Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mirror Mirror Dance

Last year, our Dance Company performed a piece to the songs Beautiful by Apocalyptica and Who You Are by Jessie J. (All choreography credit goes to Michelle Leininger.) We affectionately referred to it as “Mirror Mirror.” You can watch the video here. (I guarantee what I am saying will make a lot more sense if you do!) This video of the dance is taken from a practice after a few months of time away from it, so it’s not exactly up to par, but it illustrates the choreography pretty well, so just bare with me! I am the girl in the red shirt and gray shorts.

The piece starts with the instrumental music of “Beautiful.” The dancers are seated on their stools looking into a hypothetical mirror. They analyze every small detail of their body in isolation. The key in this part of the dance is emotion. For the potent message behind the song to come through, each dancer must personally connect to it and expose their genuine emotions. That being said, what is the message? Mirror Mirror is a dance about the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. It is about the internal struggle when we fall short of our expectations and how obsessive and overwhelming that becomes.The first day of practice, Ms. Leininger told us (originally there were five dancers and a Company B as well) to sit in a circle. Each of us had to share with the group something about ourselves that we do not like or that we feel insecure about. I was shocked at how bold of a move that was. I had never felt so vulnerable before. Eventually I realized it was that vulnerability that enabled me to pour myself into the dance; it transformed Mirror Mirror into art.

The dance moves become increasingly aggressive throughout the instrumental portion.  This represents an escalating frustration with our flaws. “Beautiful” ends with the dancers shivering and slowly standing up. At the peak of our disgust, “Who You Are” starts playing. One by one, the dancers fall backwards and catch themselves right before they hit the floor. The repetition of this movement represents how often we despair over our imperfections and barely catch ourselves.

In the chorus of the song, all four dancers do the same body roll (the one that sort of looks like a scene from the Matrix, for those of you non-dancers!) on the lyric: “Sometimes it’s hard…to follow your heart.” Although I never clarified this with Ms. Leininger, I always interpreted this move as a representation of the openness and confidence required to “follow your heart.” For much of the dance, we are pulling away from the mirror or hunched over ourselves, but in this move, we completely unfold our bodies. The move illustrates how we must expose ourselves to truly accomplish what we want in life.

In addition, Mirror Mirror illustrates the power that friendship can have on confidence. At the beginning of the second verse, we stand in a line and each take a turn obsessing in front of the mirror. The girl behind each dancer swings her away. Right after that, the girl in the green jumps into our arms and we fling her forward. This symbolizes friends forcing someone to get back on her feet and to remember  her worth.

At the end of the dance, we all snap, walk away from the mirror, and strike a confident pose. These moves contrast the self-conscious and awkward moves from the beginning of the piece. The contrast demonstrates how the dancers finally accept themselves and their imperfections. With help from their friends, they regain confidence.

If you have any questions about the dance or other pieces that Company did, feel free to ask! We did some pretty cool things with it in my school.

Rhetorical Analysis Project Ideas

Most of the samples on the website of possible ideas for a rhetorical analysis ( are speeches of some kind given by a political, religious, or social leader. It makes sense to start from those ideas considering our rhetorical analyses are supposed to analyze how a piece “works to persuade its audience.” The purpose for those kinds of formal addresses is almost always to do just that: convince the audience of one thing or another. Perhaps to support a cause, condemn a recent social issue, or think in a certain way. I think I could definitely choose a speech of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and analyze his rhetorical strategies in an effort to persuade his audience of the urgent necessity for civil rights. His speeches are full of ethos, logos, and pathos.

However, there are other, less obvious pieces to analyze for rhetoric. In my AP Language and Composition class that I took junior year of high school, we spent most of our time writing rhetorical analyses. Many times we looked at historical literature such as Virginia Woolf, Benjamin Franklin, and George Orwell. I think this angle would interest me more because the authors seek to persuade their audiences in a more subtle way. The first thing they are concerned with is their style. I guess I find a rhetorical analyses of literature (that still seeks to persuade) more creative, and thus more intriguing.

One of my favorite pieces on which I wrote a rhetorical analysis was “A Hanging” by George Orwell. The piece tells the (true) story of a Burmese man’s execution under British Imperialists. George Orwell witnessed this execution first hand and it disgusted him, so he wrote the piece in an attempt to make readers realize how imperialism warps humans’ natural order. Obviously, I will not analyze this piece again (I wish!), but it gives me ideas of places to look. I think an analysis of work by Martin Luther (the instigator of the Protestant Reformation in Europe) would be interesting. The context for anything Martin Luther wrote would vastly differ from any modern examples of persuasion.

Carrousels in the Catcher in the Rye

On page 210 in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield takes his little sister, Phoebe, to a carrousel. He notes: “Anyway, we kept getting closer and closer to the carrousel and you could start to hear that nutty music it always plays. It was playing “Oh, Marie!” It played that song about fifty years ago when I was a little kid. That’s one nice thing about carrousels; they always play the same songs.”

For those of you who have not read The Catcher in the Rye, you should know that Holden Caulfield spends most of the book condemning and critiquing the world around him. He is cynical and pessimistic about the nature of mankind. There are only a handful of characters in the story that Holden does not despise, one of which being his little sister, Phoebe. She somehow makes him see the world in a more optimistic way. He treats her well compared to how he treats other people.

In the scene on page 210, Holden is walking through the park with Phoebe before he plans on leaving town. Holden sees the carrousel and notices how it never changes. I think J.D. Salinger presents a larger commentary here than just on how this merry-go-round has remained the same over the years. I believe the carrousel represents children and their uncorrupted worldview. As people grow up, they start to care about serious matters. Countries become entangled in conflicts that alter their people’s way of life. Generations experience earth-shattering disasters and ground-breaking developments. And yet, children seem to always care about the same things. Imagination, play, creativity, curiosity. Children’s ideas are infinite.  And they all start their lives innocent and joyful. When Holden Caulfield notes that the carrousel plays “the same songs,” this is J.D. Salinger commenting on the pleasant simplicity of a child’s life.

What are some examples of childhood simplicity you can come up with from your own life? Personally, I know that my mom and I shared a love of dolls when we were younger. We both loved Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies. Even though we lived our childhoods years apart and in very different environments, we both cared about the same things.

Pros and Cons of Speeches

Did you know that after the fear of death, public speaking is the most common fear for people to have? People fear talking in front of a group more than they fear ghosts, natural disasters, or snakes. Why is this the case? For one thing, public speaking means that everyone’s attention is on you. Sometimes attention is a good thing, but in the case of making a speech, you feel that their attention is often criticism or judgment. You know that not everyone will agree with you; not everyone is a friend or family member that won’t laugh at you. In a speech, you are putting your thoughts and opinions out there for everyone to hear, and that is a daunting notion.

That being said, there are many tactics that help people deliver effective speeches without having a nervous breakdown. 1) Believe in your message. If you truly understand and believe in what you are talking about, it is much easier to give your speech with confidence. 2) Prepare your points ahead of time. The days of simply reading off notecards in front of the class and passing that off as a speech are over. Now, we must not only write a speech, but know the information and the order in which we want to present the information off the top of our heads so that we do not stumble over our points. 3) Look the part; act the part. We have all sat through speeches where the speaker acts as if he/she could care less about the information he or she is presenting. He or she could actually be interested in the topic and genuinely trying to tell the audience about it, but something about his or her tone, dress, or delivery messes it up. To avoid this, I think it is important to remember the essential etiquette to delivering a speech: maintain eye contact, avoid the use of “umm” or “err,” and pace yourself.

Speeches are a decent way to express information because they are directed towards a target audience and not the entire world (like an article on a website would be, for example). Also, since a speech is given in person, audience members can ask their questions to the (usually) knowledgeable speaker afterwards. A disadvantage to a speech is that since it is in person, it cannot be stopped and reread like an article or online video could. (Granted, nowadays we often tape speeches so we can review them later, but this is still an initial disadvantage.) Another disadvantage to speeches is the quality of the speaker can vary. Sometimes, we hear from dynamic speakers who are easy to understand. But sometimes, the speaker is too soft-spoken, mumbles, etc.

Civic Engagement Speech: Artifact

photo (6) photo (7)

These are papers inciting students and faculty to come to a rally on Old Main Lawn in the late 1960’s. The rally is to protest unfair treatment of student protesters from the week before. The paper lists several reasons why the students have the right to speak their mind and how they were wronged when the police got involved.

This is a call to civic duty, albeit one of the counterculture. Whereas many times civic opportunities come from the government, this specific instance and other anti-Vietnam War protests go against the government.

I plan to explain the appeals they make within the artifact. Pathos: the title and phrasing such as “innocent students,” etc. Logos: they list all the reasons why the students are in the right and the law enforcement is in the wrong. Ethos: the advertisement is coming from fellow faculty members, which makes it seem likes less of a “hot-headed youth” concept. It gives the rally credibility.

The artifact demonstrates citizenship because it follows the logic that we, as citizens of the United States of America and as students and faculty of Penn State University, should care about our fellow citizens and students. We should want to help them because they need justice.



skeleton girl



I found this picture on tumblr several months ago and ever since then, my mind keeps coming back to it. The girl in the picture is removing her shirt, revealing a skeleton where flesh should be. This simple picture calls up so many different issues.

First, I believe this drawing symbolizes how brainwashed today’s youth is in regards to body image. The girl featured in the picture illustrates the “ideal” shape. Although I agree that her shape is beautiful, too, I contest the idea that hers is the only admirable one. Allow me to compare this piece of artwork to sculptures from the Greco-Roman era.

Crouching Aphrodite



This is a sculpture of the “Crouching Aphrodite” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love. The Romans considered her to be the quintessence of beauty. Notice that the way she is crouched is causing some ripples of skin on her stomach. This might seem odd to humans now that this sculpture represented the perfect body. That is because our vision of beauty has become warped. The sculpture and the drawing from above illustrate two different body shapes, but neither one is better than the other.

Second, the drawing symbolically illustrates the effect that some eating disorders have on the body. There are many different forms of eating disorders, but this picture hits on those that make you thinner (yes, there are some that do not). Disorders such as anorexia and bulimia become addictions as potent as drugs and alcohol.  Men and women get sucked into them and the disorder becomes an unbreakable habit. This eventually wears them down to the bone. Literally.

Last, the skeleton in the picture has striking implications. Skeletons are symbols of death. The girl in the picture is obviously alive because she is performing the action of taking her shirt off, and yet underneath her shirt is a skeleton. This suggests that she is both living and dead at the same time. The idea that she is “dead” underneath the surface speaks to the severe mental strain people with eating disorders experience. Many simply go through the motions of their lives but feel nothing on the inside.



Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis


1) “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.” MLK Jr. then goes through and explains how they followed those steps, so it makes the nonviolent demonstration seem like the only available option.

2) “One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. …groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.” He directly confronts the criticism posed to him, and thus knocks down logically all of their counterarguments.

3) “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'” This explanation clears the gray areas where people might call him a hypocrite.


1) “Was not Jesus an extremist for love…Was not Amos an extremist for justice…Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel…Was not Martin Luther an extremist…And John Bunyan…And Abraham Lincoln…And Thomas Jefferson…So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. …We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” MLK Jr. cites several famous and respected “extremists” to make his own case more credible.

2) “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates.” This explanation makes MLK Jr. seem more professional and it eradicates the idea that he is just an angry protestor.

3) “But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.” Before MLK criticizes the church for its failures, he reminds his audience that he is deeply attached to the church and cares about it very much.


1) “stinging darts of segregation” This phrase portrays segregation as physically painful.

2) “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty” This gives a clear mental image to disturb the audience.

3) “the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood” This creates a contrast between prejudice and brotherhood with associated emotional ties.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Writer(s): John Lennon, Paul Mccartney
Copyright: Sony/ATV Tunes LLC

Lyrics here:

early beatles


Although many people associate the Beatles with four “mop-tops” in suits singing cutesy love songs, the image that comes to mind for me is of four long-haired men creating poetic, poignant, and provocative music. The song I am discussing here is: “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” off of The Beatles (White Album). There are many theories as to what this song is actually about, but here are three ideas I believe are possible.

1)  John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr became deeply involved in the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. Many of their songs off their later albums have political undertones or blatant criticisms. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” could be a political message about America’s over-eagerness to involve itself in the Vietnam War. The phrase “Mother Superior” refers to a leader of a religious organization. Lennon and McCartney could be sarcastically labeling the U.S. as an almighty guide which every country follows faithfully. When they say “Mother Superior jumped the gun,” they mean America jumped into war too quickly. The chorus includes the lyrics: “When I hold you in my arms/ And I feel my finger on your trigger/ Don’t you know nobody can do me no harm/ Because happiness is a warm gun.” This section symbolizes humans’ obsession with fighting. We kill people and demolish countries in war and yet somehow we still associate war with glory. In the chorus, Lennon and McCartney deride our misguided sense of comfort and contentment we derive from war. 

2) The second way “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” could be interpreted is as a metaphor for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s sexual relations. I think I will refrain from describing what exactly John meant by “She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand/
Like a lizard on a window pane,” or “I need a fix ’cause I’m going down,” but suffice it to say that this song is overflowing with sexual innuendos.

3) The last theory for this song is that “a warm gun” is a metaphor for a heroine-filled syringe. The line “I need a fix ’cause I’m going down” symbolizes a heroine user’s addiction to the drug. The lines “When I hold you in my arms/ And I feel my finger on your trigger/ Don’t you know nobody can do me no harm/ Because happiness is a warm gun” expresses the euphoric state of mind that heroine induces. The first verse is the equivalent of drug trip and the echoes of “Bang, bang, shoot, shoot” allude to the act of injecting heroine with a needle.

late beatles