What started out as a typical project assignment for Matt Greenberg, a Master of Fine Arts student in theater, soon transformed into an initiative to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health on campus.
“Tappyness,” choreographed by Greenberg, is a fusion of dance and theater performed as a solo by Erin Parsons, a Master of Fine Arts student in theater. The project advocates for mental health by sharing a creative narrative that incorporates tap dancing to showcase the rhythms of life, Greenberg said. Friday is the last day to view the project on the Urban Arts Space website.
Parson’s performance was filmed Sept. 19 at Stillman Hall’s Hybrid Arts Lab, and the project was posted Sept. 21, Greenberg said.
The performance tells the story of one woman’s hardship and battle with mental health in everyday life while trying to “stay in time,” according to the Urban Arts Space website. It incorporates tap dance and uses props that would be recognized in an ordinary routine.
“I think tap has really clear rhythms and it’s easy to see when someone does a step in time,” Greenberg said in an email. “The anxieties of falling out of time and wanting to get back in are correlated to mental health when we ‘fall off our horse’ and sometimes struggle to get back in our own rhythms.”
Jacob Athyal, a Master of Fine Arts student in theater, was the creative consultant for the project and offered feedback to Greenberg throughout the process. He said he stayed behind the scenes until the actual performance, where he was also the photographer and audience consultant.
“It’s amazing that Matt and Erin used Tap. Tap forces us into a beat. We can only play with the beat if it’s in our control,” Athyal said in an email.
Greenberg said he wanted to showcase a character that was in rhythm while being out of rhythm at the same time. He did so by choreographing the same tap steps one way, but showing how they can be different through emotion and acting.
“What was most important was taking what we think was tap and showing it in our hands and in our feet, and making it a full body psycho-cinematic experience,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said his work as a student instructor in the Department of Theatre has made him more aware of how mental health impacts college students.
“We simply don’t talk about [mental health] as much as we should because I think these conversations sometimes feel unwelcomed. And I think sometimes, even myself can bottle it in,” Greenberg said.
Athyal said the performance will help encourage people to start engaging in conversations about mental health.
“It’s a creative, smart take on a problem that affects so many in our community, but so few engage with,” Athyal said. “This piece, because of its novel approach, will naturally encourage dialogue and an exchange can occur on a topic that many find taboo.”
Greenberg said he hopes “Tappyness” brings students a sense of comfort and normalizes the struggles of mental health.
“I hope ‘Tappyness’ puts something out there of this woman’s experience, so you as the audience can say, ‘I see myself in that too’ and that you are not alone,” Greenberg said.