The most impressive elements about Dance Company’s performances this past weekend were the jumps, which very few of the dancers executed with admirable grace and technique, and the performers’ costumes, which appeared to represent the sale section of an outdated Victoria’s Secret catalogue.
The performance was suitably named “See Things Our Way,” as the dancers did, in fact, see things their own way – and they also seemed to hear things their own way. Everyone danced to their own music, even though they were supposed to be performing one and the same choreography. Their individualism made a caricature of the attempt to dance like an ensemble.
Although Dance Company is not a particularly racially diverse group, with a majority of white students, they certainly are eclectic. No two people in this group can do the same thing at the same time without one or both of them looking out of place. The huge differences in their individual dancing skills and the complete lack of synchrony was evident in each of the original, student-choreographed pieces that they performed.
The first piece, “Passage of Rites,” choreographed by Hannah Good ’04 and Debby Chen ’03, was very innovative in the performers’ choice of costume. I have seenÂ belly dancing in three continents, but I have never seen anyone belly dance in pink pajamas. Although the group really made use of the expertise of Jen Sawaya ’02 in this genre, the pajamas managed to hide all the good technique in a cloud of perplexing pink.
The highlight of this piece was the moment when the girls distributed themselves symmetrically on the stage and attempted to hold their legs in the air for a second or two, showing how much they miss the bars one holds onto in ballet class. The purpose of this exercise remained veiled in pink as everyone raised her leg to a different angle.
If one’s eye managed to free itself from all of the pinkness and look onto the performers’ arms, one would notice two things: first, there would be a pair of arms, held in classical port-de-bras, and another seven pairs of arms going into random directions without any regard to either the music or their dancing partners.
The relationship between dancing partners was the theme of the next piece, “On My Way Out,” choreographed by Renee Robinson ’02, in which five senior dancers were staged to walk around different objects such as mirrors and closets, wrapping themselves in different-colored shawls at the wondrous accompaniment of live instruments. This time, the pajama boldness in costume was taken to a higher level, with bright colors of red, green, dark blue and yellow.
The piece was successful in stressing each dancer’s personality, and it did justice to the dancers by not asking them to move in synchrony. The next piece, choreographed by Emily Bloomenthal ’05 and titled “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” took the art of dance to the level where stellar contemporary artists like Britney Spears and Mariah Carey have taken it: the pure entertainment of showing off one’s body. Dressed in sexy black tops and pants, the dancers looked like a bunch of girls dancing provocatively and chaotically in an Eastern European disco club.
While I respect both entertainment and the desire to provoke others’ sexual attention, I fail to see why this should be done on stage: after all, the girls from Dance Company can go to the Snack Bar or to the Queer Bash and dance around. My suitemate and I can also go andÂ do the same: I will give you some high-leg kicks, you will roll your lower body around and Sheila will give a provocative look at the viewers. If we practice hard, we can even do it in synch with the music and with each other. Unfortunately, my suitemate and I do not get college funding for doing that, or for studying Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham dance techniques.
I am not trying to hint at the fact that the latter techniques are more challenging and artistically inspiring than the art of dance as a series of pre-copulative seductive movements. I am not even trying to say that there is a lot more one can do with a body in dance besides display it without regard to one’s music and partners. All I am saying is that one does not need to buy pajamas, stage time and lighting to do dance entertainingly.
The next piece in the program, an untitled piece choreographed by Renee Dumouchel ’03, was performed without music, thus eliminating both the danger of not dancing in synchrony with one’s partner and with the music. Completely unchallenging, this piece was still abstract and original enough and it did not wrap itself in the ever so-enticing pajama outlook.
Renee’s choreographic attempt was followed by a piece called “Tides of Divinity,” in which choreographer Rebecca Linder ’03 made Sarah Godbehere ’04 prove that one can dance classical ballet to any kind of music. This choreography was much more articulate, although lack of synchrony and protruding arms elbowing into one another obscured the clear lines and patterns with which the piece was charged.
The same can be said about “Memorial in Movement,” an attempt choreographed by Heather Brubaker ’03 at commemorating Sept. 11. It is exceedingly difficult to discuss this piece, as any work of art on this topic passes judgment and deserves neither praise nor critique.
The mourning, black piece was followed by a refreshing “Deliberation,” focused on Cuban music, dance and culture. The live music made this piece a colorfully attractive celebration of this culture. If the dancers had listened to this music a little bit more, maybe not “their way,” or the Cuban way, but just the way it sounds rhythmically, this dance would have been much more successful.
The same can be said for the last piece that Dance Company performed this night, the only professional choreographed work in the program: Holly Silva’s “The Wheel.” Although in terms of mature choreographic thinking this work differs, as it should have, from the amateur student attempts at choreography, in terms of execution this last dance had the same weaknesses as did all the previous ones.
It seems that the women of Dance Company can dance, but are refusing to do it, departing instead into other art forms that range from musical theater to overtures suitable for a soft-core pornography production and caricature-like displays of sleepwear.
Perhaps one can see it as arrogant that a non-dancer can criticize a production they way I have. That’s why I would like to clarify that I in fact quit dancing two years ago precisely because I could not bring myself to be in synchrony with the others and the music, and definitely not because I could not bring myself to wear pajamas on stage. My view simply rests on the assumption that dance should provoke a bit more than laughter and sexual desires.