Most of them can do the splits and lift their legs up to their ears, not to mention being able to turn three or four times on the tips of their toes. No, they are not circus freaks, but rather the ladies and gents that make up Yaledancers.
Yale’s oldest and strongest dance ensemble adds flavor to an otherwise awkward Yale dance scene with an entertaining and fun, if it a bit inconsistent, show. The troupe has concentrated their talents for both dance and choreography into an impressive set to culminate their work this semester. The show is located at the ECA Theater at 55 Audubon Street (the corner of Whitney and Audubon), so be prepared for a little walk. And for those of you not up for the exercise, the minibus can be reached all weekend at (203) 432-6330. Don’t blame your absence on laziness; you’ll regret missing this one.
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Despite its obscene location (not everyone can be in TD), the ECA Theater is a beautiful space, and Yaledancers takes every advantage of its size and design capabilities. The theater is small enough to foster an intimate, creative environment, but not so small as to feel claustrophobic. There is no need to fear that an errant grande jete will land a dancer on your lap. The space itself is perfectly accented by impeccably colorful lighting. The warm shades of reds, yellows and greens electrify the stage and the pirouetting dancers.
The accompanying music — when carefully selected — helps to color the performances. The dancers mostly choose strong complementary tracks to enrich their pieces; particularly memorable are selections from the soundtracks to “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “The Life Aquatic.” However, at times, the music drones on, adding no color or dynamism to the pieces it supports. The dancers deserve better than this.
Since Yaledancers is a completely student-run group (over-achieving Yalies), the dancers are responsible for every element of the show — choreography, music, lighting design, publicity and production. Led by co-presidents Rachel Geronemus ’08 and Kristen Saruwatari ’07, Yaledancers includes three students in the law school and two in the medical school, in addition to the 16 undergrads in the ensemble. This semester’s show features two pieces arranged by guest choreographers, one of which is a combined Rhythmic Blue/Yaledancers effort designed and arranged by Geronemus and Justin Hayase ’08. To put together this semester’s show, the company began pitching ideas early in September and started choreographing soon afterward.
As is evident from its fragmented creative process, Yaledancers does not select a theme for its shows, and because of this, the Fall Show appears to be more a showcase than a collective presentation of talents and creative vision. Each member in the ensemble is clearly gifted and benefits from rigorous dance training, whether it be in classical ballet, modern, jazz, tap or even a combination of these. But the show’s lack of unity makes the presentation more a smattering of disparate ideas than a celebration of their camaraderie and collective innovation. Considering the immense talent of the Yaledancers ensemble, telling a complete story would take the show that much further.
The interludes scattered throughout the show, weaving the other dances together, appear to be fillers, chances for the dancers to catch their breath or change their costumes. But these brief numbers are the finest demonstration of the talent and inspiration of Yaledancers. Allegra Long’s ’08 solo piece is such an example, as Long flawlessly combines sassy choreography with an energetic “Portishead” track. Her focus is clear, her choreography tight. These Interludes are also a chance for dancers to showcase their personal dance backgrounds: Samuel Gottstein ’10 dazzles with a cool tap number, and Elizabeth Kelley-Swift ’09 delicately presents a variation on the pas de deux from Petipa’s Don Quixote.
Clocking in at almost an hour and a half, the show feels a bit long, but the pieces are ordered in such a way that you can never expect what is to come. There is a perfect balance to the show as several jazz and hip-hop numbers pepper the otherwise ballet- and modern-dominated choreography. The performance closes with a rallying group number choreographed by Stephanie Rosenthal ’10 to Ciara’s “Get Up.”
And in the end, all that matters is the confidence, glee and satisfaction covering the dancers’ faces as they bump and grind. They know they’re talented. They know they can dance. They’re having one hell of a time — and have every right to do so.