The Yaledancers’ spring show might best be compared to a glass of champagne: fusing refreshing elegance with a sense of whimsicality and fun. While the group primarily focuses on ballet, jazz, and modern dance, Yaledancers proves their versatility as dancers, incorporating innovative new twists to classic forms in their spring show.
The show is consistently strong throughout. One will not lose interest, even during the “transition” numbers or the solo ballet interludes that Yaledancers includes in order to facilitate costume changes.
“Swing Kids,” by Kat Ogletree ’07 and set to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” is a great show opener, featuring a slightly cheesy, over-the-top choreography in the fun movie-musical tradition of the ’40s. There are a few times when the floating movements do not match up exactly with the fast-paced and brassy swing music, but overall, it was an attention-getting and rousing number.
“Tabanca,” choreographed by Erin Liotta ’04, layers simple gestures such as swinging arms and stretching legs with unusual poses and surprising angles to create a richness of effect. The repetitive movements are performed first singly, then by a pair, and reinforced by a trio of dancers. As the dreamlike music builds (The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Tonight”) the dancers coalesce and perform the theme in unison, creating a powerful, exhilarating effect.
The beautifully disturbing “Duet,” guest-choreographed by Emily Coates ’06 and Bronwen Macarthur, begins with a yellow-lit tableau consisting of paired-off dancers, frozen while standing facing each other. One pair launches into a fast series of angular poses using only their torso, head and arms. They appear to attempt communication with one another without entirely acknowledging what each other “says.” Machine-like music punctuates the tableau as the other frozen dancers awaken and begin twisting themselves with movements reminiscent of cogs and wheels.
When two dancers finally do interact physically, they grip each other desperately while cranking around in circles. Another pair of dancers twists around one another — lying on the floor, stepping over their gripped hands — without ever losing contact between partners. The movements become almost unnatural, un-humanlike, seeming to speak to boundaries of pliability of the human form. The dance makes a statement about the extent to which we can actually communicate and interact with one another in this highly technologized and mechanized age.
“Toxic,” choreographed by Liz Kennard ’07 to the eponymous Britney Spears song, delightfully combines high and low forms of culture. There is something devastatingly sexy about combining graceful ballet-like leg kicks with the raunchy pop number. Sprinkled with a heavy dose of hip-hop choreography, the number was a standout in terms of energy and just overall hotness.
Michael Apuzzo’s number “In My Dreams You’ll Never Die” tells the story of lover (Apuzzo ’05) dealing with the death of his beloved (Celia Gomez ’06). Gomez initiates the dance, moving gracefully with black mesh fabric tied around each wrist. The flowing material emphasizes the line of movement but seems also to symbolize chains — the weightiness, finality, and inevitability of death. While Apuzzo’s character attempts to deal with his beloved’s death by being with another woman (Kennard), ultimately, Apuzzo and Gomez are united tenderly, even if only in his dreams.
Another fresh and unique infusion into the show is a hula number, “Lei Pikake,” choreographed by Kristen Saruwatari ’07. The dance, as delicate and lovely as a rare tropical blossom, truly showcases the hula form as an art of storytelling.
“Seven Senior Murderesses,” with adapted choreography by Kathy Baillie ’04 and Katy Henderson ’04, features the graduating Yaledancers in their rendition of “The Cell Block Tango” from the movie musical “Chicago.” Lit by a bright red backdrop, the seniors click onstage in high heels, fishnets, and sexy black outfits. Baille is exceptionally cute (and naughty) as a woman who murders her boyfriend because he popped his gum too loudly. The dancers hit all of the high points of the movie choreography while adding their own spin and style to the piece and making it their own.
The solo ballet interludes were also consistently strong. “Agon Variation” by Lauren Steffel ’04 incorporates angular wrist movements and actually provides the perfect palate cleanser between the tribal-inspired “dreamingwalkingfallingflying” and “Toxic.” Kat Ogletree ’07 adds a sense of whimsy and humor to the show with a variation from “Who Cares?” set to music by Gershwin.
While the Yaledancers claim that their spring show “has no theme,” overall, the show might be considered a celebration of the human form — its lines, interactions, and shapes. While the show is on the long side, my attention never faltered. The Yaledancers will enchant you from the opening number to the last.