‘No Boundaries’ mixes Bhangra and hip-hop

Friday and Saturday night the Mainstage of the ’62 Center pulsed with the screams and cat-calls of students as Nothing But Cuties (NBC) and Dance Dhamaka (formerly known as Bhangra) took the stage. In their first collaboration, No Boundaries, the hip-hop dance group NBC allowed their dance influences of jazz, funk, African and modern styles to mix with Dance Dhamaka’s traditional Indian dance with elements of Bhangra and Bollywood. NBC’s butt-shaking, body-bouncing and hard-hitting style contrasted with Dance Dhamaka’s generally joyful swishing and jumping to create a fresh and exciting performance.

Dance Dhamaka performed to Shankar Mahadevan’s “Breathless.” The piece also served as a social commentary, as the music and dance combined to produce a menacing feeling of mechanization. The tone quickly changed, however, when the group suddenly burst into a joyful dance accompanied by colorful costumes, incorporating poses reminiscent of Egyptian wall paintings.

One of the highlights of No Boundaries was a duet piece by NBC to Jordin Sparks’ “No Air,” starring Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 and Rebecca Alschuler ’11. The piece followed a traditional Romeo and Juliet-inspired narrative as Yekutiel’s character is killed in a gang shooting, and both Alschuler and Yekutiel danced solos under overhanging spotlights to express their pain, loss and longing to be with each other through simply amazing and heartfelt dancing. The moves involved mirror images while the spinning and throwing of chairs helped convey their pain to the audience as they attempted to find each other in the cold, anonymous environment of a city inhabited by the other NBC dancers. Yekutiel and Alschuler then began a dance duet that seemed tango-esque with its closeness and sexuality.

A big and startling change occurred when Dance Dhamaka inhabited the stage again with a lighthearted dance involving moves that worshipped the earth and sky while manipulating scarves attached to their hands. The dancers formed a beautiful half-circle that became a rotation of two lines of performers connected in the center.

The thug life, a reoccurring theme in hip-hop dance, was introduced with NBC’s dance entitled “Battle Ground,” accompanied by Nelly and Fergie’s “Party People.” The dance featured a contrast between aggressive and powerful moves by the men and softer yet equally strong dancing by the women. This was showcased by one of the most impressive moves I’ve seen from a dance group at Williams: performers who continued to dance while lifted into the air.

Dance Dhamaka began the next dance by placing a line of lit candles across the stage. While time-consuming, it set the tone for the subsequent dance – a “Traditional Indian Candle Dance” to “Aayo Re Sakhi” from the movie Water. This piece was slower and involved less people and dimly lit lights as the dancers, artificial candles in hand, invoked ideas of worship through kneeling and imitating the many arms of a Hindu god.

The next piece explored the question “We both know that we’re attracted / Should we let our desires lead?” from the lyrics of Alicia Keys’ “Mr. Man.” The prospect of cheating is investigated through hip-hop glam costumes and Bhangra slinkiness. Noelia Guzman ’11 and Assoumou were stand-outs in the piece.

In all, my favorite dance was the duet “Loss,” beautifully choreographed by Yekutiel. It was the first time a dance has made me feel such strong emotions and empathy.

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