Danceworks

Danceworks, Yale’s only non-audition dance company, will hold four performances of its multi-genre fall show this week at the Off Broadway Theater.

Titled “Once Upon a Danceworks,” the production features fairytale-themed names for each dance, interspersed with minute-long interludes. With more than 20 dance numbers in each showing, the company incorporates a range styles in their program, which boasts hip-hop, contemporary, K-pop-inspired and jazz choreography.

“What’s cool is that it’s a really big group, and … there are a lot of kids that aren’t dancers, but it still looks really good, thanks to the choreographers,” said Noah Shapiro ’21, a first-time dancer with the company. “A lot of the dances are modern and hip-hop, so they have a lot of energy, which is good for getting the crowd pumped up. And there are some dances where the audience can get involved too.”

As part of its commitment to inclusivity, Danceworks welcomes students of all backgrounds to the company and performs a diverse array of dances. The opening number, which is one of the most popular dances among the group, is a hip-hop piece featuring sharp, isolated moves to “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. Another Danceworks favorite is a contemporary dance to Bishop Briggs’ “River,” which includes two different sets of choreography, each simultaneously performed by two waves of dancers.

Choreographers also brought their visions to life in each number, with both unique movements and costume choices. For example, the performers in “Redbone” sport sweatpants and sweatshirts. Additionally, one choreographer made blue skirts for all of her dancers. Other sequences feature all-sequin getups and red crop-top hoodies.

“We do all styles, and it’s based on what the choreographers want to do,” said Olivia Tracey ’20, co-President of Danceworks. “We try to give the choreographers as much autonomy as possible … Each dance has its own costume, idea, concept.”

Beyond the assortment of the numbers, Tracey says that Danceworks has benefitted from an influx of new members this semester. The company, which is the largest dance group at Yale, has attracted not only first years, but also upperclassmen.

“For me the most exciting thing is that for someone in the audience, there is a 99 percent chance that you know at least three to four people in the show, which makes it more fun to go to a dance production and watch your friends,” Tracey said. “And from a dancer’s perspective, it’s so much more fun to dance in front of people you know.”

Since the start of the school year, choreographers have held weekly practices to prepare for the fall show and ensure all dancers are ready for the stage. The week before “technical week,” a period of time right before the show, Danceworks members commit to double practices, photo shoots and blocking sessions, when the dancers work out their formations on stage. The company also conducts multiple dress rehearsals, each lasting several hours.

The busy weeks leading up to the production have only further inspired Danceworks’ members. Several performers voluntarily practiced in groups on their own time, hoping to make adjustments and internalize special moves before the show. For Shapiro, the most exciting part of Danceworks has been previewing dance numbers by other choreographers during dress rehearsals.

“One of the things that makes Danceworks so special is how open they are to anything and everything anyone wants to do,” said Grace Bartlett ’21, a new dancer in the company. “You see that in the show in the wide range of dancers from first years to seniors, from people who have danced their whole lives and from people who have never danced before. I’m a little nervous … but mostly I’m just excited to see the audience’s responses to the dances that everyone … has worked so hard on.”

Danceworks will be performing at 6 and 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Ruiyan Wang | ruiyan.wang@yale.edu