Dance Review: SP@MITBy Fred Choi
The signs for SP@MIT first appeared around campus a few weeks ago. They were rather enigmatic, consisting of an "SP" followed by a picture of a cute cartoon character wearing headphones (the MITDMC's logo, "Mixie," created by president and founder Philip Tan, '01), followed by "MIT." People wondered what the picture had to do with "Stupid People @ MIT," the phrase usually associated with the acronym "SPAMIT," but it didn't take too long for the word to be redefined in its new context. All last week the MIT Dance Music Coalition, a group formed to provide opportunities for MIT's student disc jockeys to interact musically and socially, played music in Lobby 10 and passed out flyers advertising their "Sudden Party." The flyer described the event as being a "multi-media spontaneous spinning spectacle" that would involve the Anime Club, the Dance Troupe, the Ballroom Dance Troupe, as well as two guest DJs. However, the publicity confused more than one reader as to how much of the event would be dancing as opposed to watching other people dance. Regardless, a good number of people turned out for the event, approximately 400-450 in total, and at its peak about 200-250 people at one time.
The inspiration for SP@MIT came to Tan last December. He said, "the idea was to have [a first year] anniversary party for the MITDMC. Then some of my friends who do ballroom dancing showed me how some of my music could be used for ballroom dance, and the idea stuck. From there, Dance Troupe was a pretty obvious idea." Tan also relates that the idea for showing Anime in the background came from a practice gig MITDMC had at East Campus where it worked well, and that he got in touch with the Anime club after that.Although SP@MIT was scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19 and Maggie Oh '00, the first DJ of the night, started her set at that time, the doors to La Sala de Puerto Rico, where the event was being held, didn't actually open until around 9:20 p.m. Even though it made sense for the DMC to wait until there was a decent-sized crowd before letting people onto the dance floor so that the place didn't look dead as people trickled in, many of the people who had come itching to dance had complaints about having to wait. Fortunately this was the only real cause for complaint for what turned out to be a fun and unique event.
By the time I arrived at La Sala around 9:30 p.m., there was a large circle of about 30 people dancing, as well as the expected number of wallflowers hanging around watching and drinking soda. Things quickly picked up, though, as more and more people came. By 10:30 p.m. the dance floor was comfortably full. The evening's DJing was lead by Maggie Oh, who made her MITDMC debut without batting an eye. Paragon Productions, made up of Dan Wang, an MIT alum, and George Hu (DJ Envy), from the Boston area, followed, and then Jeremy Warner, '99, performed. The music was a variety of electronic music, including progressive house, euro, electronica, bubblegum, and house/rave techno. To break the possible monotony there were also some hip-hop tracks played during the night.
A notable event of the evening was the 5 minute turntablist performance of DJ Obi-1 (Isaac Murakami, MIT Alum), based in Washington DC. Turntablism, a relatively new DJ style, showcases a DJ's ability to manipulate the turntables rather than on producing actual danceable music. Although there were a few people dancing to Obi-1's music and there were several people who were familiar with turntablism who cheered the DJ as he performed his feats (like taking normal 4/4 tracks and warping them into different time signatures), most people stood around fairly bored as they waited for the dance music to come back on. The final DJ of the evening, Shwilly B (from the Boston area), played a more hardcore techno set which I personally enjoyed the most out of all the music played that night. However, there were quite a few people who did not find the music to their taste, and left soon after the start of his set.
Along with playing great music, there were also 4 large platforms, a few feet high, that provided extra entertainment. These were set up around the dance floor and those who were feeling particularly inspired to show off their moves could dance on them. As the evening went on, more and more people danced on the platforms in large groups. In addition to the platforms, there was also a screen set up behind the tables where the DJs were set up. The screen featured various slides, such as the one which featured Mixie and the words, "Celebrate - Don't inebriate," a point that Tan and the DMC feel strongly about. There were also slides for the DJs names as they performed their sets, and throughout the night anime, provided by the Anime Club, was shot up on the right side of the screen. Many of the videos shown were from compilations from the Anime Club, which showcased a broad spectrum of genres, ranging from recent anime TV series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, to a fantasy movie called, Dragon Half. The videos provided entertainment for people taking a break from dancing.
A pause in the dancing occurred at 10:00 p.m. when four girls began dancing in formation, "a choreographed dance which often involves identical movements which concentrate on the precision of the preformed steps." The four (Jen Hammock G, Yen-Hong Lim G, Wendy Luo G, and Vikky Kheifets '00) immediately drew attention and people stopped dancing to watch them dance to a latin house track. The routine was originally choreographed by Russel Jackson of the Fred Astair's Dance Studio of Boston, but was modified to fit the event. Tan says that, "The Ballroom Dance Team dancers worked very hard on this piece and in close cooperation with the MIT Dance Mix Coalition. It was a unique experience for all of us." Kheifets agrees, that although the dancing was different from what she normally does it was "very interesting," and that the transition between their dance and the rest of the dancing was very smooth. The crowd was extremely appreciative of the Ballroom Dance Team members' exhibtion, and many would have liked to have seen more from them and other campus dance groups. (Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Dance Troupe was unable to perform as scheduled).
Overall I found SP@MIT to be very enjoyable. The worst complaints that I had were that the music was a little louder than it needed to be, the coat situation wasn't ideal, and there weren't any snacks to munch on. The lights, music, and space were club-esque, but the variety of music, anime, and Ballroom Dance Team's appearance made the event a truly unique and fun experience. For those of you who like dancing and missed SP@MIT, we can only wait and see if next year the MITDMC will organize another great campus-wide event like this one.