With spring’s warmth finally arriving in usually dreary New Haven, Yalies feel the dual urges of springtime joy and ominous apprehension and pressure of venturing into the territory of final season.
The YaleDancers’ spring show reflected these dual, often clashing sentiments with its adventurous spirit and its skillful homage to many types of dance. The dancers, with their reputation for technical precision, both justified it with graceful intricacy and adroit ventures of lesser-explored, choreographic challenges.
The first piece, entitled “Swing! Swing! Swing!” and choreographed by Tara Streich-Tilles ’09, provided a great opener to the show with its over-the-top exuberance and carefree style. The choice of music, reminiscent of vintage ’40’s big-band swing with a slight touch of latin jazz influence, fortunately did not overpower the dancing couples but helped to create the aura of springtime bliss. The dancers’ fluid swing-dance moves artfully harmonized the vintage feel to the piece.
“Forever a Dancer,” however, was perhaps the most interesting piece of the night. A not-too-subtle social commentary rare in modern dance, the piece highlighted the conflict between artistic desire and the societal expectations of a conventional professional life. Three dancers, wearing standard black tights, danced the stage to sporadically halting music while three others donned professional attire — a lab coat and faux business suit — expressed irritation at the terpsichorean frenzy they witnessed. Holding signs reading “business,” “law” and “medicine,” the almost flawless communication between the two groups of dancers and the superb storytelling deflected any criticism of an overt, didactic message.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this performance was the unquestioning comfort the dancers felt exploring unconventional musical genres. A solo interlude near the end of the show, set to Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” choreographed by Cara Kiernan ’07, exhibited a her ability to integrate modern dance technique with the passionate, irreverent spirit of Hendrix’s music. Although the surprising choice of music somewhat overshadowed the dancer’s considerable abilities, her constant jumpy, percussive moves pinpointed the sexual passion of the song, and the choreography did a commendable, yet understandably patchy job of synchronizing such energy to such a song.
The troupe exhibited the same bold attitude by opening the second act with “Ta-Ka-Ta-Da,” choreographed by Nicole Fish ’09. The large ensemble of both male and female dancers flooded the stage against a stark-red background and exhibited a style of dance that made understated escapades into bizarre, intricate footwork that did not appear in other acts. At some points, the choreography’s gyrations and twists paid subtle homage to the art of bellydancing, and the eclectic soundtrack that accompanied the dancer’s reflected this theme with an Arabic vibe.
With the same ease, unfortunately, YaleDancers could also slide back into hackneyed, unoriginal numbers that detracted from the overall fluidity of the show. In one interlude, set against whiny, angst-ridden vocals, the delicate gestures and the dancer’s perpetual, even irritating sway provided nothing but clichéd, empty sentiment. Another piece, “Pas de Quatre from Sleeping Beauty,” showcased several ballet dancers, but failed to integrate into the show’s overall progression.
Despite a few minor caveats, the YaleDancers’ spring show marked both a commendable exploration of the unknown in modern dance and more conventional fare done with the group’s trademark professionalism and grace.