You’re in the middle of a large amphitheater surrounded by a sea of people when the lights dim. The crowd around you simultaneously changes their focus to the stage and begins to roar with applause. The music kicks in, drowning out the roar, and you feel the bass rhythm pounding in your chest. You see every musician come to life under a blaze of lights. And you think…
This sure beats Spotify.
There is something very special about experiencing a live performance. Anyone can stream music or television online, but to witness a new performance that someone has put his or her soul into is beautiful. As Emma Koi describes it, “You have to be able to take a step back and admire the vulnerability in the show, find the attraction in the vibrations of the room, and the see beauty in the mistakes that are made just as much as the beauty of the piece itself.”
Emma is a classical flutist, a modern dancer, a blogger, and a performer, but first and foremost, she’s a mother. She has spent the better part of the last nine years living in Milwaukee and has performed multiple times with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She’s no stranger to the stage.
For Emma, there are a lot of similarities, but also many differences, between studying music and studying dance. With music, it’s all about perfection, mastering a craft and understanding the history of a composer. With dance, you’re honoring the individual and expressing yourself. Emma told me, “The exciting part is when you break the boundaries and then put them back together… it’s the innovation that really gets me excited.”
And it’s true. Emma went on to talk about all of the amazing small arts groups coming out of UWM, like the Tontine Ensemble, an improv/new music/experimental ensemble, or the Riso Quartet, a piano quartet of UWM alumni. And she gave special mention to Maria Gillespie, a member of the UWM faculty who runs Hyperlocal MKE, a collaborative effort blending music and dance.
Cadance Collective is Emma’s passion project. It’s an innovative ensemble dedicated to improv dance and music—without the use of sheet music. They’ve performed as a part of Danceworks, Inc.'s "Arts Intersect" series and at the Milwaukee Fringe Festival. These events can take months to plan, and they’re breathtaking. Just watch for yourself!
Emma’s passion for the arts is only rivaled by her love for her son Henry. Parenthood has its challenges. It can be difficult to find time to connect with your passions, making you feel isolated, especially when you’re a performer who values fine-tuning your craft. This isolation sparked Emma to start Mother Maker—a blog dedicated to conversations with artists who are mothers. She interviews them and shares their stories and advice, so other performance-art moms can learn and be inspired.
“There is something magical about a live performance. It’s vulnerable. It’s human. It’s about being alive.” Emma paints a great picture of what makes attending these performances so exciting. Whether she is drawing inspiration from dance, music or her son, there is no doubt that Emma loves the arts, the people that make up this community, and everything that surrounds it.
Next time you go to a live event to watch a performance, stop and think about all the time and effort that was involved in making it possible. Let yourself embrace the magic, the vulnerability, and feel alive.