Audience members last Saturday night felt the ground shake beneath them as attendees of the YaleDancers’ fall show expressed appreciation for the performance by stomping enthusiastically in their seats, filling the auditorium with calls of “Yeah, YD,” and “I see you!”
The show, which took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Educational Center for the Arts Theater, brought together pieces from a diverse array of dance styles. Incorporating fast-paced group dance numbers, intimate duets and dynamic solos, the production was almost entirely choreographed by the dancers themselves.
“The blend of styles isn’t an explicit goal of the company’s, but it comes naturally since our company members come from all different dance backgrounds and are all willing to try new styles,” said Kaylyn Williams ’17, YaleDancers co-director.
The performance opened with a striking tableau of posed dancers, their silhouettes illuminated by a bright red backdrop. As soon as the opening beats of Beyoncé’s “Partition” erupted from the speakers, the dancers unfroze, filling the stage with a blend of sharp hip-hop movements and smooth contemporary turns and leaps.
Choreographer Devin Hilly ’18 explained that her number, the show’s opener entitled “Brooklyn Brim,” mixed her own contemporary dance style with the hip hop experience of Sabrina Rostkowski ’19, Naiya Speight-Leggett ’19 and Monica Tuñez ’19, three freshmen who helped her choreograph the piece.
“The mix of hip-hop and contemporary was intentional,” Hilly explained. “I tend to choreograph to songs that frequently change mood and/or tempo, so I inadvertently end up incorporating many styles in one piece.”
The fusion of dance styles exhibited in Hilly’s piece was a theme that was evident throughout the show’s various performances. Classical ballet sequences such as pirouettes and grands jetés were performed alongside more experimental contemporary choreography, while quick hip-hop kicks were accompanied by sultry jazz poses.
In putting together their dances, Williams said that company members were given “free reign” to choreograph in whichever style they chose. She added that the show’s choreographic variety represented the diversity of experience and style of the company’s dancers, rather than an intentional decision made by the group as a whole.
The show’s numbers also sought to incorporate company members’ talents outside of dance, such as acrobatics and musical theater — incorporating props, intricate lifts, live vocals and aerial acrobatics into the production. Halfway through the performance, dancer Gracie White ’16 attached a lyra — a large hoop hanging on a chain — to the ceiling. White proceeded to climb into the hoop and perform an entire number suspended in midair.
“My background is in circus performing, [so] creating a lyra piece also comes much more naturally to me than a dance on the ground,” White explained.
Despite their diverse backgrounds, dancers emphasized that YaleDancers’ unity is what ultimately leads to their success as a company.
Tuñez highlighted this sense of community among company members, adding that she thought it helped her adjust to a new environment as a freshman.
“My first semester with YD has been absolutely amazing,” Tuñez said. “It was comforting to find such a tight-knit family here among the chaos of getting to used to Yale.”
ECA Theater is located at 55 Audubon St. in New Haven.