As an artist, I hate to apologize. I can’t even imagine how the folks over in the Theater & Dance Dept. must feel. We all have our own opinions about “modern dance,” and frankly, I find that attitude not only annoying but also incredibly discouraging. Luckily for me, the department’s “Dance Dammit!” was fantastic, fun and refused to apologize for itself.
However, the title of show is terribly uninspiring, for the quality of the dance routines. “Dance Dammit!” sounds very ’90s: ironic and a bit desperate. The show was everything but.
The first routine, choreographed by fourth-year Michele Wong, is called “Simplex Munditis,” and was essentially a mashup of Tetris and tribal music, with dancers weighted down by gravity tumbling around to assemble the pieces of a block-like structure. It was the only routine with hip hop tied into the number (something I remember was in abundance at many high-school dance shows) and used the rhythms of the music (including a bit from Ratatat) to create a type of disjointed narrative about functionality. I believe it was based on a Ben Johnson poem.
The next piece, “A Plexus of Prose,” choreographed by senior Katie Johnson, also worked with division and disjunction; the girls donned Renaissance Faire-esque clothes while the music, including selections like Yann Tiersen, Aphex Twin and Paul Lansky, swathed the audience’s ears with telephone bleeps and Internet buzzing. The movements were circular, spinning and swirling back on each other.
“Surge,” choreographed by senior Katrina Lee, used music from James Newton Howard’s severely underrated score from M. Night Shyamalan’s much-lambasted and, in this author’s lowly opinion, unfairly reviled film, “The Village,” as well as a song from Joe Hisaishi’s score for Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.” Purely a visceral piece, the use of white and red hinted at a deeper sexual subconscious while the girls (and, yes, guys) danced.
Possibly my favorite piece, “Forfeit Forgetfulness,” choreographed by senior Maggie Jones, was a lot less flashy than the others. Two panels with single light bulbs flanked the stage, while dancers costumed to look straight out of the turn-of-the-century Depression Era mundanely paced back and forth, with newspapers as a backdrop. Up front, several dancers tore off their pea coats to reveal orange and blue outfits designed by Jessica Chernicki.
The synth-filled glitch pop of Múm combined with the contrast of styles made for a subtle piece that mused almost obsessively on the frustration with routine and ignorance.
The final piece, “Marimba,” was a 1976 routine by Lar Lubovitch, a notable figure in the 20th-century dance world. The choreographers of all the previous pieces danced in this piece, and although it was very minimalist, it was incredibly hypnotic. Repetition was key to the success of the piece, creating a larger sense of space combined with the sea colored outfits (coral, sea foam, etc.), making an impressionistic canvas come to life before our eyes, entrancing everyone in the audience. The audience definitely took part in some altered mental state, by that point.
The success of “Dance Dammit!” lies in its blatant omission of irony and the buoyant charm of everyone involved. The dancers looked like they were enjoying themselves while also creating serious art.