As the end of the year approaches and the mercury takes a nose dive, the double-digit temperatures of the daylight hours feel positively balmy compared to the paralyzingly cold single-digit temperatures of the nighttime. Conservation of energy and thus warmth seems necessary in both cases, and hibernation begins to look increasingly appealing.
But the members of A Different Drum dance troupe are certainly not bundling up and sleeping. In fact, they’re doing somersaults and splits in minuscule leotards for their two-act, 45 minute show going up this Friday and Saturday night in the Off-Broadway Theater.
The dancers’ admirable ability to move their legs into arabesques seems a worthy enough reason to support their unified affront on cold weather-induced lethargy. Overall, the show is pretty entertaining. It’s short, flows well, and the dancers incorporate a variety of genres. The dancers prance to an eclectic mix of songs that segues from Ani Difranco at one moment to Bach a la Moog Synthesizer the next.
The first act contains five songs, all on the relatively slow side. Eight of the girls perform an admirable feat — they dance in blue jeans to Bob Segar’s “Night Moves” halfway through the act. The girls coyly shake their hips and shimmy toward the audience with siren smiles.
Unfortunately, although these veteran dancers indubitably honed their contortion-grade flexibility, when they attempt to fall into splits during this and subsequent numbers, they ratchet a bit; the movements aren’t entirely smooth. Additionally, some dancers never make it to a full split, and after coming tantalizingly close to making each splayed leg flush with the ground, simply hop up and resume. This was a bit distracting, as it affected the flow of the individuals and hurt the symmetry of the group. But, the level of flexibility the dancers showed was nonetheless much more than that of the average nonmember of Balanchine’s corps de ballet, and possibly the chill of the theater was the real culprit.
The first act ends with another eight-person dance, this time to Joni Mitchell’s “Come In From the Cold.” The girls wear a variety of knee-length, taffeta-lined flowing skirts and dresses and float across the stage smoothly. The choreography of Kate Heinzelman’s ’04 is fluid and appropriate; the girls’ jump-turns during the refrain of the song are especially graceful.
In the second act, the girls return in a different mood. Having seemingly forgotten Mitchell’s pacifying croon, they emerge onto the yellow-lit stage with strictly-business faces to dance to Ani Difranco’s impassioned “Slide.” The audience is now allowed to see a side of A Different Drum heretofore undisplayed in this show. Not only have the pleasant smiles they wore in the first act faded from the girls’ faces, but also their movements appear to be more aggressive. They turn swiftly and kick defiantly as Difranco sings about bicycles and female genitalia.
The highlight of the second act is the cheekily performed “Bach Synthesized” set, a three-person dance to a Moog Synthesizer version of Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue No. 2” performed by Wendy Carlos. The girls, adorned in matching black leotards and skirts, dance delicately in flat-foot ballet shoes. They wear tongue-in-cheek looks on their faces, likely realizing the kitsch factor of dancing with such mincing steps to a classical composition that, by virtue of the instrument it is performed on, now sounds like the music for the underwater level of Super Mario Brothers.
A Different Drum’s fall show contains a lively assortment of songs, costumes and dance styles from diverse sources. Though at times the dancers are not completely synchronized, as with the splits in Act One, this never reaches a level as to be too distracting to make the show enjoyable. The dancers are a pleasure to watch; their lightheartedness and energy make this show a pleasant way to take a break and to delay the start of the end-of-semester crunch.
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