Erika Avallone BC ‘26, Bwog Staff Writer, undergoes a characteristic change at The MaMa Project 2024. Now, she will protect bugs with her whole heart and soul.  

I hate bugs, I really truly do. Everything about the creepy, crawly critters freaks me out. HOWEVER (and this is a big however), after watching ‘The MaMa Project 2024, Bug Diaries: Infestation,’ I am a changed woman. I can no longer hate bugs in good conscience, and I will explain why you should also come over to the dark side. 

The show was split into several smaller sets: Night Insects in the Woods, Spiders, Ant March, yin to yang, The Bug Collector, Roly Poly, Overflowin, Symphony for a Spider Plant, Cigarra, Stickbug, Slug, In a Week, Classy Penguin, Bee Patrol, Flight of the Bumblebee, Simulation Swarm, Nostalgia, New Horse, and Ragged Wood. Each set focused on a specific species of bugs, and how their behaviors reflected large-scale social and emotional plights.  

While I could go through each act, and reminisce on everything that left me questioning my own existence, I only have so much space. Alas, I am going to focus on the three performances that I felt were most reflective of the production’s collective artistry and effort, ‘Night Insects in Woods,’ ‘Symphony for a Spider Plant,’ and ‘Cigarra.’ 

‘Night Insects in Woods,’ the opening piece, featured the full cast (Isabel McFarland BC ‘26, Suzanne Ye BC ‘26, Avery Baumel CC ‘26, Daniela Cordovez CC ‘26, Grace Petrusek BC’25, Yasemin Ulug BC ‘25, Anya Trumbach SEAS ‘25, Eliza Voorheis BC ‘25, Abby Mankin BC ‘25, Alice Lander BC ‘25, Romane Lavandier BC’24, Rosalind Joyce BC’24, Lydia Juline GS ‘24, Rosie Underberg BC ‘24). The full cast exhibited a physical cohesiveness that embodied the emotional trust necessary for a strong community. A white sheet covered a few of the dancers, while the rest surrounded this concealed group; once the sheet was revealed, all performers marched and spun, almost releasing their anxieties of this artificial forestry environment, and relishing in the glee of being alive. The first piece reflected what would be explored throughout the show: the natural vulnerability of life and why, because of this fragility, mutual reliance is necessary for survival. 

‘Symphony for a Spider Plant’ (performed by Alice Lander BC ‘25 and Avery Baumel CC ‘26) introduced a string structure, resembling a web, that was hung from the corners of the theater. This performance revolves around a spider (Lander) hunting a fly (Baumel), illustrating the inevitability of a sinister event. No matter where the fly goes, or how it attempts to escape, the spider will always catch up to it, and eventually kill it. The kill itself did not stick out to me, as much as the interconnectedness of these two lives. The world of this insect and arachnid pair is so intimate, only concerned with their respective survival and immediacy, and I found myself lost in the jarring manifestation of life’s fleeting nature. 

Scenically and contextually related, but choreographically independent, to ‘Symphony for a Spider Plant,’ ‘Cigarra’ (performed by Abby Mankin BC ‘25, Anya Trumbach SEAS ‘25, and Eliza Voorheis BC ‘25) featured three moths caught in this spider’s web. With one moth on pointe (Trumbach) and two flies in tap shoes (Mankin and Voorheis), the tension and franticness of being caught in a deceivingly weak—thin, but strong—trap pulsed through their movements. Like ‘Symphony for a Spider Plant,’ the performance touched upon the thrill of being vulnerable, and how such a position can create social intimacy among those who experience it, and tragic for those who prey upon it. What I found interesting, along with the unique merge of visual and auditory cues, was that the tap shoes actually mimicked the buzzing of a fly sound. I could both see and hear the tragedy play out, further entering this insect world. Eventually, the two dancers with tap shoes fall to the ground, but the one on pointe remains standing; perhaps, the choice to leave the dancer on pointe as the surviving insect is a tribute to the resilience of quiet strength. The buzzing of flies—their tap shoes—is what attracts the spider, and their quick movement gets them entangled in the web, while the moth acts with complete self-awareness. In both these pieces, a sense of self is complicated and developed, leaving me to wonder not only about the perceptions others have of me but also how I see (or hope to see) myself. 

To wrap up my snooping into the diary of bugs, the lovely directors and choreographers of ‘Bug Diaries,’ Pimprenelle Behaeghel (BC ‘24) and Annika Voorheis (BC ‘24), agreed to answer lingering questions about their creative process. 

Q: Where, when, and how did you originally get the idea to structure a performance around the lives of insects? 

Behaeghel attributes conceptual origins to her mom, who is a beekeeper and recently started educating audiences on the lives of bees! While her mom was preparing for her new occupational ventures, Pimprenelle learned lots about the behaviors of bees. For example, they are in constant movement, and often perform something called a ‘waggle dance.’ The project’s idea spurred from her mom’s knowledge and teachings on these bees; however, the duo knew that this project was something meant to be explored together. Voorheis says, “we wanted to do MaMa together, when we were applying, and then it was a matter of finding that theme, that one thing that would be a cohesive trail, to trail through the whole performance.”  The folk album “I Need to Start a Garden” by Hayley Heynderickx played a large part in developing the show as a portrayal of the bridge between humans and bugs. They urge that bugs do not need to be feared or signal anxiety in humans, and are beings who deserve humans’ attempt at coexistence. 

Q: [How] did you plan for each bug to mirror some part of life’s fragility and flexibility? 

The duo wanted to compare the lifespans of humans and bugs, both reliant on routine and mundanity. The patterns of life are what created who you are, and the monumental “life-changing” events are fleeting; the big moments are not as crucial as the patterns of daily life, because these everyday activities create what your life truly means, and your character.  Most of a person’s time and energy is dedicated to activities that make up their survival, a lifestyle that is similar to bugs. They refer to the performance’s act ‘Classy Penguin,’ which is about the short lifespan of a may-fly. A may-fly only exists for a day, and the majority of that time is spent in the mud;  Pimprenelle remarks, “Things can happen for the first and last time, in one day, and that’s also reflective of performance. So in a way, they all informed each other, and worked with each in ways that we didn’t expect, but also expected.”   

Q: Did you have any doubts throughout this process? How did you work through them? 

Both choreographers say they didn’t “really ever have doubts.” They commented, “We would have moments of do we really have time to give this piece the time and energy that it needs.” They knew that they were envisioning a “very ambitious dance show that was more theatrical than maybe past dance performances. We really wanted to expand what dance can look like, in an evening-length show.” While the logistics of the physical space and scheduling were a bit limited [time constrained], they “never doubted the dancers or themselves,” and “it was helpful that [they] had each other” for support.  With a duo experience, they were able to ground each other throughout such an interpretive project, and shared experience allowed them not to “sugar coat anything to each other,” thus producing the most authentic performance.  

Q: How did you work with the lighting director(s), in order for the visual aspect to be conceptually cohesive with the rest of the performance? 

The pair had nothing but kindness and gratitude for Joshua Halevi (CC ‘26), the performance’s lighting director. They both gush, he is “just incredible, and he was really present at rehearsals. He watched every dance, he knew the dances, he met with us; we really gave him a baseline, and then he kind of did his magic.” One of the production aspects that truly shines through the performance was that “it’s really collaborative, and (he) was so open to changing anything that we felt wasn’t right.” Ecstatic to talk about their team, Aanika says, “His vision was just so creative, and more than anything we could have possibly imagined,” as Pimprenelle continues, “Everything was really spot-on, from the start. It just looked so beautiful with the lighting, and we were just really lucky to have him” Safe to say, the show took a small but mighty village! 

Q: Did you begin with an original idea for the choreography? And did those ideas change as you become familiar with the dancers? 

Behaegel begins, “The first dance was choreographed as part of the audition process,” (which was needed for their original application) “ and I (Pimprenelle) think that was the hardest part to up with because we didn’t know who we were going to be dancing with.” They agree that “all our choreography is always thinking about who is going to be dancing on stage, and also the way we cast the pieces was really based on how the person moves, but also that person’s personality.” The ways Pimprenelle and Aanika refer to their dancer are very reminiscent of a family, taking the time, attention, and energy to craft pieces that are connective to not only the overall show but also the individual performer. They say “It was such a great open bunch, (…) and a lot of the choreography was based around who we were doing it for.” They also attributed their choreographic choices to the music! They refer to a “playlist, which we had before we had really anything! And so just listening to the songs a million times, and being really inspired by the music.” Spotify wrapped is all bug, all year!! 

Q: What is one idea or theme that you hope the audience grasped (just one!!)? 

Behaegel: “For me, it’s kind of just the idea of dance as joy, and that (I think) dance can really be put in an aesthetic box – where the visual aesthetic is considered before all else, and we really wanted to remove that hierarchy.” They focused on “what you feel while doing it because that’s what is important to us, as choreographers.” 

Voorheis: Adding on to Behaegel’s sentiment, referring to the show as pure “happiness,” Voorheis refers to “the movement thought could be a whole language of itself.” She explains “how the choreography could tell a story without needing lyrics, for some of them, or how that could be an idea that we were playing with.” She hopes that this story-telling ambition came across to the audience, but also that the viewers got “nuggets of things that we put into the choreography that were maybe not super clear. We have so many plots and ideas in our heads of what pieces are about, and I’m just curious if the audience was picking up on it.” She “loved talking with everyone in the audience [about] what they got from what an idea of a piece was about because we put so much thought behind every piece and a different unique idea for every piece.” No matter what their intent was, they hoped the audience and the performers connected with an idea that was special to them. 

As one of the lucky audience members, I think they fulfilled and overflowed that hope with a successful reality!

The MaMa Project Dancers via Erika Avallone