However you choose to define your art, F.O.K.U.S. provides the forum

BY MICHELE YANKSON
Daily Arts Writer
Published December 7, 2007

Just as no two iPods contain the same playlists, it seems that no two people's ideas of entertainment follow the same scheme. Saturday's 3rd annual F.O.K.U.S. talent showcase "The Remix" promises to provide students with a diverse array of musical and dance acts in hopes of creating an audience whose members may have otherwise never occupied the same venue.

" 'The Remix' brings students of different backgrounds together to showcase their art to their peers," said Brett Thames, F.O.K.U.S. co-vice president and a Business School senior. "Everyone can experience different types of performances."

Alma Davila-Toro, F.O.K.U.S.'s president, co-founder and a University alum, the timing of the showcase is imperative to ensuring the show's success. The first show, also in December, was filled to capacity, while the second show suffered a November-night-before-Ohio State-game fate. And, Davila contends, the fact that the showcase comes at the end of year means it might be an event that signals transition for University students.

"It's right before finals and we want to give (the students) something big before they leave," she said. "We want people who are graduating or people who are going abroad to have it as one of the last events on their mind when they leave campus."

With this year's showcase, F.O.K.U.S. will collaborate with the University Unions Arts and Programs Office to hold the event as part of "UMix Late Night." The event offers students a study break that entertains and refreshes, one that provides stimulation of the body and perhaps of the senses as well. Besides performances and UMix goodies, a DJ will be spinning between shows, and "commercials" will come in the form of Current TV.

"The Remix," scheduled from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., also gives students the option to socialize outside more common aspects of socializing. "(We) want to bring students together during the social hours," Davila-Toro said. "It's a way to meet new people without the alcohol."

F.O.K.U.S. was created in 2003 by Davila-Toro and fellow University alum Atiba Edwards. Both New York natives, they were provoked by what they perceived as the University's brand of diversity - that is, a theoretical one that often isn't realized.

"When we came to the university, we saw it was segregated," Davila-Toro said. "We got tired of it. We decided to make a student organization, and we knew the one thing that could bring it together was the arts."

Given the likelihood of performers having varying fan bases, meeting a new person - inebriated or not-shouldn't prove difficult at "The Remix." The student music acts consist of two MCs, an indie rock band, a gospel singer with accompanying pianist and Darren Criss, an LSA and School of Music, Theatre and Dance junior who Davila-Toro likens to folk crooner John Mayer.

"I've worked with F.O.K.U.S. in the past, and (its shows) are always really eclectic," Criss said. "My music has a pretty simplistic folk sound, and it's always great to be able to perform amongst awesome MCs and amazing soul singers."

The group Dance2XS adds to the musical performances with its high-energy hip-hop dance set. Dance2Xs President Britta Wunderlich, an LSA senior, said the choreography for the showcase is focused on the idea of contrast. It will infuse old-school dance moves - such as the recently-resurfaced, originally funk move "locking" - with more contemporary steps.

Besides student acts, this year's "The Remix" will bring a professional musician to the stage with folk singer Matt Santos. Santos is featured on "Superstar," a track in the soon-to-be released Lupe Fiasco album The Cool.

"We felt he was an up-and-coming star," Thames said. "We wanted to expose the campus to an artist they might not have heard of but should be on the lookout for."

To Davila-Toro, it's this exposing of the lesser-known to a grander audience that is at the core of the organization's appeal.

"However you define your art, (F.O.K.U.S.) helps you express yourself and show it to the campus," she said. "We want everyone to know that we are the most inspiring, original and most unique group on campus."

It may be a matter of taste, but with folk and soul singers, locking dancers, gospel pianists and MCs and more, "The Remix" might just prove Davila-Toro right.

F.O.K.U.S. "The Remix"
Today from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
At the Michigan Union Ballroom
Free, student ID required