November 18, 2008

Annual Concert Highlights Campus Dance Groups

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I love attending dance events that support charity — not because they’re necessarily the best performances I’ve been to, but because they put dance into context. A casual audience member isn’t going to consider the history behind each dance discipline or step, but they can recognize that they’re supporting a great cause. Such an opportunity for dance appreciate occured this past Saturday, when Cornell’s Shadows Dance Troupe presented their annual fall benefit concert in Bailey Hall. All proceeds from the show went to On Site Volunteer Services, a student-run group that promotes community service.
[img_assist|nid=33690|title=Shadow Dancers|desc=Shadows Dance Troupe performs at the Fall Step 2008 concert in Bailey Hall on Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The show, which also featured 13 other dance groups on campus, displayed routines ranging from mediocre to excellent, and a wide variety of dance styles were represented, reflecting the diversity of cultures at Cornell. From hip-hop to Bhangra to ballet, the audience got a thorough taste of the world of dance on campus. Although Bailey Hall may have been too large a venue for the moderately sized audience, the energy in the room was still high and people cheered for their friends onstage consistently throughout the show.
Since Fall Step served as Shadow’s fall dance concert, the lyrical/jazz/modern/hip-hop group performed seven routines throughout the show. The range in the quality of techniques exhibited by the troupe was evident. I could be transfixed on one especially strong dancer during one piece, or distracted by another girl who didn’t know the choreography and and had to look to others for the steps during another piece. However, the choreography was still strong and the choice of costumes — such as those of the gothic ballet theme for “Rama Lama” — made the performances all the more visually appealing.
The show opened with hip-hop routine “Radio/Hit That,” performed by BASE Productions. Known for their energetic routines, BASE seemed like a good choice for the opening act who could pump up the crowd. However, the choreography was very clean. While this is normally a positive attribute for a dance, in this case, the piece felt too choreographed and lacked the attitude needed to make hip-hop exciting. To their credit, they did return to the stage later, with a routine called “Bottoms Up,” displaying more of their characteristic attitude and strong technique.
South Asian dance is very popular at Cornell, and three dance groups took the stage on Saturday to show “how Cornell’s brown gets down.” The group Raas was first, performing an especially long routine. With their flashy costumes, stunts and exhausting choreography, I was in awe at their ability to keep up a high energy level throughout the entire song. All-female South Asian Dance group Sitara and the Bhangra team also performed later in the night to similar enthusiasm from the audience.
Another stand-out performance was by the Phenomenon step team. The nine girls were perfectly in sync, and their routine echoed hours of meticulous practice. Belly dance troupe Teszia deserves to be mentioned as well — it definitely takes guts and self-confidence take to get onstage in a bra-top.
Fall Step also featured a group that doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of dance, but still encompasses the art and beauty of movement; Japanese drumming group Yamatai gave a truly stunning performance. The expression and passion flowing from one of the female drummers, positioned center stage, was unbelievable. She struck the drums with such strength that the audience was left entranced. Even my friend, who spent the entire show fretting about how she should have been in the library instead of at a dance concert, was able to temporarily leave the stress of prelims and papers behind during Yamatai’s turn on the stage.