Yaledancers Own the Stage

High kicks!
High kicks! // Sara Miller

As organ music blared through the speakers, a troop of jean-jacket-clad dancers bowed their heads, and, slowly, delicately, touched one another’s fingertips. They stood frozen in this intimate pose, making the audience hold their breath – until the beat of George Michael’s “Faith” kicked in. Scott Simpson ’13 was the first to move, his shoulder jerking up, down, up, down in sync with the music, until everyone burst into motion.

The opening act of the Yaledancers’ spring show, which will take place in the ECA Theater at 55 Audubon St. from April 11 to 13, is an upbeat extravaganza of jaunty moves and athletic turns that show exactly why the dance group sells out performances each semester. Choreographers are given complete freedom to add their own flair to each piece, but the fact that most members have backgrounds in ballet and modern dance is apparent. In the opening numbers, the choreography fits the cutesy song – at one point the dancers lay on the floor, their chins leaned on their fists, waving their feet in the air – while showcasing the group’s technical skill. Dancers leapt across the stage, sometimes even rolling across the back of Simpson as he claimed center-stage. They maintained their dynamism throughout, until the stage went dark.

Some of the subsequent pieces are less hard-edged, and instead embrace a more elegant style. Dressed in a flowing white top, Alex Lin ’13 gave a swan-like solo performance in the first act. A similarly strong four-person ballet group dressed in blue skirts that flared out with each pirouette followed. With lighting to a minimum, the performers’ blurred reflections twirled with them in the glossy black paint of the theater’s floor. In the second act, a riveting piece choreographed by Molly Gibbons ’14 featured three dancers in simple black dresses who seemed to form human sculptures at various point, while the radio-like voice in Guy Clark’s “The Dark” filled the space around them. Though the spotlight sometimes illuminated only one dancer at a time, the dancers often rose, fell, and turned with impeccable coordination. The dance played with the song lyrics as the dancers slowly covered and uncovered their eyes at the opening and close of the piece.

As most of the undergraduate and graduate members of Yaledancers come to the group with pre-professional or professional training, the troupe is fit and technically advanced. Their skill was perhaps best seen in an incredible work choreographed by Jane Fisher ’14 and Gracie White ’16. The number opens with the silhouette of a girl held up by Simpson, the token male, while doing a mid-air split. The four dancers, who also included Natalia Khosla ’14 and the two choreographers, performed their gymnastic turns and lifts with ease. At one point, Simpson launched himself up and over one of the other dancers. The result, overall, was astounding.

The Yaledancers also left space for the ever-welcome whistle-inducing performances, including a duet set to “Bones,” from “The Game of Thrones.” As the singer crooned about “empty churches” and “soulless curses,” the two dancers, Laura Bass ’15 and Rebecca Distler ’12 MPH ’13, flipped the hair out of their faces, took off their high black heels and embraced the girls-gone-wild essence of their choreography. Later on, dancers decked out in netted tops and short red skirts strutted to the tune of the classic “Lady Marmalade,” showcasing their ability to shake, shake, shake, and kick their legs up high.

However, the most beautiful performances belonged to the co-presidents, Simpson and Elena Light ’13, who also led the way with mesmerizing, sometimes more experimental, choreography. Simpson’s interlude in the second act was expertly done, to the point that he appeared to be his own puppet. Light’s wonderful trio earlier in the show had no musical accompaniment; instead, the performers, who seemed like interconnected parts of a single machine, let out sighs, hisses and other emphatic noises, while incorporating the claps and stomps of step. The two leaders of the dance group seemed to carry on an unspoken dialogue during their duet in the second act; she hooked her foot behind his knee and he caught her as they pitched forward. Later, he lifted the hand placed above her chest, and an invisible string seemed to make her rise with him. Light’s stand-alone performance at the end of the showcase also deserves applause, for as she said while dancing in and out of the spotlight, it was the first time she had ever spoken in a performance, though she has been in over 10 and even danced to the recording of a poem last semester; “Strange, isn’t it?” she said.

The Yaledancers should be applauded not only for their grace and skill, but also for their ingenuity. The spring show is a must-see for anyone with an interest in dance because, as the raw circus music in the closing dance suggests, the show has offers a fascinating, well coordinated medley of performances that will shock, awe, and sometimes just make you grin.

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