Dance Dhamaka ushered in springtime last Friday and Saturday night with its show “Monsoon” on the MainStage of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. The suggested donation of $3 went to the Rio Puerco Community Center for Youth on the Navajo reservation in Fort Defiance, Ariz. Dance Dhamaka’s 22 members performed 11 pieces influenced by Bhangra, Bollywood and hip-hop dance. The show began in total silence and darkness. Electric candles floated on stage, held in the hands of unseen performers. Suddenly, a red background lit up to reveal four seated and four standing performers. Two males and six females wore red, silver and black pants and ties or skirts to perform “Calm Before the Storm.” More intense sections interspersed the mostly peaceful piece. Performers frequently changed formations, maintaining the audience’s attention.
In the most unusual combination of the night, some dancers wore cargo shorts and white shirts while some wore traditional Indian costumes for “A Fisherman’s Song.” While this juxtaposition may not have been entirely coherent, all other songs that combined traditional with contemporary influences were successfully intriguing. “A Date in the Rain” was particularly impressive, as 12 dancers swung their arms to stunningly precise effect to music with disco feel.
Complete darkness separated each group and transition piece. Tracks of natural sounds like rain, chirping birds, storms, frogs and cicada preceded each group performance, setting the scene for each new section. Uttara Partap ’13 followed “Calm Before the Storm” with a smooth solo. Cymbals on her feet added to the percussion of her piece as she stomped to the medium tempo. Seth Tobolsky ’13, Christina Adelakun ’13, Julia Bender Stern ’13, Becky Tseytkin ’15, Allison Har-zvi ’13, Joy Jing ’13, Mai Okimoto ’13, Kelly Wang ’16, Tracy Hu ’13, Tania Karboff ’13, Lillian Audette ’15 and Josh Torres ’15 also performed solo or small group transition pieces throughout the night.
Transition dances allowed Dance Dhamaka to explore an array of unique effects and showcase distinctive talent. Tobolsky, Adelakun and Bender Stern’s piece exhibited strong hip-hop influences, reflected by their costumes of black pants and gold sequined tank tops. Tseytkin and Har-zvi mirrored each other, demonstrating practiced synchronization. Okimoto’s windmill arms and smooth hips complimented the accompanying female vocals and guitar. The usually solid background became shimmering, romantic columns for Joy and Karboff’s romantic piece. Jing’s solo was particularly impressive; manipulating shiny, translucent wings of large sheets of fabric attached to the back of her costume, she transfixed the audience. Spinning and waving, the fabric looked like water and was a spectacular visual effect.
Audette and Torres’ performance provided a flirty and fun number that was one of a few pieces with a narrative. Audette’s character coaxed and teased Torres’, teaching him to dance and chasing him around the stage. Similarly, Hu and Tobolsky’s dance was simultaneously romantic and playful. Their performance was among the most unique and interesting, incorporating robot dance moves that transitioned with the music to smoother, more romantic moves.
Before the finale, Dance Dhamaka’s 10 senior members performed “Seniors Bring the Heat.” The song evoked rock music and turned their sendoff into a joyful occasion; at one point they playfully waved goodbye to the audience. The seniors demonstrated their impeccable skill with some of the fastest yet most synchronized moves of the night.
The finale was the only time all 22 dancers took the stage. What could have been chaotic and overwhelming was hectic, and yet coordinated and highly energetic. “Dhamaka Floods the Stage” was quick and full of passion, accompanied by music with a solid beat to energize the crowd one last time. Between jumps and rotating circular formations dancers repeatedly entered and left the stage, adding to the managed chaos. Near the end of the performance, the dancers provided yet another intriguing costume effect; Karboff stood alone with red cloth attached at her waist, while seven dancers held onto strips of cloth, creating a May pole or petal-like effect. In a theatrical ending, the dancers quickly gathered in the center of the stage and burst out into their final formation, like a flower blooming in the springtime.
Dance Dhamaka’s “Monsoon” never bored the audience. Each piece contributed something new to their overarching theme. Likewise, the atmosphere was casual and fun; audience members felt free to call out performer names in support throughout performances. The enthusiasm of the dancers was contagious; the audience could not help but reciprocate their excitement, reflected in their overwhelming cheers after and during each number.