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The Perfect ‘Escape’

Dance Troupe Delivers Sensational Spring Concert

By Bess Rouse

Spring 2001 Concert: Escape

Presented by Dance Troupe

La Sala de Puerto Rico

Friday, May 18 - Sunday, May 20

The “Go Suelin”s started even before the house lights dimmed -- signaling the beginning of this term’s Dance Troupe show, Escape. Anyone who has ever attended or performed in a Dance Troupe concert is familiar with these enthusiastic calls from the audience. Occasionally someone besides Suelin Chen ’03 is singled out, such as Yee Lam ’01 or the “McCormick girls,” but “Go Suelin” or “Sue-Lin-Chen” seems to have become a general call of support and excitement.

In “Arise,” one of the first pieces of the performance, the 13 dancers pulsed to the electronic music of Brainbug. Many of the moves were mechanical and reminiscent of old-school techno. Midway through the dance, a strobe light flashed and the dancers stripped off their tank tops revealing total spandex-colored sports bras and tight black pants. The choreographers, Katrina Lust ’03 and Lyci Hillman ’03, seemed to take the stereotypical exercise video to a whole new level.

Sarah Funderburk ’04 used music by Moby for her dance “The Unfaithful.” With the theme of prayer, the piece featured dancers clutching their hands to their chest while swaying in circular motions as they kneeled in profile. Spaced throughout the dance, this motion was repeated later as the dancers stood, and at the end in three different levels -- kneeling, lunging, and standing.

In one of the other pieces, Rebecca Lipon ’03 used the influence of ballroom dance to create something unique to the concert in “Seeking Fulfillment.” The dance was composed of two couples with entirely different sentiments. One was passionate and playful (Lipon and Garrett Peavy ’04), the other serene and reserved (Haixia Lin G and Fernando Padillo). Both did strikingly complicated turns and difficult lifts -- one of the men lifted his partner in a press over his head, she rolled down his body, and he caught her just before she hit the ground, for example.

Beginning with blue spotlights circling the stage, Connie Tao ’04 and Janet Lai’s ’04 dance “Rods and Cones” gave a new interpretation of the music of Blue Man Group. Similar to the performers in Blue Man Group, the dancers clapped and slapped their bodies and the floor, creating rhythmic patterns. In order to make such a dance effective the dancers needed to be perfectly synchronized ... and they were.

Combining jazz and ballet, Haixia Lin and Ailin Yang choreographed their dance, “Protection,” to the sensual music of Massive Attack. In elegant dresses, the dancers moved seamlessly from one step to the next, tipping forward with their legs raised behind them, bending backwards with the legs extended to the front, and interweaving their arms with one another.

In a similar style, Carol Cheung truly captured the music of Elliot Smith in her untitled piece. The emotion of the movement varied from being happy and almost hopeful, to sad and passive. Evidently inspired by the work of Paul Taylor, the women in the dance wore bluish-gray dresses in the style of country housewives. At a certain point, the light turned red and the dancers seemed almost otherworldly. The piece ends in a sort of duet in which Ailin Yang ’02 and Fernando Padillo slipped past each other and off stage-emphasizing the music’s theme of a love missed.

Cheung’s second dance in the show, “Missed Distance” to the music of Barenaked Ladies, was equally strong. I was drawn into the piece, and judging by the cheers, the rest of the audience must have been as well.

Almost in response to their naughty reputation, the funk and hip-hop pieces presented the dancers as strong, dominant women, and not scantily clad sex objects. The women in “Show Me Watcha Got,” choreographed by Siu-Li Khoe, wore cargo pants and tank tops as they strutted and danced with attitude. The two men, though smooth, were dominated by the group of women.

In “What Up Fool!” the dancers wore long sleeve shirts under short sleeved ones and Bjork-ish pigtail buns in the hair. The dance, choreographed by Judi Ramsical, consisted of strong, sharp movements to the music of Ginuwine. Of the six hip-hop styled pieces, “Whoop!” was the most flirtatious. However, Emily Le, the choreographer, did keep with the general trend of strong women and costumed her dancers in army camouflage, with bare midriffs of course.

One of the most impressive parts of Dance Troupe in general, is the high quality of these hip-hop pieces. The majority of the dancers look strong and confident in their abilities, and the dances consistently appear well rehearsed and together. Also, even though some choreographers and dancers are regulars on the Dance Troupe stage, new choreographers and dancers also seem to regularly turn up.

MIT appears to an extraordinarily high number of talented hip-hop dancers, and the audience is certainly thankful for it. Even though the show ran the weekend before final exams, Dance Troupe drew large crowds -- evidently providing the perfect Escape from studying.