It’s not just that they’re so damn likeable. Despite a slightly distracting white noise of mistakes, the YaleDancers Spring Show displays the group’s genuinely exciting and enjoyable talent in both dance and choreography.
Performed and choreographed by Yale students, the show is assertively empowered. The music is weighted toward female vocalists, including most of the usual suspects: Bjork, Tori Amos, Madonna, and Ani DiFranco. A few minutes of harder rock during “Vanity and Comedy,” and a solo by Ali Ahn ’02 proved that YaleDancers has the quickness and imagination to further expand its range. But given its hear-me-roar tendencies, it was refreshing that the group of almost all female dancers avoided the staple form of most student dance performances at Yale: the obligatory erotic number filled with thinly veiled come-ons to the audience.
To incorporate a range of musical and dance styles, the show is structured strangely. Each of the seven pieces, while tied together by tenuous elements, progresses through a broad range of moods, dance styles, lighting schemes, and — in the case of “I Dream of Calalloo” — props. But while the flow is pleasant and allows the choreographers to display their talents, it limits the ability of each to create a distinct mood and mode of expression. It’s a dance that seems tailored to the short attention spans of our MTV generation, and it has its flaws.
“I Dream of Calalloo,” the first number, displays both the strengths and weaknesses of the group. Set to an combination of Andre Bocelli, Zap Mama, and 3 Canal, “Calalloo” mingles Spanish folk influences with ballet, creating a surprisingly harmonious whole. Yet as the dance progresses, a few problems crop up: a strange multiplicity of props — shiny white cloths, fans, purple rags — and slightly sloppy timing. The choreography (by Katy Henderson ’04 and Kathy Baillie ’04) begins as an unexpected and delightful juxtaposition, but eventually slides into less interesting circular movements that started to remind me of a boring moment at the Olympic opening ceremonies. Fortunately, the dancers themselves became increasingly confident; the last part, set to 3 Canal, was exciting to watch for that reason.
Its fairy tale influences are a little obscure, but “Straw Into Gold,” the second dance, contained elegant, acrobatic dancing and some of the most interesting choreography of the evening, by Julianna Bentes ’04. As elsewhere in the show, the dance contained a series of moments rather than one sustained mood. But it was unique in that after starting off small, with only a few dancers onstage, it managed to build into a large corps without making the usual transition to the slightly simpler group-think choreography of uniformity and unison. Instead, it stayed slightly off-balance and visually interesting.
The next three dances, “Flame,” “Vanity and Comedy,” and “You Enjoy Myself,” sustained the good-natured tone of the first two. “Vanity and Comedy” suffered from terrible lighting that left the dancers bathed in sickly yellow light or deep shadow, but featured an impressively controlled, elegant performance by Tara Sugiyama ’02 and the impressive rhythm of Alexis Carra ’02, who helped Elshaday Gebreyes ’03 choreograph.
The last segment, “Biorhythms,” showed YaleDancers at their most confident: smooth, stylized, and wearing sneakers. Choreographers Nicole Ries ’04 and Gianna Shepard ’02 retained the group’s signature style, but left room for strong performances by charismatic Regan Merkel ’03 and Kathy Baillie ’04.
Despite minor lapses in timing, the show’s punchy, occasionally daring choreography, and committed, inspired dancers make it a pleasure to watch.