Shaan Heng-Devan and Cameron Okeke, both AB’15, perform “All Rise.” (Still from a video by Sara Lu)

Poetry in motion

Festival of the Arts on campus hosts a multidisciplinary performance of poets, dancers, and musicians.

It all started on a spring break road trip in 2013. Cameron Okeke, AB15, a member of PhiNix Dance Crew, claimed from the passenger’s seat that he could dance to anything that had rhythm. Shaan Heng-Devan, AB15, disagreed: “My poems have rhythm. You can’t dance to those.” The year before, Heng-Devan had founded Catcher in the Rhyme, a campus organization that hosts weekly slam poetry events, including open mics and workshops. Heng-Devan and Okeke showed up to the next week’s Catcher in the Rhyme event with a choreographed poem titled “To Write Love on Her Arms,” and in a backseat challenge, Poetry in Motion was born.

Poetry in Motion had its third show May 3 in the Logan Center Performance Hall—its biggest stage yet. This year’s event was also by far the largest in scale. While past shows involved poets and dancers just from the College, this one had 14 performances, including original music and performances by local Chicago poets and musicians. While he was introducing the show, Heng-Devan said, “We decided that it would be a really cool premise for a show: to get dancers, poets, and musicians to all collaborate and come up with pieces where we mix different genres, different modes of performance, and perform them all at once.”

In a partnership with UChicago’s annual Festival of the Arts, this year’s theme was (Un)Spoken Words, which, Heng-Devan explained, centered the pieces on “the way we use or misuse language to hurt, to heal, to inspire, and to affect the people around us.”