Aelita (Russian 1924 film)

Аэлита, or the name of the Queen of Mars in this Soviet silent film, shows Russian society on Earth after the Civil War and a socialist Martian Society, which a pair of Soviet scientists are attempting to visit, following a strange telegraph received from the modernized and eccentric space community. Intermingled with the science fiction aspects of this film is, of course, drama pertaining to love. The Queen of Mars watches one of the scientists through a very advanced, kept-secret Martian telescope and falls in love, while the scientist himself worries about the infidelity of his wife. He kills his wife, disguises himself as his scientist-partner to evade capture who had previously fled the country, and takes his rocket to Mars.

When the scientist reaches Mars, he finds that they are not truly socialist but led by an authoritarian group of Elders and the common people are treated as slaves and many are kept in refrigerators, much like today’s science fiction novels’ concept of cryo-preservation.  He leads an uprising among the people, falls in love with the flighty Aelita, and only when we start to see images of his wife in place of the Queen of Mars (as he does also) do we realize this whole journey (as well as the scientist’s revenge upon his jealousy) is just a dream. He returns to Earth, where his wife is still alive and still loyal, and decides that Russian society needs his labor more than those in outer space and he goes to work as a manager on a construction site, giving up his dreams of Mars. This film reflects a society that is both dreaming of science fiction fantasies and also recognizing the work that needs to be done in their own world to create an ideal socialist society where the only issues are those of the heart.


Cosmic Voyage (Russian 1936 film)

In my Russian capstone class this semester, the theme of our literature and film-viewing is science fiction. I think it’s particularly fascinating to watch old science fiction films and read this genre of literature from the early 20th century, not only to compare to modern-day science and what truly came to be in the realm of science, but also because science fiction is a genre of dreams and fantasy, so such published works reflect the goals and visions of the future of a cultural society for that time period.

The film Космический Рейс (Cosmic Voyage) is a Soviet black and white silent film, released in 1936 but set ten years in the future and documenting what was imagined to be the first moon landing. Many aspects of the film, from a current perspective, appear very revolutionary for its time, such as anti-gravity (which simultaneously appears very comedic, since the actors fly across the screen in their weightlessness in a way that, as we now know, physics does not operate on the moon), the situation of not having enough fuel or oxygen to survive long on the moon or make a return trip to Earth (a feature that appears often in current films), and the concept of communication between the astronauts on the moon and those still on Earth. The film becomes interesting (and less realistic) concerning the characters that complete the first landing, but involves a happy ending and lots of drama in between. All in all, this film reflects a country’s desire to forge the final frontier, which was eventually realized.


Interview 3: Joni Keaton; Barcelona, Spain and Edinburgh, Scotland

I sat down for dinner with Joni Keaton, a Ballet Performance and International Area Studies double major from Rockville, Maryland (DC) to discuss her experiences with Dance in Barcelona, Spain and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


L: Where did you study/travel?

I studied abroad in Barcelona and I danced at the Edinburgh fringe festival for two weeks in August of 2015 and I got to perform with a semi-professional ballet company. I studied in Barcelona in the summer of 2017 for four weeks.

L: Describe your experience/journey with Scotland

There’s a program called Brooklyn Ballet Theater that is a summer program for dancers. They take a group to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world. It runs the entire month of August; we were there for two weeks. We rehearsed here in the States first and created a ballet performance and then brought overseas. We did Alice in Wonderland and I got to play Alice which was really special. For me, one of the most amazing parts of dancing is acting within the dance and getting to embody a character, and getting to do it over there was really cool because y’know Lewis Carrol obviously. We performed every morning for two weeks straight at a little theater, the zoo theater, a little black box. Everything was very self-generated. All the costumes we brought over ourselves. We had these really cool portable panels and they’re painted back and front so we could flip them to make different scenery really easily. It was amazing. It was my first time getting to live a more professional company sort of lifestyle.

L: Why did you go to Barcelona?

OU School of Dance takes a group of dancers every summer to study at Centre de Dansa de Catalunya, a studio there. The dancers there are wicked talented. The kids are between 13 and 18 and they’re just like prodigies. It was one of the most intense, focus driven environments I have ever been in. These kids were hungry for ballet. How it works in a ballet class is the teacher gives combinations and we go over them. A lot of times we’ll go over it once and then the teacher would correct, maybe we’ll do it again. But I mean these kids would just, again and again, keep going and the music would keep playing, and I thought wow, I need to rise to their level. The classes there too would go on for a very long time. Here there’s obviously a very strict schedule at OU. People really don’t have more time than we’re given. We have an hour fifty class three times a week and an hour twenty class two times a week and we stop then because everyone has to run off and do other things. But the nature of this program is that all these kids are really training to be professional dancers, and, because it’s the summer, they don’t have anything else to do. But these classes were technically supposed to be…I don’t even know how long they were supposed to be, but sometimes they would go for three hours. But the teachers there were some of the most incredible teachers I’ve ever had. I would go back to Barcelona just to take a ballet class from one of them. The way they taught was also a little bit different, because here you might repeat combinations throughout several different classes. There  They actually gave us a class at the beginning of our time there and wed did that same class for weeks. All of the combinations were pretty much exactly the same. It really helped me tune into my body and get a deeper understanding of the movement they were giving us. It really pushed me in a way I hadn’t really been before

The class was also really cool because it was taught In a bunch of different languages. In Barcelona, they speak Spanish, obviously, but also Catalan, which is a local dialect. The steps of ballet are always given in French. The language of ballet is universal, ballet is codified. If you want to do a Tendu it’s always a Tendu, always in French the teachers would talk or give corrections in Spanish or Catalan. They luckily spoke some English, not a whole lot, but enough to be able to kinda correct us. A lot of times they would be giving Corrections to their students and I wouldn’t necessarily understand what they were saying but because ballet is such a physical art form, you can get the gist of what they’re trying to communicate based on how they move and how the people they’re correcting are shifting their bodies in response to what the teacher is saying.

L: Did you notice any difference between the teaching philosophies or focuses of the United States and Spain?

In a lot of ways, they were a lot more hands on with their students. They would often get really into their space, increase flexibility, somewhat forcibly, definitely more hands on. I don’t know if that was a reflection that people are just kinda more hands on in general in Spain. I think people aren’t as afraid to touch each other; there’s not as big of a space bubble as in American where people tend to give each other room. I don’t know if it was a reflection of that, but it could have been.

L: What besides dancing, what was your interaction with art in Barcelona and Scotland?

I was  fortunate enough to spend a lot of my time exploring the different art cultures.  I think every artist needs to experience the fringe festival because it is life changing, to be in an environment for a month where there’s just so much happening; there’s everything from professional performances to experimental performances to street performances. There’s visual arts, there’s music, there’s dance, there’s theater. There would be days when, after we would perform, we would see four shows in a row and just hop from show to show because the tickets were relatively cheap. There’s just so much happening all around you, it’s not difficult to find a music performance or a comedy performance that’s going on. To just see so many different kinds of people doing so many different kinds of things, I’ve definitely never experienced something like that in this country. This was informal, we were all just artists there to support each other and create our art together in a safe space. The appreciation for the art there was beautiful. The fact that everyone wanted to be there and be in this environment was really cool.

In Barcelona, we got to go to some art museums and see old churches which I consider art just because of how beautifully intricate the architecture is, the carvings, the attention to detail. I think churches definitely tell a story in the arts since the beginning of time because people were so invested in the church, they put a lot of money into making them beautiful and it was one of the first places that art had true expression and people have the ability to create things there.

L: What was your average day like in Barcelona?

We would wake up and start with Pilates, have a modern class with the OU professor, have lunch back at our apartment, and then come back for ballet class. Here I take ballet at 9 am every morning, in the US it’s very traditional to take ballet in the morning and there I was taking it at 3 pm, which, personally for me, I get very lethargic in the afternoon. It was a good push to experience dancing at a different time of day because as a performer, you have to be able to perform at any time of day.

Ballet class went on. Sometimes you get bored (I love what I do but sometimes there are classes that aren’t really engaging) but it really was an intense experience for me in terms of just wanting to dance. There wasn’t a single class where I was like, okay I’m ready to stop. I think a lot of it had to do with the teachers and how motivating they were. It’s hard to describe what makes a good teacher in ballet, but I just loved the combinations they gave and the way they delivered them. I really wanted to work hard in class and I would just push myself. It was just a really pivotal experience for me in my dance journey.

L: How would you describe the artistic culture of Spain?

It’s a really interesting mix of old and new. Barcelona is obviously a very touristy city, but it’s also a very ancient city, so you have the contrast between the more modern contemporary art there and the old — churches for example. Even just seeing murals on the street and then going into the Picasso museum. It’s an urban city, it’s growing it’s changing, but there are pieces of art and history that are still important. People are still going to the Picasso museum to learn about his life and see his work but people are also wanting to create new work, new art in different ways.

I got to see a Flamenco show and obviously that’s something that’s very important to Spain. The dance is culturally theirs and getting to see that was very cool for me because I’ve seen flamenco dance in the US, but seeing it there, being in the place where it was created gave it a different feel.

L: What were the ways you could see the artistic culture influencing daily life, the people, the culture, anything?

It felt like there were stories in the walls, the architecture, walking down the streets, the whole city was the art. The city is so historic and so much of it has been preserved. You get the Gothic architecture, the buildings that have been there for centuries that people have made new, it’s old but it’s alive. The whole city, everyone is living in a constant state of art. People are closer together most of the time and that creates more interaction between people and I think there’s more spontaneity. This one street performance, a woman was dancing, doing this weird movement, and someone joined her, and then someone else, and then families, and kids. That was my impromptu dancing in the streets in Barcelona.

L: How would you describe the artistic culture of the United States?

I would say there’s a really great desire to be innovative. I think a lot of people are looking for new ways to express themselves and are also using art a lot of times for social change or making a statement about things. I think it’s become the trend in art is this country. I think that sometimes it can be incredible, but I think it can also be good to spend time focusing on the past. There are people, in dance specifically, working on old repertoire and classics. It’s important to acknowledge where you come from but I like the fact that people are trying to go in some new directions and move art forward.

L: How do you think artistic culture influence daily life for people in the United States?

I think it depends on where you live. Where I’m from, I was exposed to a lot of art growing up. I was lucky. I feel very fortunate to have grown up going to art performances and I have my parents to thank because they love art and they took me to things. They were the ones who signed me up for ballet. If I had grown up somewhere else, I think my perspective might be different. In certain places in the US, there’s not as much of an opportunity to see professional theater, but that’s not to say local cultures don’t exist, Norman is a great example actually. I would hope that people would make an effort to know what’s going on in the arts, that they would want to participate in it. I think for a lot of people, it’s not a priority though, and I wish it was because I think art has the power to create change and I think people are trying to get the attention of the public with what they’re doing. They’re trying to communicate, not just art for the sake of art.


Mi Práctica

In addition to taking classes while in Spain, I also have an internship (una práctica). Mi práctica is in the Intentional Department of a private hospital in Sevilla. The International Department has two main functions: translating the doctors’ orders to non-Spanish speaking patients and completing insurance claims for people from outside of Spain. So far, I have been mainly assisting in these two areas. Everyone in the hospital speaks to me exclusively in Spanish, which I really hope will hope with my Spanish skills! 

The funny part about this whole thing is that having an internship really isn’t a “thing” in Spain. It’s not something that is very common for native students, so nobody really knows what to expect of me or what I expect of them. I won’t even begin to bore you with the other differences I have observed between the Spanish workplace and that in the United States. Instead, I will candidly share two embarrassing things that have happened to me during my first week of my internship:

  1. On my first day, within the first thee minutes of meeting my colleagues for the first time, I found myself in the ER assisting in the translation of a patient who had just come in. I was really enjoying this task and the hands-on experience that came with it, BUT, all of a sudden for some strange & unknown reason I began to feel faint. I tried my best to maintain my composure in front of my new coworkers, but eventually decided I needed to take a moment to myself and sit. I have no idea what came over me; I had eaten breakfast / gotten enough sleep / felt fine prior to entering the ER. And no, I have never been squeamish around hospitals. In fact, I volunteered at one for over four years! But anyways – it was slightly embarrassing and my coworkers have not asked me to return to the ER since (LOL).
  2. Last Thursday, I was shadowing in Admitting for the first time. One of the permanent workers in the department was asking me about my internship. After answering a series of questions regarding mi práctica, he asks “¿Tienes ganas?” The most literal translation for this phrase is “do you have wins,” or “do you have gains.” Obviously neither of those made any sense……… The next logical translation I could think of in my head was “are you getting paid [for the internship].” I immediately waved my hands and said “No(my visa does not allow me to get paid).  He looked at me confused….uh oh…that’s always a bad sign. The next day in class, I asked my professor (a native speaker) what exactly “¿tienes ganas” means.Guess what it means????? It means…..”Are you excited [to be here]?” YIKES. Now everyone thinks that I’m the new intern who is NOT excited to be at my new job. Oops!!!! I’m not exactly sure the best way to say “Hey, I messed up! Last week you said ‘¿tienes ganas?’ and I said ‘no.’ BUT, yes, I am very excited to be here!! Sorry for the confusion!!” in Spanish, but I’m going to go figure that out immediately. 

Starting a new job in the United States is difficult, but starting a new job in a different language is a whole other ball game. I have often heard my peers in the States talk about “workplace culture.” I am currently trying to simultaneously navigate “workplace culture” and Spanish culture and sometimes that can be difficult. Nonetheless, I am very excited to have the opportunity to learn about the international workplace firsthand. I know that I will learn so much linguistically, culturally, and professionally by being in the clinic this semester.

Granada (Like The Fruit!)

A granada on a street sign in Granada.

Granada was short but sweet (just like it’s namesake fruit)! In case you didn’t know, granada is Spanish for “pomegranate.” This becomes very evident after arriving in Granada, as there are symbols of the fruit everywhere from sewage grates to street signs. 

My friend, Morgan, and I at the Alhambra. You can see some of the intricate pattern work behind us.

Our first stop in Granada was the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a palace / fortress that dates back to AD 889. Like the majority of the historical constructions in Spain, the Alhambra has evidence of both Islamic and Renaissance style. It was incredibly gorgeous and we walked over three miles on our tour. There was so much to see! There are also some fabulous views throughout the tour (as always here in Spain!). 

After the Alhambra, we embarked on a “tapas hopping” adventure. Tapas hopping is when you go to several different restaurants and get a drink and a tapa, or several tapas, at each place. This is pretty common in Spanish culture; mi amigas and I have enjoyed tapas hopping throughout Sevilla and the other cities we have visited. One thing unique to Granada is that for each drink you buy at a restaurant, they will give you a tapa for free. We definitely took advantage of this! By the end of the night, we had visited four restaurants and we were all very full. 

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel. The hotel was definitely nicer than were anticipating and it was there that I had the best sleep I’ve had in Spain thus far!

Some graffiti in the neighborhood.

After a good night’s rest, we went to the Albaicín. The Albaicín is a district in Granada that is known for its narrow winding streets and the incredible reflection of it’s Moorish past. We visited a local market where you could buy Moroccan tea, tapestries, or handmade jewelry.

We decided to have lunch at a local tapas restaurant (mainly so that we would get a free tapa with our caña, s/o Granada). We then headed to the city center and got some churros con chocolate before boarding the bus back to Sevilla. 

All in all, a fantastic weekend was had by all – and we still have Sunday to play back home in Sevilla! 


Landscapes of Rememberance and Embodiment

Last week, I attended the first Latin American and Caribbean Lunch of the semester, hosted by OU’s Center for the Americas. Jessica Cerezo-Román, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, came to speak to us about her medical anthropology research on ancient Native American burial traditions in the Southwestern US/Northern Mexico. Her talk was titled “Landscapes of Remembrance and Embodiment: Between the Classic Period Hohokam and Trincheras Traditions.” Although I had known nothing about these tribes and their culture, I chose to come to the presentation because I find medical anthropology fascinating. I had the opportunity to take my first class in the anthropology department last year, and loved learning about anthropology’s contributions to our understanding of past civilizations.

Cerezo-Román’s research focuses on primarily two tribes that existed in the pre-Hispanic borderlands. The Hohokam tribe lived in what in now central and southern Arizona, with evidence of early Hohokam around 1 AD and late Hohokam around 1500 AD. Meanwhile, Trincheras Native American culture blossomed in the present-day Mexican state of Sonora. Most of the skeletal samples examined by Cerezo-Román were estimated to come from the Classical time period in the Americas, between 1150-1500 AD.

While the Hohokam and Trincheras cultures were both apparently complex and fascinating, Cerezo-Román focuses her attention and expertise on revealing details about the burial practices of these tribes. From here, she is able to infer a surprising amount about the ancient societies. She shared with us her primary research questions: “What does treatment of the dead tell us about social interactions on a broader regional level?” and “What do cremation funerals tell us about ideologies of group identity?”

One interesting aspect of the burial practices of both tribes is the prevalence of cremation. Most often, the ashes of the deal would be placed in vessels (clay pots) and laid on the earth. However, she also found that ashes would sometimes be apparently scattered without a vessel. What’s more, there are some fascinating distinctions between the typical locations of remains that reveal differences between the two tribes. While their burial practices might appear identical at first, the Hohokam and Trincheras differed greatly in where they placed their dead. The Hohokam tended to place the cremated remains, either in vessels or without, near the person’s family home. Sometimes, the vessels would even be found in the home itself. Interestingly, this was never the case in Trincheras villages. Instead, remains would be placed in communal cemeteries in unmarked vessels. This says a lot about how the two tribes thought of their deceased. In Hohokam tradition, the location of the ashes suggests a stronger connection to the dead, as well as a commitment to remembrance of individuals. But in Trincheras settlements, the burial patterns emphasized a much more collective mindset. It seems especially significant that the dead were all placed in unmarked and unadorned clay vessels, regardless of the person’s status place in society. I imagine that Trincheras society must have been remarkably cohesive and perhaps humble, with a strong value for collectivity and commitment to the whole.

Overall, Cerezo-Román’s presentation was fascinating. She came with a wealth of content to share with us, and was clearly passionate about her research. I could tell that I was not alone in my interest, as there were more questions and comments afterward than I have ever seen at one of these lunches! I’ve already registered for the next Latin American and Caribbean lunch, and am looking forward to it!



Views of Málaga from the top of the Alcazaba.

Málaga was a blast! Mi amigas and I left early on Saturday morning for Málaga, which is a two hour bus ride from Sevilla. As soon as we arrived, we made a detour to a nearby mall before heading to our hostel. Most of us had never stayed in a hostel before, so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. I had found the hostel and made the reservations, so I was particularly hoping that the group was satisfied with my choice. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. It was friendly, centrally-located, clean, and very very very cheap.

We first decided to head out to the largest attraction in Málaga – Museo de Pablo Picasso. Picasso was born in Málaga, and this museum was established here after his death. The museum was beautifully curated and I am glad to have visited it. After the Picasso museum, we decided to walk towards the beach. We ended up at a ferris wheel overlooking the water. After three circles on the ferris wheel, we made a pitstop at a grocery store for some snacks before heading to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. On the beach, we watched the sunset and sat on the rocks. It was beautiful!

After the sun went down, it got very cold very quickly so we hightailed it back to the hostel to regroup before dinner. At the hostel, we met one of our dorm mates, a girl from South Korea. She joined us for dinner at a tapas restaurant where I had jamón y potatoes with a spicy sauce. There are a lot of things here that are “spicy”…..but none of them are really spicy at all. I’m pretty convinced that the sauce on those potatoes was the spiciest sauce in all of Spain. And even then, it would be considered a “sissy sauce” by Oklahoma standards.

The next morning we got up and went to find a “big breakfast.” In Spain, “breakfast” is usually just a piece of bread or a piece of fruit. This is hardly a meal, in my opinion. We were thrilled when we found BrunchIt, a restaurant with real breakfast (or brunch, rather). I had a piece of toast with ham, sun-dried tomatoes, and rocket. Now THAT’S a real breakfast!!

With full tummies, we headed to CAC Málaga, a small contemporary art museum. It was very interesting and unique. Everyone in our group really enjoyed it and, best of all, entry was free! From there, we went to the Alcazaba, the most well-preserved palatial fortification in Spain. It was fun to explore and had some great views. We also visited Gibralfaro, which is basically a GIANT hill with the Castle of Gibralfaro at the very top. After thirty minutes of straight uphill climbing, we finally made it to the top. The incline was horrendous, but the view from the top was worth it.

After the ~views from the top~ we had dinner at El Pimpi, a popular restaurant in Málaga. I had fried Rosada Fish. It was yummy and very fresh. We topped off our time in Málaga with some gelato before getting back on the bus.

Overall, another great weekend is in the books! I am so thankful for all the weekend excursions and adventures afforded to me by this semester in Sevilla.

Christmas at Home

My first semester in Saint Petersburg had many ups and downs. It is an opportunity I will forever be grateful for, but it was honestly a rough semester. Originally, I had not planned on coming home between semesters; however, I decided it was best for my mental health to do so. This was an amazing decision. Being home gave my brain the mental “reset” it needed to prepare for my second semester in Saint Petersburg. I was able to spend lots of quality time with family and friends, which was much-needed after my time in Russia. Sometimes, you need a break — and that’s okay. Homesickness and struggling is to be expected when abroad, so in hindsight I don’t feel bad for going home over Christmas break. When I made the decision to do so, however, I felt like a complete and total failure. Now I am back in Petersburg and doing well, so my time here has obviously not been a failure. Sometimes, it’s all about perspective.