellent and 61% rating it good.

Q: Overrall, how would you rate your experience at Bryn Mawr?

They also have a generally favorable opinion of the services they use. The percentage of students rating each service good or excellent are: 73% for the Pensby Center for international students, 65% for the Writing Center, 63% for the Health Center, 67% for the New Dorm Dining Hall and 59% for the Erdman Dining Hall. The one exception was the Counseling Center, considered good or excellent by only 35% of the respondents. The low rating of the Counseling Center is partly influenced by the fact that fewer Chinese students have contacted with the counseling service.

As one respondent to the survey put it: “Without BMC I would not be who I am. In my four years here, BMC not only taught me priceless professional knowledge and expanded the scope I interpreted the world around me, but also helped me have a better understanding of myself. I learned critical thinking here, but more importantly, I learned tolerance from the open and comprehensive environment of BMC.”

Praise was not universal. When asked if the school offered a welcoming environment, 33% students rated it fair or poor. Another 34% said they had experienced some discrimination at the school.

Interviews with students fleshed out some of those feelings. Some aspects of the college have not adapted to the explosion of Chinese students.

In sum, Chinese students want improvement in three areas: They want staff with Asian backgrounds on the campus. They want International Student Orientation back. They want attention to their particular needs and not be the “invisible yellow” anymore, as one student put.

There is one issue that symbolizes that failure to adapt. It centers on the issue of white rice.

Bryn Maw College offers Chinese students lousy white rice.

White Rice

Bryn Mawr College has two dining halls, the New Dorm Dining Hall and the Erdman Dining Hall. Erdman provides only traditional American food, while the New Dorm  has a special buffet, devoted to food from different countries and regions around the world, including Chinese and other Asian food. Students call that part of the New Dorm Dining Hall the special bar. The origin of the food provided on the special bar changes every month.

Probably because of the special bar, Chinese students slightly prefer the New Dorm Dining Hall over the Erdman Dining Hall: 87% said they frequently use the New Dorm Dining Hall, compared to 67% who said they frequently use Erdman Dining Hall.

When the special bar in the New Dorm Dining Hall provides Asian food, it also provides white rice, because white rice is the basis of Asian food. Asians have very different opinions about rice from Americans. They like tender, moist, sticky and fluffy white rice, very different from brown rice. If cooked white rice has the same hard and chewy taste as brown rice, it is considered as “half-cooked” and terrible by the Asians.

The white rice provided at the special bar followed the American standard of preparation. That’s why Chinese students had many complaints about it.

“I don’t really understand how they can make white rice taste so bad,” said Cheyenne Zhang, a sophomore Math and Philosophy major.

“Is it so hard to cook white rice? Come on, it’s just white rice!” said Hou Wang, a senior Fine Arts major.

“It’s true that Chinese food has many regional cuisines and it’s hard to satisfy all the Chinese students from different parts of China, so I don’t even want to comment on the Chinese dishes on the special bar. But I just want a bowl of normal white rice every day,” said an anonymous respondent to the survey.

Probably, there is no other culture that can exceed the extent to which Chinese culture values food.

“Food is the first necessity for man,” according to an old Chinese saying.

Therefore, if a bowl of white rice can make the campus a much more comfortable environment for Chinese students, why not make the change?

Q: Have you ever felt discriminated against at school because of your nationality?

Staffs with Asian Backgrounds

Shining Zhu, a junior Psychology major, who has worked at the New Dorm Dining Hall for three years, provided an answer—lack of student supervisors and managers with Asian backgrounds at the New Dorm Dining Hall.

“They think sticky and fluffy white rice is gross,” said Shining Zhu, referring to American staff and student workers at the New Dorm Dining Hall.

The student supervisors and managers at the New Dorm Dining Hall are predominantly white, so the food provided there is according to an American standard, including the special bar.

“There isn’t anyone to represent the opinion of Chinese student workers or Chinese students in general at the weekly staff meeting,” said Zhu, “Chinese students might be afraid or nervous to give advice directly to the managers or the college.”

The New Dorm Dining Hall is not the only place lacking staff with Asian backgrounds. Out of the six services surveyed, the Counseling Center was the least frequently used by Chinese students, with 71% saying they rarely or never used it.

There are complicated cultural and social reasons behind this phenomenon. In China, the education system doesn’t pay much attention to the mental health of students. Therefore, many Chinese students didn’t realize that the Counseling Center was an option they could go to when they encountered problems.

Four out of eight interviewees mentioned that they didn’t think they needed any counseling service, but they also mentioned that they felt homesick or stressed, especially in their freshman year.

Another important reason behind the low usage of the Counseling Center is the language barrier.

“I am afraid that I can’t express myself clearly in English, especially for emotions and feelings,” said Jia Wei, a freshman, “The multilingual service of the Counseling Center is only available in Spanish. Therefore, I didn’t use it frequently.”

“It makes me sadder when I need to pour out my fears and worries in English,” said one respondent in the survey.

The presence of an Asian psychiatrist or counselor may encourage Chinese students to use the Counseling Center more often.

The phrase “a dean or Admin staff with an Asian background” also appeared frequently in the comments from the survey.

“I think the only way to ensure that Bryn Mawr creates a supportive environment for international students (Chinese students particularly in this case) is to hire an official dean with a real Chinese background—not someone who grew up abroad but someone who really knows the academic, cultural and professional barriers that Chinese students face,” said one survey respondent.

“We don’t even need an Asian dean, but just someone who really understands Asian culture,” said Hou Wang, “someone who can really understand us.”

All the interviewees agreed that this would be a good idea.

“It’s not like we want an Asian dean to handle all the Asian students, but the mere presence of such a dean will help us feel safer and have more sense of acceptance,” said Wang, “the psychological effect of such a dean or admin staff is very essential. We will feel recognized by the college.”

As in the case of the New Dorm Dining Hall, Chinese students want a dean or a member of the administrative staff with an Asian background to function as the connection between them and the college.

“I feel like if we have such a dean, the dean’s office and the administration can consider the need of Chinese students better when they organize activities or make decisions,” said Siyuan Luo, an alumna who graduated in 2017.

 

“Invisible Yellow”

Fifty-six percent of Chinese students said they never or rarely encountered discrimination on campus. However, 36% percent of Chinese students said they felt discriminated against usually or sometimes because of their nationality Surprisingly, most of these experiences were academically related. It is hard for many professors and domestic students to recognize or respect the struggle international students face, especially when it comes to language.

Luo described her experience in a class called Introduction to Modern Architecture: “I got a really bad grade on my first paper and I decided to talk to the professor. The first thing she said in our conference is ‘I can’t understand your English. I think you should withdraw from this class’, without telling me what I did wrong or helping me improve. I am an East Asian Languages and Cultures major and I have to do a lot of writing. But I never got the similar comment from any other professors.”

In the end, Luo withdraw from the class because she was afraid that the professor wouldn’t offer her any help to pass the course.

Gaoan Sheng, a freshman, encountered great difficulties when she tried to communicate with her classmate in ESEM. ESEM is a seminar course all the freshmen have to take, in order to prepare them for academic writing and discussion.

“The American student sat next to me every class,” said Sheng, “but whenever the professor asked us to discuss in pairs, she always ignored me, even if there was no one else she could discuss with.”

Sheng felt especially hurt when she saw that student happily talking with other students both in class and after class.

The discrimination that Chinese students encountered was mostly due to certain stereotypes about Chinese in American culture, ignorance about Chinese culture and a lack of understanding of the recent development of China.

“It’s not really about feeling discriminated, but about feeling ignored,” said Wang, “We are part of the ‘invisible yellow’ in the American society.”

Chinese students themselves have to take some responsibilities for this invisibility. Compared to other ethnic groups on campus, Chinese students are quieter when it comes to campus-wide conversations on many issues.

As one respondent to the survey said, “I wish Chinese students could engage in more panel discussions on campus, or hold the panel discussions themselves.”

Part of this reticence is due to Chinese culture—Chinese are used to tolerate and adapt themselves to difficult conditions. They are good at changing themselves to fit into the environment, but not at changing the environment for themselves.

However, another essential reason behind the “invisibility” is the feeling of insecurity Chinese students face on this foreign land.

“Because we are living on a foreign land, sometimes I felt I don’t have the right to comment on things,” said Eva Liu, a sophomore Biology major, “I am afraid that I will be attacked if I ask them to change. In the end, they are the owners of this land, you know.”

“I am sorry that sometimes I am a coward,” said Wang, “When I heard people having silly conversations about China, I didn’t have the courage to correct them. Because this is not our home, we can’t always say what we want.”

Chinese students also don’t have a student association that can organize and represent their voices in the campus-wide conversations. Probably this is something Chinese students have to work out themselves. But if the college can appoint a dean or admin staff with an Asian background, they may alleviate the feeling of insecurity of Chinese students and give them more courage to speak out on this foreign land.

As the number of Chinese students increases, more and more Chinese students do speak out or participate actively in campus-wide activities and discussions.

“I am really grateful for those who actively raise their voices on campus, like Koukou Zhang in the LGBTQ movements and Xiaoya Yue in SGA,” said Wang, “but for some reason, their efforts as Chinese students ended up invisible. I don’t know why and I don’t know how we could change.”

Q: Rate the efforts made at the school to create a welcoming environment for Chinese students. International Student Orientation

Surprisingly, Bryn Mawr College recently made a change regarding international students, but a negative one. Bryn Mawr College will no longer have International Student Orientation (ISO) for freshmen, starting from next fall.

 

Originally, international students would come to campus two days earlier than domestic students for the ISO. The college would take the students to get their Social Security numbers and arrange a series of events to help the students adapt themselves to this new environment. International upperclassmen would work as volunteers during the ISO to take care of the freshmen.

In the interviews, when asked about the best thing the college has done for international students, half of the interviewees mentioned ISO.

“ISO provides a soft landing for international students,” said Eva Liu, “we were able to meet students from the same origin first before we were fully exposed to this unfamiliar environment.”

“International students need more time to adapt themselves to this new environment,” said Cheyenne Zhang, “even just for the jet lag.”

“It’s a perfect chance for upperclassmen to know freshmen,” said Gaoan Sheng, “it’s crucial for freshmen to have this bond with upperclassmen from the same origin. Because they are the only people on campus who can understand the struggle that the freshmen will go through.”

However, the freshmen coming in 2018 will no longer have all these experiences.

At the end of a long welcome back email from Patricia Lausch to all the international students during this winter vacation, she said, “International Student Orientation will be incorporated into Customs 2018. If you are interested in greeting incoming students, consider applying for a Customs positions.”

Customs is the general orientation for all freshmen at Bryn Mawr College.

“I knew ISO was canceled only when I decided to apply for ISO assistant and contacted Patti,” said Sheng.

The situation was the same for Jia Wei.

“I think they should at least give us an explanation,” said Wei, “Patti mentioned in a meeting, not about ISO, but something like ISO was canceled because the number of international students has increased and we can take care of ourselves. I don’t understand the logic at all.”

“I feel bad for the freshmen coming next fall,” said Liu, “they will see all the parents of the domestic students helping them moving in, while they are alone in this strange land. And they will only have Customs People to help them, who wouldn’t be able to offer any help.”

The Customs People are student volunteers working during the Customs and throughout the whole year. They help organize traditional events to welcome the freshmen to the campus. Each floor of each dorm will have two Customs People. However, during the interviews, freshmen and sophomores had many complaints about Customs People.

“My Customs People never showed up in any events,” said Wei, “she didn’t even greet me when we encountered in the hallway.”

“Many Customs People don’t care about their responsibilities at all,” said Sheng, “they just care about the good single room they can get.”

In exchange for their work during the year, Customs People get the opportunity to choose one of the best single rooms on each floor. Room Draw at Bryn Mawr College is a random process—each student will get a number randomly and choose a room based on the sequence of their assigned numbers. Only the first 100 students of each class year can get a good single room. Therefore, applying for the Customs people becomes a good way for many students to avoid the risk of bad luck in the Room Draw.

“I don’t understand why and how the college made this decision about ISO,” said Sheng, “it’s definitely not because of lack of ISO assistants. Many freshmen like me are very passionate and willing to become ISO assistants.”

As the number of international students increases, the resources, especially money and staff, devoted to international students haven’t increased accordingly. Therefore, the attention that each international student receives decreases.

“I don’t want to feel like an ATM, but sometimes I do,” said Wang, “we paid so many full tuitions to the college but they cared less and less about whether we feel good or not.”

 

Bryn Mawr’s Dreamers

The life and times of two students born in Mexico, but raised in the U.S.

By Azalia Sprecher

Jocelyne Oliveros and Daniela Lopez are both active members of Bryn Mawr College. Like any college student, they can usually be found in the library, hanging out with friends, or rushing to their next class. But there is an invisible trait that both young women carry with them: they are both undocumented, DACA recipients.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 690,000 unauthorized immigrants who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012.

Although DACA allows students like Oliveros and Lopez to attend college, be employed, and travel, it does not guarantee their future nor provide a path towards citizenship. Although Bryn Mawr College is aware of the students who are undocumented, the administration does not reveal students’ information unless a subpoena is presented, nor does it use government programs like E-verify to check students’ employment eligibility.

Undocumented students come from all racial, economic, and religious backgrounds. Although they don’t hold U.S. citizenship, many do not remember their birth countries. Students like Oliveros and Lopez are constantly wondering if they’ll get to live out their dreams in the only homeland they know.

Jocelyne Oliveros

Jocelyne Oliveros

Jocelyne Oliveros opened the door to reveal a bright room full of wall art. As she gave a tour of her room in Rockefeller Hall, she paused at the replica of a Diego Rivera painting that hangs over the fireplace.

“I love Diego Rivera’s paintings. The original of this painting is housed at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. When I was there on a school trip recently, I wanted to see it, but I ended up riding the trolley all day. I passed by the museum, but that’s as close as I got to the real painting,” Oliveros jokingly said.

The replica Rivera painting is one of the many markers of Oliveros’ Mexican heritage. There are flags, artisan mugs, and small Day of the Dead skulls adorning her room. Although she honors her roots, there are no stereotypical “Mexican characteristics” that define Oliveros’ appearance. Her light complexion, rosy cheeks, golden-brown hair, and flawless English make her hometown of New Rochelle, New York, a more believable origin than her birth town of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

Oliveros arrived in the U.S. when she was 18 months old with her sister and mother. The young family travelled by plane with tourist visas to meet Oliveros’ father, who had been working between Mexico and the U.S. since the age of 16. Oliveros, now a 22-year-old Economics major at Bryn Mawr College, has not been back to Mexico since.

Being undocumented affected many parts of Oliveros life. She didn’t enjoy milestones such as getting her driver’s permit with her classmates. For college, Oliveros was not sure if she should apply as an international or domestic student.  Oliveros also separated herself from other Latino students to fit in with the white students, in an effort to distance herself from her undocumented status.

“I was able to navigate certain spaces like most of the white kids. I was the only Latina in the advanced classes, and I began to think that the other Latino kids were just lazy,” she said. “I got a harsh wakeup call when I got to Bryn Mawr and saw that everyone else was just as smart as me and did not have the same kids to compare myself with. I thought I could use education to get away from my undocumented status, but I realized that my education doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law.”

Oliveros says that her experience at Bryn Mawr has made her more aware of her status and about how much more she needed to learn about undocumented students.

“People don’t realize that being undocumented is a very real thing that exists around them,” she said. “For people at Bryn Mawr, it’s easy to distance themselves from the issue of undocumented students because they don’t know anyone who is affected by immigration laws. People would care if they could put a face to the term ‘undocumented people.’”

Oliveros believes that if Bryn Mawr were more open to talking about undocumented students, the student body would be more aware that being undocumented affects their friends.

“There is a certain face that goes with being undocumented, and it’s import to let the student body know that it can be anyone of their friends,” Oliveros said. “The stereotypes make us look for a specific person, and when they don’t fit the stereotype we automatically think that this issue doesn’t affect this person.”

Oliveros believes that the only way people will become engaged is if they know someone who is undocumented.

“The issue of undocumented migration is so arbitrary. When we talk about race and gender rights we have a face we can connect the cause to, but because this is also a very quiet matter that many people are private about, it is harder to put a face and emotion to the cause. Not having a face for the cause puts it on the backburner because there is no sense of immediate danger.”

Bryn Mawr has not always been a comfortable space for Oliveros. During residential life training her sophomore year, Oliveros overheard a student talk about the status of illegal immigrants as a political stance that she rather not comment on.

“I think about the issue of undocumented people in terms of other human rights issues that at one point were political stances. You could probably make the same argument about gay rights, but if anyone [at Bryn Mawr] were to say that someone’s sexuality is a political opinion, people would be upset. People here don’t realize that being undocumented is also an identity that shouldn’t be politicized. I never considered my humanity a political opinion.”

The last time a ruling on DACA happened, the Bryn Mawr President’s office sent out an email saying deans would check in with students they knew were undocumented, but Oliveros never received a call or email.

Oliveros comes from a working-class family: her father paints houses and her mother is a housekeeper. She herself has worked in Bryn Mawr’s dining hall and as a teaching assistant for the Economics department. Oliveros was excited at the prospect of a livable wage and health benefits when she was hired by a consulting firm in her hometown, but the uncertainty of the DACA program overshadowed her accomplishment.

“When I heard that DACA was being debated in congress, I had just been offered a job. My current DACA permit expires in February 2019.  I knew that if DACA wasn’t upheld, I wouldn’t be able to reapply for the program, which meant I would lose my job. It worried me a lot last semester.”

Oliveros doesn’t have faith in the government changing her situation and thinks the battle for migrants’ rights will be a long one. She does have hope in student run organizations like United We Dream, but does not expect anything to happen soon. Congress has yet to come to a decision about the future of DACA. For now, it will continue to provide temporary security for child arrivals who are students, active military members, and Millennials who are now in the work force, including Oliveros, who begins her new job in July.

Daniela Lopez

Daniela Lopez

Daniela Lopez, a small, bright eyed junior at Bryn Mawr, played with her long, black hair while soaking up sunrays in the college’s cloisters. While enjoying the spring weather, the philosophy major and avid Chinatown visitor described a defining moment in her life.

“While visiting New York City, I walked through the National Museum of the American Indian,” said Lopez. “The pictures on the wall told the history of Native Americans. As I walked through the exhibit I thought ‘Hey, they kind of look like me!’”

The irony of this discovery did not escape her. Lopez does not have documents to prove she is from the land that is now the U.S, even though she claims her Mexican ancestors have been here for generations.

“We live on stolen land but I still have to prove I belong here. I’m native to America, but it baffles me when people tell me to go back where I came from. I am from here!”

Despite this revelation, Lopez has felt like an outsider for a while. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Lopez arrived by plane to the U.S. when she was four years old. She still remembers her grandma’s house and the short months she spent in Mexican preschool, but she has not returned since. Lopez was raise in Houston, Texas, in a working-class family that struggled to make ends meet. Lopez attended school in River Oaks, one of Houston’s wealthiest neighborhoods. She found it difficult to adapt and says she was at a disadvantage in multiple ways.

“Your parents are supposed to impart certain knowledge of American culture, but my parents couldn’t give me that. When I was in second grade, a classmate told me she was happy we were friends, but she couldn’t tell her parents about me because they didn’t like Hispanics.”

Lopez says she was an outsider in high school and tried her best to adapt to the environment she was in by teaching herself American culture.

“I wasn’t confident in my intelligence, and I felt uncomfortable in intellectual spaces. I always felt inadequate, especially around my white debate teammates since they were very focused on knowing everything.”

Lopez says she pretended to be something she was not because she wanted to fit in. Even though she spoke Spanish at home, Lopez did not speak Spanish at school until her junior year. She was divided and did not confront her undocumented status until she wrote her personal statement for college applications.

“As I was writing my personal statement, I broke down crying. I realized how angry I was at my parents and how frustrated I was at my own situation.”

In college, Lopez said she continued to feel like an outsider, even though she received an excellent high school education, speaks perfect English, and grew up with mostly white friends.

“By looking at me you wouldn’t think I’m undocumented,” Lopez said thoughtfully. “But I quickly realized that you can look like, talk like, and act like everyone else at Bryn Mawr but still feel like an outsider in your own home.”

At Bryn Mawr, her social struggles continued. Lopez has encountered professors who have family members who are Border Patrol officers. Some of the professors have made insensitive comments without realizing there could be undocumented students in the class.

“It’s closer to home than most people think. It could be the person you see in class or in the dining hall who is undocumented. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real,” Lopez said. “People on campus make assumptions about your choices, such as going abroad or being able to vote. It’s a normal thing for everyone, but not for me, and it can be exhausting to explain myself.”

Like dozens of her peers, Lopez was eager to study abroad her junior year. As a DACA recipient, Lopez was eligible to apply for Advanced Parole, which would allow her to leave the country with the permission of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but there was no guarantee of reentry into the U.S.

“It’s kind of like wearing a promise ring,” says Lopez playfully. “It’s a loose commitment, and they can go back on their promise at any time.”

Unlike her peers, Lopez was concerned about the problems her status could pose if she decided to leave the country. Although she was determined to study abroad, she had to make the difficult choice of staying in the U.S. to ensure her safety.

“I thought I’d be able to apply for [Advance Parole], but then Trump was elected. I wasn’t going to leave the country then! That was hard on me, and not because I couldn’t go abroad, but because it was another reminder of how I was different.”

The hostile environment towards undocumented people is everywhere in Philadelphia.

“Philly is home to one of the most aggressive ICE offices, and it has arrested the most migrants who don’t have criminal records.”

Ironically, the Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is located right outside of Chinatown, Lopez’s favorite Philadelphia destination. As a regular visitor, Lopez frequents the SEPTA regional rail line. It has unfortunately become an uncomfortable place for her.

“I was returning from Chinatown with some friends when a white man approached me out of nowhere and said, ‘Excuse me, pretty lady, are you a citizen of this country? Because if you aren’t, I’ll have to report you to ICE.’ I was the only Latina amongst my friends and he didn’t ask anyone else. I was in shock. I had no idea what to say.”

Lopez says the man waited for a response until her friends told the man to walk away. Her friends notified the SEPTA conductor, who told the man to leave the young women alone, but no other action was taken. Lopez and her friends got off the train a few stops before the Bryn Mawr station so the man couldn’t see where they lived.

Despite the challenges, Lopez says she has found a support system. Her dean and mentors have provided emotional and academic support. Professor Montes of the sociology department, a former undocumented migrant, inspired Lopez to share her story. In the fall, Lopez will lead workshops in Philadelphia high schools and colleges to teach students and school administrators how to provide support and protection for undocumented students.

Jocelyne Oliveros and Daniela Lopez are just two of the thousands of students across the country who have been living on college campuses with this invisible identity.

Everything they know is in the United States, but they are unsure if they will be forced out of the only home they know.

 

Artifact Intelligence

Students are using a rich array of original artifacts in their studies at Bryn Mawr

By Yi Gao                                                      

Learning with primary source materials is hot at Bryn Mawr College.

Working with authentic artifacts, rare books or archival documents fascinates students and generates interesting ideas. In recent years, the traditional, teach-centered classroom has become dynamic laboratory in which students can physically handle original materials.

Japanese prints, Quaker historical documents, pottery, sculpture and rare photographs are just a few of the items now available to students.

“Though professors have used primary sources in teaching for decades, it’s much more popular over the past four or five years,” said Marianne Weldon, collections manager of Bryn Mawr Special Collections. According to Weldon, special collections librarians have spent considerable time and energy improving the visibility and accessibility of the College’s collections and building collaborations with teaching faculty across multiple disciplines.

No. 2

This semester, Erin Schoneveld, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Haverford College taught her class Ukiyo-e: The Art of Japanese Print with Bryn Mawr’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Weldon assisted with her classes several times. Weldon said Professor Schoneveld thinks incorporating actual primary materials into teaching “fuels lively discussion and cultivates critical thinking.”

Bi-Co (Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College) faculty and students benefit from special collections of both colleges. Bryn Mawr’s special collections are more diverse and broad while Haverford is especially renowned for its Quaker collections and photograph collections.

Xingya Wang, a Bryn Mawr College senior student majoring French, said she took a war photography class at Haverford and had the opportunity to see some precious photographs of American Civil War.

“Their collection of war photographs is fantastic! Everyone was very excited! And it’s good that we (Bi-Co) share resources,” said Wang.

“Yes, I think our learning is more practical and interesting than when I was a freshman,” said Wang.

Many classes engage students with primary sources. On the other hand, students more actively use the college’s collections to do research. There are two important elements in the development of this trend.

No. 3

The first one is the digitization of special collections.

According to Eric Pumroy, Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections at Bryn Mawr College, big libraries and institutions have been digitized their collections since the late 1980s.

Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections, since it is a small institution with less funds, started establishing digital records of collections in the late 1990s. However, not until 2008 did Bryn Mawr begin making special collections accessible on the Internet to the public.

“It was a complicated work,” said Pumroy. First, Special Collections bought the collections management software called Embark. Second, librarians migrated the existing data to the new system. Then they cataloged the rest of the collections. Besides, collaborating with Swarthmore College and Haverford College, they established TriArte, a special database of 33,500 art and artifacts from Tri-Co.

For digitizing art and artifacts, librarians should not only enter information but also upload high-quality images. Pumroy said for some “special” three-dimensional objects, they need to produce 360-degree pictures.

No. 4

Pumroy said several digitization projects are still going on but 90 percent of the work has been done. Undoubtedly, the acceleration of mass digitization highly improves the availability and visibility of special collections. Faculty and students can search online, find the artifacts needed, send a request and get the objects to analyze in person.

Bryn Mawr College’s encouragement of experiential learning is the other major element. This change can be seen within the History of Art Department.

“I am happy to see that more art history professors incorporate practical learning” said Poppy Pu, a senior student majoring in art history. She said that when she was a freshman, she really wanted to take art history classes at University of Pennsylvania since some of them are taught in Penn Museum. “Though at that time in some classes we could saw authentic objects, we were rarely asked to do an independent research on the objects or to produce an exhibition” said Pu.

No. 5

Things changed over the past three years. In Fall 2015, Bryn Mawr announced a new Museum Studies Program which allows students to gain practical hands-on experience in Bryn Mawr Special Collections or even in museums in Philadelphia. Courses such as The Curator in the Museum and Contemporary Art in Exhibition provide students a full experience with primary sources. Thanks to the pilot program, every semester Bryn Mawr has several student-curated exhibitions on view in the Rare Book Room of Special Collections.

Pu said many upper-class art history major students use special collections to do their own research that is part of their theses. “It is amazing! Working with primary sources helps our studies a lot and makes them much more interesting,” she said. “I am a bit jealous of the freshmen. They can get this experience in their first year.”

Guide: All items are from the Bryn Mawr collections.

Item 1. Color woodblock by Katsushika Hokusai. Title: The Great Wave, from the series 36 views of Mount Fuji.

Item 2. Artist: Utagawa Kunisasa (1786-1864) Title: View of Hodogoya, from the series 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road, ca. 1838.

Item 3. Polychrome Glass Aryballos (Oil Flask), Greece/East Mediterranean, 6th Century BCE.

Item 4. Bronze Bust of Napoleon. Artist: Achille Collas, (1795-1859) after Antoine-Denis Chaudet, ca. 1838-1859.

Item 5. Portrait of M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr by Frank C. Benning (1893-1983), 20th century.

 

The Smuggled Dumplings Caper

How a Bryn Mawr student gets food from her home in China

Caught by Customs

By Yuqi Zha

On her long flight from China to the United States, Alice Tang, a rising senior at Bryn Mawr College, had a nightmare.

In her dream, she was walking past the Customs Check at the JFK International Airport, New York, with a heavy 28-inch piece of luggage.

Her face was covered with a pair of dark purple sunglasses and a cotton mask. Her strange appearance drew the attention of the officer at the U.S. Customs.

Tang got nervous and walked faster. Despite praying thousands of times in her heart, what she tried to avoid finally happened—a customs officer approached her and asked her to stop.

“Excuse me Miss, passport please,” said the officer.

Tang handed her passport over.  The sweat in her hand made it wet.

“What’s in your luggage?” The officer looked at her bag with suspicion.

“Just…clothes, cosmetics and books,” Tang almost shouted, trying to cover her fear, “nothing special!”

“I would like to inspect your luggage. Follow me please,” said the officer.

As the officer was going to take the luggage from her hand, Tang took her luggage and ran with all her strength towards the exit. But, she could not escape.

Ten seconds later, she was dragged into the most horrible place in the U.S. for international students and immigrants, the so-called “dark room”—the reception room of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The travelers on the same flight with Tang looked at her sympathetically while she was screaming, “No! You can’t take the spirit of home away from me!”

This was how Tang described her nightmare to her friend, Amber Lin, as the two stepped off the plane.

It was the seventh time Tang had flown from China to the U.S., returning from her home to the college after vacations. Like in her dream, her luggage was loaded with food from home.

“You still have a chance to throw them away after you get your luggage but before you enter the Customs Check. I can help you with that,” said Lin,  also a rising senior at Bryn Mawr College and the best friend of Tang, who always traveled with Tang.

“No way!” refused Tang without a doubt, “That dream was stupid! Who will wear a pair of sunglasses and a mask? You should be as normal as possible.”

“Okay…God bless you,” sighed Lin.

“I have succeeded six times. I won’t fail,” said Tang firmly, like a warrior who is going to the battlefield.

Her experiences of the past three years had made her a professional “smuggler” of the spirit of home—the homemade dumplings and rice dumplings made by her grandparents, in a well-packaged heat-preserving bag with ice packs. She was ready to face the same challenge and risk everything for her love again.

       * * *

The kitchen at Tang’s home in Nanjing, China, was crowded with raw food materials: shiitake mushrooms, black agarics, reed leaves all soaked in water, sticky rice soaked in soy sauce, salt and sugar, two giant pieces of pork shoulder and streaky pork on two separate cutting boards. It was the busiest day for the grandparents of Tang—two days before Tang’s flight to the U.S.

It was 8 a.m. A burst of rapid and crisp sounds coming out of the kitchen marked the beginning of their complicated work. Chengjian Hu, the grandpa of Tang, was chopping the pork shoulder for the meat filling of the dumplings. He first cut the meat into thin slices, then into strips, then into very small cubes. Finally, he picked up two knives with both of his hands, hitting the cutting board swiftly and accurately, as if he was a professional drummer hitting the drum with two drumsticks. This awe-inspiring drum solo lasted for half an hour and produced a big bowl of perfectly cut meat mash.

It is not very common for Chinese people to make the meat mash by hand anymore, because they can easily get machine-cut meat mash at any supermarket or food market.

“Our little Tang is a picky gourmet,” said Lihua Chao, Tang’s grandma, with a warm smile. “She can tell the difference between machine-cut meat mash and handmade meat mash. She said the handmade meat mash tastes much better. So we insist on making the meat mash by hand.”

Tang, who was packing her luggage in her bedroom, replied with a playful grin, “The handmade meat mash has the magic taste of love.”

Tang’s parents were too busy to take care of Tang. Therefore, after the birth of Tang, her grandparents moved to live with them. It is her grandparents who prepared healthy breakfast, sent Tang to school in the morning, picked up her from school and cooked a delicious dinner in the afternoon every day in Tang’s childhood.

“I can’t live without the food my grandparents cook,” said Tang.

* * *

While Hu was preparing the meat mash, Chao was cutting the streaky pork into thick strips for the rice dumplings. She soaked the strips in soy sauce, salt, sugar ,and spices.

“To make the perfect rice dumplings that I like the best, the correct piece of streaky pork with exactly 40% fat is the key,” said Tang while peeping at her grandparents’ work, “Could you imagine the meat, saturated with soy sauce and spices, melting on your tongue?”

As Chao started to fry the pork strips after an hour, the alluring smell of meat and spices quickly filled the whole house.

Tang popped her head into the kitchen and asked, “Grandma, may I have a piece of pork strip? They smell so good!”

“Your small greedy cat”, Chao patted on Tang’s forehead, “Go play your computer games. Don’t mess around in the kitchen.”

Tang had a hard time tearing away and she kept looking to the direction of the kitchen while playing on her computer.

“Oh my God, I am going to be drowned in my saliva,” complained Tang helplessly.

  * * *

At the end of the day, around 5 p.m., the heat-preserving bag was filled with 20 rice dumplings and 30 dumplings. The rice dumplings were made with soy sauce soaked sticky rice and fried streaky pork, packed in reed leaves and wrapped up with cotton thread. The dumplings were made with the mesh of pork shoulder meat mixed with minced shiitake mushrooms, black agarics and salted egg yolks, packed in hand-rolled dumpling skins.

“This…whu…is…Hea…whu…ven!” panted Tang, as she gobbled a hot dumpling just out of the pot.

“Impatient gets hot bean curd,” said Chao accusingly, as she filled a bowl with hot dumplings and put it under the air conditioner to cool them faster.

It is a Chinese saying that means haste makes waste.

Half of Tang’s luggage was filled with the heat-preserving bag along with other snacks.

Tang put the luggage, which was so full that it might burst open any time, on the weight scale and was desperate to find that it was 28 kg, — 8 kg more than the limited weight of international flights.

“Oh no, why does it happen again?” squeaked a panicked Tang.

Of course, it happened every time.

After struggling for an hour, Tang managed to lower the weight to 22 kg.

“I am sure it will be ok,” said Tang, exhausted.

She gave up a couple dresses, cosmetics, and books, but the half with food remained completely untouched.

    * * *

“Passengers on flight Cathay Pacific CX888 from Hong Kong to New York, you can claim your bags on carousel 1 in Terminal 8,” said the baggage claim announcement.

As Tang ran towards carousel 1, she shouted in Chinese, “My dear rice dumplings! My dear dumplings!”

Lin panted, “I hope our bags have arrived successfully.”

Their travel this time didn’t go smoothly because of the bad weather. Their flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong was delayed and they missed their next flight. Therefore, they had to stay in Hong Kong for a night and caught the same flight the next day. It is easy for bags to get lost or delayed in this kind of situation.

“I can’t bear to lose them,” Tang groaned, as she watched bags coming out on the carousel anxiously.

“Were the rice dumplings and dumplings the only things you care about in your giant luggage?” said Lin, rolling her eyes.

“If I lose my clothes, cosmetics, stationaries or books, I will feel sad,” said Tang, thinking about the question seriously, “but if I lose the spirit of home, I will die!”

“So yes! They are the only things I care about,” said Tang, confirming herself.

Lin walked to the other side of the carousel to check the bags there, knowing that it was not possible to persuade Tang to throw the dumplings and rice dumplings away before they entered the Customs Check.

“All right, the seventh time,” muttered Lin to herself.

* * *

Tang was walking past the Customs Check at the JFK International Airport, New York, with a heavy 28-inch piece of luggage.

Tang merged into the flow of international students, returning from home all over the world to their campuses in the U.S. They had different colors, different cultures, and different languages, but they all brought with them the expectation and love of their family in some forms.

One officer at the Customs Check looked at Tang. She looked back with a polite smile.

No one paid special attention to her.

Twenty meters, ten meters, five meters. She walked not too fast, not too slow, keeping the pace with other students around her.

Tang walked out of the exit of the baggage claim hall. She made it!

“See? Easy enough!”said Tang proudly while waiting for the pickup service, “I never fail because I am doing something sacredly. It’s the spirit of home!”

Lin looked at her overly excited friend, sighed and smiled.

There will be an eighth time.

 

The Hackathon at the Museum

Contestants gather each year to create apps for the Museum of Art

By Sean Woodruff

Visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art often feels like stepping back in time. Its galleries are filled with 2,000-year-old ceramics, 100-year-old paintings, and statues crumbling with age.

But in a backroom of the museum, the environment feels more like a Silicon Valley startup than a 142-year-old fine arts institution.

A dozen people sit in front of computers, their screens a flurry of movement. If you look closely, you can catch glimpses of paintings by Monet and Degas as the programmers toggle between windows of complex code. The coders are here as part of the museum’s Hackathon, a six-week long competition to design innovative new apps that integrate technology with art.

The team that comes up with the best app will take home a grand prize of $2,000.

“It’s really about finding new ways to connect people to the art, and finding new ways to connect with each other,” says Ariel Schwartz, Associate Director for Interactive Technologies at the museum.

According to Schwartz, the program been a big success so far. What started as a small weekend event three years ago has grown to include almost 100 contestants.

Today, the museum is hosting a “Hacklab”, where the teams can test out their apps in the galleries and collaborate with museum staff.

Snacks and soda line the tables at the edge of the room, but they are left mostly untouched. The coders are too busy discussing plans with their teammates and tapping away at their keyboards.

***

Lacy Rhoades furrows his eyebrows. An app developer by trade, and a recent Philadelphia transplant, Rhoades thought the Hackathon would be a great way to get to know people and contribute something to his new city.

But his team has been struggling to come up with a workable idea. The biggest challenge, he says, is walking the line between engagement and distraction.

“I don’t want our app to be too game-like,” he says. “I don’t want people’s eyes to be glued to a screen.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Rhoades spent some time exploring the museum, which gave him the inkling of an idea. He was struck by how much of a personal relationship he felt with certain galleries.

“After I walked through the museum, I felt that I was changed, but also that the museum was changed in a way too. I want to catalog that feeling,” Rhoades says. “I want to create a collective virtual memory for the museum.”

Rhoades envisions an app that can track people’s journeys throughout the galleries. “Imagine seeing the virtual footsteps of people who have walked here before,” he says.

Visitors will also be able to publicly tag and comment on art pieces they feel particularly connected to. This way people can look at the app and get a sense of the history of personal connections within each gallery.

He’s excited about his idea, but he rubs his eyes as he thinks about the work left to do.

“I’m a bit of a procrastinator,” he says. But admitting that seems to give him a renewed sense of urgency and he turns back to his computer screen.

***

At the next table over, Yilin Wu lets herself subtly smirk. “We have a great idea,” she says. She speaks quietly, but without mumbling—she deliberately enunciates every syllable.

Their app, called Art Mind, is a recommendation system that will match people with works of art that they will enjoy.

“It’s like Tinder for art,” she says, “It will help you find the works of art you’ll love.”

The app will show visitors 10 works of art before they enter the galleries. People then swipe right or swipe left depending on whether they like each piece. Based on those preferences, the app will use a complicated machine-learning algorithm to build a custom museum tour for each person.

Even more impressive is that the algorithm learns over time. So the more that people use the app, the better it will get at recommending art.

If Wu’s team has time, they also wants to implement a forum feature, so that people can start discussion threads about each art piece.

But even if they don’t get a chance to implement that feature, Wu is confident that her team will make it past the preliminary judging round on May 16th.

***

Another team sits in the corner, deep in discussion. They are debating the best layout for their user interface. Rob Mruczek strokes his bright orange beard, which almost seems to glow underneath the fluorescent lighting.

His team has integrated their app with the music streaming service Spotify to create a social network based on music and art.

“The idea is that people can share songs that they associate with specific works of art,” Mruczek says. Other people can then vote on those songs, creating a crowdsourced playlist to pair with each artwork.

One benefit of a music focused app is that it encourages people to look at the art instead of down at their phone.

The app also provides a way to bring a piece of the museum back home with you. Now, once you listen to a particular song, you can think back to the work of art you saw while listening to it at the museum.

Mruczek scrolls through the app they have built so far with satisfaction. It looks polished and professional.

“Music and art are both really personal, so we thought it would be great to combine the two,” he says.

***

Schwartz, the organizer of the Hackathon, beams as he walks away from the clatter of keyboards and back towards his office. He’s proud of the way the Hackathon has grown, and is inspired by the contestants’ imaginations.

“We never know how fresh minds will attack the challenge, and we’ve been rewarded every year with approaches we’ve never thought of,” he says.

With so many innovative and ambitious projects, it’s hard to know whom the judges will award the $2,000 grand prize.

But the judges aren’t the only ones to select a winner. On May 25th, the five finalists will have the chance to showcase their apps to the public. Museum visitors will then get to choose the recipient of the $500 People’s Choice Award.

Regardless of who wins, Schwartz thinks that everyone involved in the Hackathon is important. To him, it’s not just about the final product, but about community building and creativity.

“We’re turning around the thinking of what a museum does, and should do,” says Schwartz. “It’s really exciting.”

 

The New Ballet

New forms, new varieties step away from traditional ballet

By Anika Varty

Barefoot dancers run on stage to meet each other in distinct groups. They step precisely to the dramatic instrumental music. These performers are not limited by the rules of one specific style. Instead, they are just dancers, expressing themselves through movement and mesmerizing an audience.

Dancers and choreographers have always been protective of style. Being able to communicate the style of dance you are going to perform can be helpful: Dancers want to know about the company they are auditioning for. Performers want to know what choreographers are looking for. Audiences want to know what they are paying to see.

But what happens when pioneers of dance blur the lines of style?

While new styles of dance have always stemmed from changing and fusing existing genres, choreographers and artistic directors throughout the United States have recently been intentionally bending genre. For many, doing so lets them express fresh stories through movement.

Here are some of the latest examples:

Hiplet™:

Perhaps one of the clearest examples of marrying two seemingly conflicting styles is Hiplet, which combines classical pointe technique with urban dance styles like Hip Hop. One of the main intentions behind developing Hiplet was to make Ballet more accessible by using music that is familiar to audiences who might not otherwise attend Ballet performances.

“In order to stay relevant with young people, you have to do what they’re doing now,” says Homer Hans Bryant, the creator of Hiplet.

The Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center (CMDC), the birthplace of Hiplet, focuses on empowering people through dance. Because the center is also a dance school, this goal means working to accept any student with talent, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Homer Hans Bryant

The creation of Hiplet has helped CMDC with enrollment and popularity. Bryant says social media has played a huge role in spreading the style. With 136,000 Instagram followers, he’s probably right.

The style began with a Ballet technique created in the early 1990’s called “The Rap Ballet.” Dancers performed popular dances like the running man en pointe, set to rap music. As artistic director at the time, Homer Hans Bryant began toying with different Hip Hop movements, and eventually developed and trademarked the Hiplet technique.

“When you think of classical Ballet, it’s ethereal. It’s usually white people doing this beautiful stuff on the tip of the toe. They become like robots,” says Bryant “Here you have some kids of color, with strong classical Ballet training and a lot of street funk.”

After spending a year posting videos of dancers in class practicing Hiplet, Só Bailarinos shared a video on Facebook. Soon after, BuzzFeed produced a video covering the Hiplet™ story. Good Morning America soon called to bring Bryant and some Hiplet dancers onto the show.

CMDC is still the only contemporary Ballet school that teaches Hiplet, though the technique has become a worldwide phenomenon. CMDC regularly receives calls from studios and dancers across the United States, and says they are working to share the technique with as many dancers as they can.

Ultimately, their goal is to develop a professional Hiplet company, which will go on tour to share the unique technique.

CMDC is also hoping to begin certifying dance instructors to teach Hiplet. Doing so will hopefully protect dancers from the potential risks of Hiplet. According to CMDC, dancers must have very strong knees and ankles to safely practice Hiplet.

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) is a contemporary dance company based in South Philadelphia. KYL/D often presents work questioning national identity.

“I think KYL/D is a great example of a professional contemporary dance company which has strong Eastern influences,” says Katie Moore, Business Development Manager of KYL/D.

By drawing on Eastern philosophies and simultaneously calling on contemporary styles, the company challenges the limitations of identities through its work.

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers

Artistic Director Kun-Yang Lin continues researching throughout Asia to bring a personal and multicultural approach to his work. The dancing that KYL/D creates produces a hybrid performance of Eastern and Western cultures.

“We’re definitely contemporary, but I don’t like the word fusion,” says Moore.

“Yeah, because sometimes we go to a restaurant, and we hear ‘oh this is Chinese fusion.’ So we feel that oh this is not authentic Chinese food. But I think we are doing very authentic work, we’re just very contemporary. We don’t define ourselves by any specific style,” says rehearsal director, Lingyuan (Maggie) Zhao.

“I think the most important thing, is to make that connection,” says Zhao. “Kun-Yang is always telling us that movement is similar to language: it’s how you communicate. I think we are not really focusing on one certain language, because our purpose is to make that connection.”

The KYL/D dancers are skeptical of the word “fusion” because it might imply that they are losing aspects of each style and influence that they call on. However, the company is actually focused on communicating authenticity. By not being bound to a concrete style, KYL/D hopes to present the authenticity of their dancers through Kun-Yang Lin’s choreography.

“With Kun-Yang’s style, it’s a whole new way to dance,” says KYL/D dancer Liu Mo. “You just have to find out who you truly are and be you on stage. At that moment, you don’t have to think about if it’s classical movements, it’s just the way you communicate and move.” The dancers at KYL/D focus on being their real selves as they collaborate to create authentic pieces of art.

“It’s not about memorizing. It’s not about my brain. Dance is visceral,” says Lin, noting the importance of recognizing dance as a physical form of storytelling and expression. An immigrant himself, the space between east and west and the space between innovation and tradition are consistently significant themes in his work.

KYL/D calls on influences like Buddhist and Taoist ideologies to shape its performances. Lin’s choreography weave movements from tai chi and chi gong as well as shapes from calligraphy and meditation practices throughout their work. Paired with cross-cultural research, artists in KYL/D hope to use dance to integrate the body, spirit, and mind through dance.

BalletX

BalletX is Philadelphia’s premier contemporary Ballet company. BalletX presents original choreography aimed at broadening the boundaries of classical dance, hoping to make its performances interesting to all audiences. Ballet has always been seen as a form of high art, and working to develop the style into something that captivates diverse audiences means bringing tradition and history into this contemporary moment.

The company was founded by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan in 2005. Cox now leads the group as Artistic and Executive Director. Promoting explicit experimentation while requiring impeccable technique, BalletX consistently pushes boundaries of classical Ballet.

According to the company, “these contemporary pieces challenge BalletX’s dancers with the innovative possibilities of Ballet in the 21st century.”

Matthew Neenan Ballet X

BalletX shows tend to attract younger audiences than the more classical Pennsylvania Ballet. While the technique BalletX dancers use is deeply rooted in traditional Ballet, the movements, costuming, and music can be quite experimental.

BalletX and the Pennsylvania Ballet live on opposite sides of Broad Street. They print ads in each other’s programs. These two Ballet companies keep the style alive in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Ballet keeps tradition alive in familiar tutus, while BalletX remixes convention to transform the genre. Both companies share the same general goal of creatively and artistically telling stories through dance, but the way they approach this task differs greatly.

Though all of the BalletX dancers are classically trained, performances are anything but traditional. The company pairs traditional costumes with modern movements, or complements familiar classical music with unexpected costuming.

Rhythm N Motion

The trend of fusing genres together has spread far beyond professionals. Unhappy with the lack of classes offered in underrepresented styles through their dance department, students at Swarthmore College established a dance group called Rhythm N Motion (RnM) in 2002. RnM focuses on highlighting styles primarily from the African Diaspora.

At first, the group focused on styles like Umfundalai, Hip Hop, and Salsa. However, in recent years, the student-run group has been performing more and more pieces that call on multiple influences.

“Bending genre lets choreographers pursue our group’s mission through their work,” says Artistic Coordinator Arianna Bernas. “For a lot of dancers, we can learn about different styles and call on our peers’ strengths by working on these fusion pieces.”

RnM has grown into a Tri-College group, welcoming members from Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges. The group organizes a showcase each semester, and often hosts workshops open to any student in the Tri-College Consortium. In the last few semesters, more student choreographers seem to be combining multiple styles in their pieces. RnM recently presented a piece that fused Bhangra and Hip Hop. They have also performed multiple pieces that showcase both Contemporary and Umfundalai vocabularies.

Rhythm N Motion

Although current members remain committed to the original mission statement centered on promoting underrepresented styles of the African Diaspora, current members say that some alumni have resisted fusing traditional African styles with contemporary western vocabularies. According to current dancers, some previous members of the group worry that bringing in western styles, even through fusion pieces, risks straying from RnM’s mission.

Because the group was established by students of color who could not find the tools they needed to tell their stories through dance in their department, identity has always been an important part of RnM.

Bernas says that bending genre lets choreographers and dancers call on their own identities and experiences.

Backlash

Each of these dance groups has faced backlash for pushing against the constraints of tradition. Challenging classical dance styles receives criticism for many different reasons.

Many ballerinas have criticized Hiplet, claiming that the style is dangerous for the dancers. Because classical Ballet focuses on extensions and straight lines, a lot of dancers assume the bent knees and distinct posture used in Hip Hop will leave Hiplet dancers at risk of knee and ankle injuries. However, Bryant has noted the risks of trying new things en pointe, and only teaches Hiplet to students who already have strong Ballet technique. So what is the backlash really about?

Naming dance styles and keeping them distinct maintains the elitism present in western high culture. Because so much of blending genres serves to make styles like Ballet more accessible, artists committed to broadening their audiences are often working to bring aspects and aesthetics of specific dance styles from high culture to pop culture.

The Bigger Picture

Many choreographers and artistic directors working towards fusing styles do so to broaden their company’s audience or to push dance to hold narratives previously silenced by the confines of distinct styles. Both of these aspirations serve to modernize classical styles to keep them relevant to both audiences and dancers. Dance has always been a method of storytelling, and challenging strict distinctions of genre seems to highlight stories some artists are now trying to share.

Basically, we love putting things in boxes. We love having concrete definitions so that we can understand things by classifying them. Whether we are talking about people, places, dogs, or food, labels help us separate things into groups.

Dance is no different: for years, we have looked at styles of dance as concrete limitations of what each discipline can be. Each time a new style is born, we are quick to name it and define it.

 

Creating these labels lets us think about new styles in terms of existing ones. Strict definitions comfort us; we know what’s what and can name anything we see. We can easily communicate our likes and dislikes, and dancers can explicitly state their strengths and weaknesses.

But dancers who are bending genre ask that we think about dance more broadly as a form of communication. Strict rules of style can make storytelling less authentic and force dancers to focus on limitations instead of storytelling.

 

The Rise of Handmade Tattoos

Tattoos are popular at Bryn Mawr, particularly stick and poke style

By Rachael Lightstone

Frankie Bliss looks like a stereotypical hipster-style college student. She wears denim overalls and an oversized jacket; choppy blonde bangs fall messily over her thick-rimmed glasses. The tiny tattoos which speckle her arms catch the eye as she lifts her hands to make a point or to brush away a stray bit of hair.

A multitude of bees dot her left arm. Tiny flowers and designs speckle the other. A miniature skateboard adorns one wrist, and a line drawing of the famous painting The Kiss peeks out from her sleeve. Bliss reported that she wasn’t sure exactly how many tattoos she has, but it was up to fifteen.

“Not many of mine have really significant meaning to me, other than I just really like them”, she said. “I think it’s a really cool representation to have things I love visibly on my skin… I love them and they help me love myself more.”

Bliss is not alone. Today, it is fairly common for young adults to have tattoos. A 2010 report from the Pew Research Center found that nearly 40% of millennials had a tattoo, and most of them had more than one. And according to the National Institute of Health, almost three-quarters of tattooed people got their first ink during the traditional college years, 18 to 22 years of age.

Bryn Mawr students’ reasons for getting tattoos vary as much as the people themselves. Cassandra Paiz, class of 2021, chose hers from her favorite artist’s Facebook page offering half-off on certain designs. Cassie Paul, class of 2018, got hers as a memorial to her dog that passed away. Anna West, class of 2021, chose her favorite flower as a reminder of home.

For many of them, empowerment was the major force behind their choice.

“I’ve always been really into reclamation of your body and your skin,” Bliss said, “because I’ve always felt very uncomfortable with my body image and myself, and I felt like one really good way to do that was through putting art that I liked on my body.”

Some students, who asked to remain unnamed, said they placed tattoos over self-harm scars as a way of healing and reclaiming that part of the body.

For West, getting a tattoo was the perfect way to heal after a bad break-up. “Honestly, I’ve been through lots of therapy, but that’s the best way I’ve found,” she quipped. “The most therapeutic was just getting a tattoo.

Continue reading

Hungry for Chicken Feet Stew

Chicken Feet Stew

Chinese students know who to call when they want homemade food.

By Yuqi Zha

It was 12 :05 a.m. Jackie Liu, a Chinese freshman at Bryn Mawr College, was still working in front of her desk. Words flowed out of her fingertips into the document on her laptop screen. The page count at the bottom showed she has finished 3 pages—2 more pages to be done for this assignment, which was due in 9 hours.

Some strange noises distracted her attention. Her stomach was growling.

At the same time, WeChat (a social media app like FaceBook popular among Chinese) messages were popping up on her phone screen relentlessly. It was time for Liu to do something about her hunger.

Liu opened WeChat and entered a WeChat group named Pangpang Lulu, which is the origin of all those messages. There are a couple of hungry Chinese students like Liu in that group, needing some energy to fight against their homework in this long lonely night.

The sole purpose of this group, now having 38 Chinese students, is to place orders collectively at a private Chinese home kitchen in Philadelphia, called Pangpang Lulu, which provides them with Chinese cuisines that cannot be found elsewhere.

Pangpang Lulu was opened on the 1st of February, 2018, located in an apartment near Temple University. Pangpang Lulu doesn’t have a storefront—it offers take-out and delivery services only, including late-night delivery, covering all regions in Philadelphia.

It is the only place that specializes in making spiced stew dishes, which are popular traditional dishes in China. Without the rental cost for a storefront, the prices of its dishes are affordable to students, with entries ranging from $10 to $13, and it quickly became popular among Chinese students in Philadelphia.

“We started Pangpang Lulu solely out of love for spiced stew dishes,” said Leslie Mou, one of the co-owners of Pangpang Lulu, who is also a junior at Temple University. “We think it is a shame that we can’t find such delicious Chinese dishes in Philadelphia.”

Mou came from Chengdu, the capital of Szechwan, where spiced stew dishes are very popular —and very hard to make. The key to success is the spiced soup base that is used to stew the meats for hours. It usually contains more than 10 different Chinese spices and even Chinese medicines.

In China, each restaurant specialized in making spiced stew dishes has its own recipe for the soup base, which determines the different smell and taste of the dishes. Like the recipe for Coca-Cola, the recipe for the soup base is the core trade secret of those restaurants.

The most common spiced stew meats are chicken feet, pork feet, pork ears, pork tails and other animal internal organs, which people from other countries usually dislike. But the Chinese love these stews.

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Big Screen Revival

College students stream video, but still enjoy the movie theater experience.

By Steve Lehman

In the age of online streaming, college students are going to local movie theaters more than you would expect. In fact, they’re going even more than they used to.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that 61% of young adults use online streaming services as their preferred method of watching TV. When you have access to thousands of movies online for the monthly price of one traditional theater ticket, why go to the theater at all?

Isaac Kahan, a Haverford College junior, has some answers. While he enjoys streaming movies on his phone just like any other college student, Kahan also frequents the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (or BMFI) and other nearby theaters.

“I like the movie theater experience,” he told me in his apartment on Haverford’s campus, about a 10-minute bus ride down Lancaster Avenue from the BMFI. “I like how you can… go into another world for a little bit. And it feels like you’re doing something more productive than just watching a movie in your room.”

Why does he go the BMFI specifically? Because it’s easy. Kahan and other Haverford students can either walk or take the bus to Bryn Mawr, while Bryn Mawr College is around the corner from the theater.

Statistics some local theaters are actually thriving. Philly.com reported that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute “represents a rousing success in the digital age” due to “tapping into the movie-loving community in its backyard.”

The BMFI, an independent and non-profit movie theater, is selling more memberships to students now than in the past few years. Patricia Russo, membership manager for the Bryn Mawr theater, said that they “see a positive trend” in student membership sales.

The increase isn’t accidental: the BMFI is pushing for more student involvement. Possible reasons for the increase in student memberships include local business discounts, an annual College Night, and more community partners such as colleges and secondary schools in the area. “We’re doing as much as we can to bring in students,” Russo said over the phone.

This isn’t unique to the BMFI. Four local movie theaters managed by the parent non-profit Renew Theaters, based in Doylestown, each saw a steady increase in student ticket sales over the past three years, according to Renew Theaters’ Membership Manager Lauren Nonini.

Based on data provided by Nonini, student attendance at the Princeton Garden Theater leapt from 4,318 in 2015 to 10,344 in 2017, while the Ambler Theater, County Theater, and Hiway Theater saw similar — though less dramatic — increases over the same time span.

Streaming is convenient and easy, but Netflix can only go so far. Some college students want more out of their movies, especially if it means a way to relieve stress, get off campus, and not think about school for a while.

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