Lindsay Daugherty

In its final three performances of the year, Rhythmic Blue pulsed with energy, feeding off the excitement of pack crowds in the Off Broadway Theater.

The show, appropriately titled “Impulse,” demonstrated a range of dance styles with a focus on hip-hop. Rhythmic Blue consists of 21 Yale students, including one student from the School of Medicine. Rhythmic Blue takes its responsibility as the only hip-hop group seriously, taking into account the social and historical role of the dance form.

“Through thoughtful song choice and choreography, Rhythmic Blue hopes to honor and celebrate hip-hop’s artistic roots and avoid perpetuating these negative portrayals of marginalized groups,” the group wrote in its program.

In accordance with this effort, each choreographer wrote a brief blurb about his or her song choice, displayed at the Off Broadway Theater before the show. Some wrote that they simply liked the songs, but many dancers focused on the cultural implications of their set.

“Often times, rappers receive a lot of harsh criticism for lyrics glorifying gang violence,” wrote Rhythmic Blue co-president Nana Owusu ’18, in reference to a dance titled “Three Times Comin’.” “While it is true that this is a common theme in the rap industry, a lot of this criticism comes without actually understanding the realities that some of these rappers grew up in.”

Kesi Wilson ’21 also chose to choreograph a song based on its greater meaning. Wilson said she picked “King’s Dead” by Kendrick Lamar because the song represented a shift in Kendrick’s music when he began “releasing music that wasn’t necessarily meant to be popular.”

Whatever the story behind the choreography, each dance was bursting with enthusiasm and fun. The show opened with an upbeat Michael Jackson mashup, titled “Smooth Jam.” The choreography, by Owusu, evoked classic Michael Jackson dance moves and got the audience riled up right from the start.

Another crowd favorite was a dance to the song “Blind Man” by SPZRKT. The three dancers, George Guo MED ’18, Gianna Baez ’21 and Liam Arnade-Colwill ’19, were blindfolded throughout the entire dance — and still managed to stay almost perfectly in sync. In the Saturday night show, Arnade-Colwill’s blindfold fell off, but he laughed it off and kept his eyes closed throughout the performance.

A piece titled “(Rhythmic Blue)ooty Call,” set to the song “Say Something” by Zac Samuel, stood out for its contemporary style. Choreographers Monica Tuñez ’19 and Mya King ’18 and dancers Allie Bensinger ’20 and Jasmine Rios ’21 showed off their technical skills while harnessing Rhythmic Blue’s distinctively fierce attitude.

While the dancing was impressive, the onstage camaraderie shined even brighter. It was clear that the group genuinely enjoyed dancing together.

“We’re a really close knit group of people,” Wilson said. “It’s always nice to be surrounded by people who share your interests.”

The show ended with a number titled “They Plead the 5th to the 13th,” choreographed by co-director Lindsey Combs ’19. The dance perfectly combined the night’s focus on the history of hip-hop and the group’s contagious energy.

Rhythmic Blue was founded in 1991.

Lindsay Daugherty | lindsay.daugherty@yale.edu