Breakin' Curfew is marketed partly by way of flyers that flower on utility poles all over town with the coming of spring. It's a teen talent show, and those with experiences of dutifully attending such things may dismiss the idea of going voluntarily. That would be a mistake. Co-produced by the Neutral Zone teen center and the University Musical Society, Breakin' Curfew, now in its eighth year, has become one of those "only in Ann Arbor" events that makes our town such a bright spot. Most of the attendees are family and friends of the performers, but anybody with an interest in what American performing arts will look like in a decade or so ought to enjoy the event.
Two things make Breakin' Curfew stand out: teens put it together themselves, and then they get expert help. The show is curated entirely by students, who meet weekly to hammer out the program. As such, Breakin' Curfew offers a pretty good snapshot of the performance genres that make an impression on a group of intelligent young people--that which they absorb from their elders, and that which they are creating themselves. It's quite a mix! Of this year's acts, three play rock and two play Western classical music. The rest ranges from hip-hop to ska, folk, Celtic fiddle, Indian tabla, and Bollywood dance, just to name a few. Like those of past generations, today's teens are interested in the music and dance that comes from the big city down the road; a youth gospel choir and an African dance group from Detroit are on the bill.
The rapid-fire mix of talent gets maximum support from the UMS, where teens work with professionals in a series of workshops. Forming production and marketing teams, the students design, equip, light, and promote Breakin' Curfew, not only putting up flyers but trying out the latest Facebook and YouTube marketing techniques. The production looks not like a high school talent show but like a televised extravaganza.
In Ann Arbor, as Garrison Keillor might observe, all the children are above average, and there's no better place to see them in glorious emergently creative action than Breakin' Curfew. This year's show takes place at Power Center on Saturday evening, May 14, and if you're at all interested you should get your ticket soon--last year there were quite a few disappointed would-be ticket buyers milling around the lobby, watching the show on monitors.
[Originally published in May, 2011.]
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