The Yaledancers performers’ precise yet grand movements strike a bit of awe as they leap and spin to the music, shaking the ground as they land in perfect unison. The bass shakes the ground, too, right after giving the impression that the music and the dancers have become one. And then they breathe out all as one, giving a percussive quality to their movements that further blends the visual, the physical and the musical.
The Yaledancers put on an exciting and haunting show running from Nov. 14–Nov. 16, in the Educational Center for the Arts Theater at 55 Audubon St. The performance combines the traditional and the audacious, the classical and the modern, and the somber and the exuberant to create something memorable. The soundtrack complements the physicality and grace of the dancers in sometimes unexpected ways — who knew that Rihanna was made for ballet? — but the pairings were consistently effective and enjoyable.
An early highlight is Marissa Galizia FES ’15 and Karlanna Lewis LAW ’15 dancing to “Good Day” by Nappy Roots in whimsical boxer shorts and socks. The duo demonstrates terrific athleticism and unity in the performance, a show of exultant friendship and love. On many occasions throughout, they link hands and support each other, staying perfectly still for just a moment before returning to their powerful movements.
With songs by artists as big as Adele and Rihanna, a student-written song might not be expected, but Karlanna Lewis’s piece, set to a rap song she wrote and produced, was extremely strong. The intensity of the song — telling the story of a past relationship turned emotionally abusive — reinforced the beauty of the dance. Since Lewis was behind both the dance and the song, she was able to tell a unified story; this connection was strongest in the donning and removal of sweatpants. There was something visceral about the way the dancers would wrap the pants around their necks all together, or tear them off as Lewis would drive her anger through the speakers.
The most memorable dance of the night was “Cerceau” by Gracie White ’15, a visually stunning acrobatic performance on an aerial lyra, a metal hoop suspended from the ceiling by a single rope. With the twist of a limb, White would spin the lyra around or shift the weight, so all of a sudden she was upside down and hanging from her feet. And then, to the swelling echoes of “Over the Love” by Florence + the Machine, she would pull her body up through the hoop and the whole apparatus would twirl, propelled by her tremendous energy.
Florence’s voice has that incredible ability to seem so powerful and so vulnerable at once, and White managed to channel that spirit in her movements. At times she would hang, limp on the lyra like a dying angel in a pristine white dress. Then she would be a blur of movement, coiling around the hoop with complete control. The room was completely motionless save for the hanging, spinning metal disc, which White controlled with precision and intensity as the music pounded and the lights behind her glowed.
Intermission came next, which felt right. A moment to breathe is needed after a piece like that.
“Mein Herr,” an eight-person schmaltzy Broadway-style dance was a good way to get back into the spirit of the performance. The dancers did traditional moves with a modern flair and delivered a simply fun experience. Not every dance has to — or should — be deep. Sometimes it’s just good to see people kick the air to a song from “Cabaret.”
The performance proved that Rihanna has a perfect complement: ballet. Michaela Vitigliano ’18 improvised to the singer’s “Roc Me Out,” gracefully leaping as the bass of the song made the earth shake. For a voice so filled with power, the quieter strength of ballet formed an invigorating combination.
The performance came to an end with the Broadway classic, “One” from “A Chorus Line,” complete with the glimmering gold bow ties and the top hats. Even schmaltzier than in “Mein Herr,” the dancers grinned with the Broadway toothy smile that was unstoppably contagious. It was a truly satisfying way to end, and let the audience leave feeling totally exuberant.
The Fall Show was not meant to have a unifying theme, but rather to follow the inspiration of the company’s members. The pieces shared, however, a constant passion for that balance of intentionality and power that makes dance so beautiful. These dancers share tremendous chemistry, seen in the ensemble pieces where they would leap in perfect unison and land inches away from one another with grace and style. They shared a common energy in their actions, and became a mesmerizing unity in pieces like “Takatada,” in which the dancers would take tiny, speedy steps to the beat of experimental music.
Yaledancers forms an incredible body in this show, one that makes the trek past Koffee? and TDHeav to the theater well worth it.