Danceworks debuts their spring show “Origin Stories” Friday and Saturday at the Educational Center for the Arts on 55 Audubon St. Featuring Danceworks’ usual eclectic mixture of genres and music, the choreography often blurs distinctions between different dance disciplines.
In the center of the stage, a pole cast in dim light — niftily assembled by the dancers minutes before the show — holds the promise of sultry, gravity-defying stunts. Such is delivered in the first few minutes; about a dozen girls clad in red and black circle a dancer suspended lazily above them. Her limbs seem adhered to the pole as she swings her whole body weight in head-rolling leans that momentarily paralyze everyone in the room.
The theme of this show, “Origin Stories,” endeavors to reminisce on the origins of Danceworks, Yale’s largest and only non-audition dance group. This week, Facebook news feeds were filled with new profile pictures of seniors donning capes and superhero costumes, complete with sentimental captions commemorating their final performances with Danceworks. Livvy Bedford ’16 will have choreographed or performed in a whopping total of 33 pieces in her four-year Danceworks career — and she has killer abs to show for it.
Immense flexibility is showcased in the form of leaps and splits as the Danceworks cast dishes out a variety of sass, elegance and sex appeal. Some dancers are bandaged in ankle wraps, knee braces and various floor-burn wounds — evidence of intense practice and dedication.
Twenty-odd dancers in multicolored outfits prance energetically in unique formations to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” giving the overplayed tune unexpected freshness. Danceworks has a cohort of K-Pop enthusiasts who add lively cultural flair with a few expertly choreographed pieces to Korean pop music. Hozier’s somber “Work Song” sees some of Danceworks’ more flexible members indulge in 180-degree leg extensions that hold time still. The dancers relish the luxury of space that this new venue provides compared to the Off-Broadway Theater, the venue for last fall’s show, in which more populated dances were often cramped and restricted.
“Origin Stories” consists of beautifully complex formations, delicate duets and explosive group numbers, drenched in Danceworks’ signature casual performance style complete with shoutouts from backstage. Applause is a minimum requirement at any Danceworks show: shouts of “I see you, Kat!” and “You nailed that turn, Miranda!” emanate from the wings, and an equally energetic contribution is expected of the audience.
But Danceworks’ informal, fun-loving atmosphere is not to be mistaken for unprofessionalism and amateurishness. While new dancers are able to perform in large beginner items, several jaw-dropping “interludes” — shorter personal numbers choreographed and performed by the group’s more experienced dancers — are executed flawlessly and show evidence of trained dancers among the diverse ensemble.
An important part of the pre-show pep talk by Co-Presidents Myka Perusek ’17 and Alvin Gao ’17 is encouraging dancers to cheer each other on from backstage. As Perusek says, the cheering is “something we need to practice, you guys.”
I left the show convinced that dancers can be superheroes of their own kind — the type that dons gold booty shorts and puffy tulle skirts, of course.