Twice a year, Yalies of all sorts — from underground theater to the top of Science Hill — pack themselves into the ECA Theater on 55 Audubon St. in anticipation of some of Yale’s most accomplished dancers. The company boasts an impressive proportion of male dancers — five in a cast of 31 — perhaps the highest ratio in all of Yale’s dance groups. These dancers exhibit a commendable diversity of style but are uniform in caliber. For example, in one dance, Brandon Rabaria ’19 holds and twirls another dancer in the air; in another, he springs off his arms and catapults over a chair. The abundance of talent couldn’t be more obvious, but what is most remarkable is the dancers’ ability to reinvent themselves in seconds; Yaledancers has nailed the art of the backstage quick-change. Luyi Chen ’18 extended her legs in a controlled show of flexibility before re-emerging center stage in a sultry hip-hop piece, her hair still pulled back like a classical dancer’s.
The program, featuring a total of 21 pieces, ticks all the boxes: graceful duets, adrenaline-pumping hip-hop numbers, elegant ensembles to heart-swelling music and jaw-dropping aerial spectacles that are at once terrifying and enthralling to witness.
The opening item is electric in every sense of the word; metallic crop tops shimmer as five dancers isolate their limbs with perfect, robotic precision. Their incisive, unapologetic movements and piercing synchronization make them feasible candidates for Beyoncé’s troupe of backup dancers. The lyricless song didn’t leave the item feeling incomplete; the dancers’ presence flooded the stage and dominated the soundtrack.
Indeed, Yaledancers has a way with not only dance but also music. They transform a song that you bop your head to on a car ride into the rhythmic backbone of truly beautiful choreography. The second item, “My All,” choreographed by Monica Tuñez ’19, is as uplifting and as inspirational as it gets. The dancers wear regular clothing, and look as if they’ve just strolled from the street to the stage to execute this heartfelt number. Music selections in general sounded fresh and free from clichéd, overplayed tracks.
A humorous piece follows: A nostalgic duet entitled “An Almost Modern Throwback,” fueled by charisma and plenty of high-kicks, features colorful mismatched costumes. The choreographers interpret the lyrics literally in a refreshingly relaxed, carefree way. The best part? The end, when two cameras emerge and the dancers took selfies with the audience, finishing the piece in an actual flash.
Yaledancers’ shows typically incorporate too vast a range of genres, music and choreography to warrant the use of themes for their seasonal performances. But why condense such a glorious overspill of talent into a thematic category? Each number — especially the duets and the contemporary pieces — tells a story of its own, be it a carnal chase characterized by changing roles of domination or an aching love affair whirling in polarized emotions.
Act two opens in a series of floral dresses, joyful tableaux and building music that hits right in the feels as Eliza Dach ’17, Kaylyn Williams ’17 and Sabine Decatur ’18 welcome the audience back with an elated dance, “Merry of Soul She Sailed,” set to “Outlander” by Bear McCreary. Then, illuminated by spotlight, Gracie White ’16 and Dach swing nimbly from a thin hoop hanging in midair. The entire audience is awed, and a little frightened. White survived her first aerial solo, aptly entitled “Hold Your Breath and Count to Ten,” in which she expertly threads long blue silks around her arms and torso, allowing her body to instantly fall four feet into a perfect arabesque. “Be careful!” screeched an audience member. It is impossible to maintain composure when two people are swinging their bodies through each others’ legs, or balancing precariously with nothing touching the rounded surface except their backs. Trick after trick followed until the music ended, concluding an incredible display of strength, stamina and flexibility.
Back on the ground, Kellyanna Polk ’16 demonstrates that playing tambourines with hands is overrated. In her elegant restaging of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Esmeralda Variation, Polk dons a classical tutu and provides the show with an indispensable dose of pure, classical ballet. Somehow she manages to keep pace with the accelerating music, hitting the tambourine first with her hands, then with her feet in a high-kick, and then behind her back and on her shoulder.
Comments overheard from outside the theater after the show include “can I marry Yaledancers?”, “does my body even have a purpose?” and “I’m literally sweating that was so good.” Go see the Yaledancers Spring Show and realize for yourself why your ticket is worth considerably more than $5.