Since pelvic thrusting and booty shaking are never in short supply at Yale dance shows, a dance troupe needs to offer a little more creativity if it expects people to shell out cash money for a ticket.
A Different Drum certainly purports to offer that unique style, but their name aside, is their “Off the Record” Spring Show really that different from the multitude of dance shows that have filed through Off-Broadway and ECA in recent weeks?
Fortunately, the answer to that question is yes.
The audience’s first signal that A Different Drum’s name is not false advertising comes with the first interlude between pieces, entitled “Pushing the Envelope.” Interludes in themselves are not that uncommon; what distinguishes ADD interludes is the group’s sense of humor. Each takes a common English idiom and illustrates it in a way that is both literal and often sublimely ridiculous. A few may fall a little flat, but others are laugh-out-loud funny.
Not to be outdone by the interludes, many of the pieces themselves contain moments of arresting creativity. “Down in the River,” choreographed by Kaitlyn Trigger ’06, makes striking use of a swatch of sky blue fabric. The bodies of the dancers seem to swim silhouetted in pure color.
Michael Apuzzo’s ’05 “Step with Pride” eschews pre-recorded music for the stunning voice and presence of Lindsey Ford ’05 singing Des’ree’s “I Ain’t Movin’.” Even the title of “Olber’s Paradox,” choreographed by Melisse Morris ’06 is intriguingly out of the ordinary. The paradox it refers to is an old astrological puzzle: if the universe contains infinite stars, why isn’t the night sky as bright as day?
(Of course, an audience is more likely to focus on moves like a synchronized split than ponder a witty title and how it relates to astronomical theory, but still, it’s a nice touch.)
But ADD’s “Off the Record” occasionally suffers from same problems that trouble virtually every dance company at Yale — the skill level varies, sometimes considerably, between individual dancers and synchronization errors are far too frequent.
Even some of the successful elements of the show fall short of originality. The music covers an impressive range: from classical to electronica to Radiohead, but rarely surprises. After all, other groups at Yale have done dances to Postal Service and assorted boutique (maybe eclectic would be a better word) bands for years.
ADD’s lights are consistently excellent, but the predominant look for most of the dances — a primary color illuminating the stage that matches costumes worn by the dancers and turns the scrim backdrop into a wall of color — is practically de rigueur for dance shows here.
The twin highlights of the evening come late in the program, but they are well worth the wait.
Sophia Emigh’s ’06 “quark” begins as an intimate duet between two dancers accompanied by strings and soft blue lighting, but morphs halfway through into a frantically athletic six-person piece complete with rolls and leaps, accompanied by frenzied drumming and stark red light. Either section would be good on its own, but together they approach pulse-pounding excellence.
The final dance of the night, “May 1, 2004,” choreographed Ben Evans ’05, is perhaps the perfect example of ADD’s originality and synthesis of various styles. Complete with props — umbrellas, coats and, most importantly, apples — the piece tells the story of a party held among a group of friends on a rainy day. Various couples come together and split apart in sections that alternate frank sexuality with playful teasing, culminating in a final pairing of Evans and Emigh. Their ensuing flirtation and the expression on Emigh’s face as she walks off the darkened stage contemplatively chewing a sweet morsel of once-forbidden fruit demands to be witnessed in person to be fully appreciated.
With so many productions filling every available performance space at Yale (and then some) every weekend, it’s comforting to know that some of them are worth a closer look. “Off the Record” may not be perfect, but their performance is at least as refreshing as biting into one of those cool, crisp apples they so memorably roll across the stage.
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