Malcolm and Lola: Step-crossed lovers

Williamstown, 1985. Madonna reigns supreme. When something is hot, it is “bad to the bone.” And Sankofa is the College’s passionate step team whose stomps and shouts are irresistibly infectious. Last weekend’s show at the ’62 Center, Step in the Name of Love: A Malcolm and Lola Love Story, made the audience jump out of their seats – or dance in them. The seamless performance combined a romantic storyline with step and dance. It testified to Sankofa’s versatility with a bittersweet farewell to its seniors, who enjoyed their last moments on stage with the team.

The show opened with a senior step during team practice. “It’s time for the seniors to show these young’uns how it’s done!” said David Edwards ’09. And they did. It seemed as if every senior stomp carried the weight of happiness from reaching their final year. Their arms and legs were dexterous and showed the strength many Sankofa practices have infused them with.

Dexterity was team-wide, and this skill amplified every element of the storyline. It was fast, witty and intense. In seconds, the group began to fight about underlying tensions. “This fighting don’t even sound like it’s about the Kofa connection,” declared Brian “Cookie” Thomas ’12. But when the men and women split into their own crews, Malcolm (Ifiok Inyang ’11) and Lola (Giselle Jimenez ’11) remained determined to make their relationship work and to keep their romance a secret from their warring groups. Their resilience is the classic example of a love torn by allegiance to opposing sides – a modern Romeo and Juliet sprinkled with sass and topped with neon, gold chains, sweat suits and midriff baring men’s t-shirts, all coordinated by Kimberly Middleton ’10.

After the blowout, the crews cooled down in “At the Herring,” a series of steps with a party flavor. The men opened with stomps and foot claps that incorporated popular old school dances like the tootsie roll and the running man. They went hard, each performer finding his niche in the line, but ultimately adding his distinct personality. Afterwards, the women flurried out on nimble feet. They used sassy hip swings and heel-and-toe rotations to make their steps dance under the low lights of the Red Herring, clearly determined to show that they could be just as harsh as they were feminine. For example, “Rock You” divided them into two lines as they used a few seconds’ difference in timing to make the same step sound like a multilayered beat. A final finger snap over their heads dared the men to question their skill.

After the initial confrontation, Malcolm and Lola lingered behind to enjoy some one-on-one time in a sultry duo. Jimenez showed versatility as a Lola who was at one moment seductive (all the way down to a pointed tiptoe) and at other moments playfully challenging. Inyang as Malcolm followed Lola’s lead, while also letting her fall into his arms. The couple held one hand together while stepping with their legs, united under the swirling disco lights, a motif for the strife surrounding them.

Humor reached a boiling point during the practice scenes. After Malcolm and Lola were discovered together by members of both squads, no one held back how they felt. Rousseau Mieze ’10 opened the men’s practice for the ensuing dance battle, swinging right to left while in a squatting position, and his team followed suit. However, after the step, they began to fight – Mieze told Inyang to “give Lola back her shirt,” a comment that highlighted the contrast between the masculine step and their skin-revealing ’80s attire. The women’s practice incorporated ’80s-style step aerobics, stepping up and down on one leg at a time to stomp on the floor.

The closing battles were hilarious in their intensity. Derrick Robertson, the assistant director of Admission, shouted, “Take your time Cookie! Show! Them!” as Thomas broke down his intricate step for his crew. The step was highlighted by seemingly endless under-the-leg claps and high-reaching arms. Robertson’s enthusiasm rubbed off on the audience that erupted in shouts and applause. The women then engaged in a series of steps that grew increasingly complex, starting on their feet and ending sitting on the floor, back-to-back in pairs that slapped the floor and lay on their backs in an intense abs crunch.

Malcolm and Lola’s relationship, though, did not seem to withstand the pressure. They had agreed to stay together regardless of who won the battle, but when Malcolm lingered on stage, waiting, Lola seemed nowhere to be found. The moment he left, Lola arrived, and the stage blacked out in a disappointing ending to the fairy tale. Some of the audience may have left wondering if they could find their own Malcolm, who felt like “a dislocated heart” without Lola, but few could question the skill Sankofa had as they slid, stomped and swung on the’62 Center’s stage.