Stereotypically, pop music, rap and hip-hop are critiqued for their sexual content and explicit lyrics, causing parents everywhere to mourn the loss of innocence in their children’s generation. But rather than attempt to disprove this stereotype, Yale’s lone contemporary and hip-hop dance company, Rhythmic Blue, runs with it in its fall show.
The performance, provocatively titled “Lose Control: the XXX Version” and opening with a projection of the Playboy bunny logo, incorporates overt sexuality into each of 14 dances.
Although anyone who has frequented Toad’s would not be shocked at the bump-and-grind gyrations that have come to be synonymous with hip-hop, Rhythmic Blue takes the “XXX” in its show’s title to heart, integrating sexual overtones into nearly every movement. These range from a characteristic gym “work-out” sequence to a more disturbing dance in which military commandos are seduced mid-battle.
The diverse circumstances are, perhaps more interestingly, mirrored with a similar diversity in style.
“Everyone brings something different to the show,” RB co-president Elizabeth Kennard ’07 said. “It’s a mélange of different styles.”
This is evident in the varied choreography; while maintaining the racy standard that links the pieces together, each dance introduces new elements to the hip-hop base, from jazz to ballet to swing. All the dances are choreographed by members of the group, from newly-tapped freshmen, featured in the final number, to senior members.
While some dances suffer from a lack of synchronization in the ensemble, minor discrepancies are easy to forgive because these inaccuracies usually stem from and highlight, as Kennard noted, the unique and vivacious personalities of the dancers. Some of the dancers lip-sync with the music, often purposely and sometimes unintentionally, reflecting their absorption in the piece.
The energy of the individual members, though detracting from the overall sharpness and coordination of the movement, showcases each person and allows the audience to relate on a more personal level, making the show that much more entertaining. Particularly notable is Kennard herself, who never fails to have a smile for the audience or to react to the debauchery taking place around her, no matter what step she is performing.
Pieces that harness this vibrant personal energy while maintaining the integrity of precise choreography can be stunning. “Too Hot For TV,” choreographed by Vernon-James Riley ’08, is a dazzling highlight of the night, along with the jazz number “Heaven Knows,” choreographed by Tony Washington ’09, the difficulty of which reveals the full capabilities of the dancers involved.
Costumes provide a similar emphasis on individual personalities contributing to a whole; often simple but effective, they are personal interpretations of a common theme, using, for example, different prints of pajama pants or unique incorporations of camouflage print. The lighting, designed by the choreographers of each dance and overseen by Shawn Hickman ’09, is vibrant and fitting to the mood of each piece.
Although the pacing between numbers tends to feel slow due to many performers’ having to change between dances, Rhythmic Blue recognizes this expected issue and tries to solve it by emphasizing audience participation during lulls, with a dance contest, a lesson on one of the dances, and other nightly “surprises.”
The entire company closes the show wearing red shirts with personalized nicknames on the back. The tableau is representative of the show as a whole: bright, energetic, fun, and showcasing individuals and their talent.
And with said nicknames including “Dr. Feel Good” and “Not So Innocent,” it’s evident that this show is far from G-rated.