The dancers of Rhythmic Blue may not always smile, but they always look like they’re having so much fun onstage that it takes some time for it to sink in just how difficult it must be to do what they do.
These dancers move more than seems possible in the course of five seconds of music. They look as though their bodies are on the verge of flying out of control at any moment, all while keeping an extraordinary level of precision in every finger and every muscle.
Rhythmic Blue’s spring performance, “A Black Tie Affair,” is a streamlined, energetic experience, whether it’s your first RB show or your tenth (I’m part of the former camp).
Despite its name, the show had a casual, friendly vibe: Early on, members coached the audience not to be afraid to cheer during the dances. Later on, the dancers would invite audience volunteers on stage for a brief tutorial. But all of this underlies the dancers’ seriousness and professionalism when it comes to moving. The group pieces were crisply choreographed and almost never fell out of sync.
“A Black Tie Affair” never lagged, with the dances following in quick succession, and each one ends before the novelty wea off. Many of the numbers are mash-ups of popular songs, so that the mood might switch multiple times even before the piece is over.
The show’s fast pace lets the audience see just how many dancers and different kinds of talent make up the group, with a beautifully choreographed modern piece immediately transitioning into a spectacular break dancing solo by Andrew Kang ’13. While these transitions can occasionally feel jarring, having the intensity of most of the hip-hop pieces broken up by a few slower ones gives the dancers the opportunity to show a softer side.
Pretty soon the audience no longer needed any prompting to applaud. The crowd burst into genuine, spontaneous cheers when a trio of dancers did a series of beautifully timed spins at the culmination of one of the show’s more balletic inspired numbers, “Just Another Man.”
The show’s second half was overall darker and less flirtatious than the first. This shift in mood was especially striking coming out of the fun and goofy “Mean Girls” themed mash-up that came right before intermission — complete with brief sound bites from the film acted out by the dancers (“She doesn’t even go here!”).
The title theme also came through more clearly in the latter half, as the dancers came out in formal wear to dance to Kanye West’s “Runaway,” and “Power.” The lighting became more striking, the choreography more dramatic, with clearer and more emotionally gripping narratives. You felt more like the dances were trying to show you something beyond sheer technical skill. One piece, “Discovery, Passion, Wonder,” had a creepy, machine-like feel complemented by dissonant mechanical music.
While usually seen as a group, individual dancers still stood out. Jennifer Lunceford ’15 was particularly captivating to watch, throwing her entire self into each movement, with a range of control over her expression as well as body. RB showed off some new talent as well, with Kellyanna Polk ’16, a bright and energetic presence at the forefront of several numbers. The boys were technically skilled but lacked some of the facial expressiveness of their female counterparts, which was only noticeable when they danced alone.
While Rhythmic Blue remains a predominantly undergraduate group, some of the most riveting dancers came from outside Yale College, including Ben Baker LAW ’14, and Ty Holbrook, Whitney Lucky and Jasmine Chavis, all from Bridgeport, Conn. Lucky and Chavis in particular had such a commanding presence that it was difficult to watch anyone else while they were on stage, leaping and moving with ease, strength and flexibility.
“A Black Tie Affair” has two more shows at the Off Broadway Theater this Friday at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.