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And All That Jazz!

Ballet, Tap, Hip-Hop, and More at Dance Troupe

By Marjan Bolouri

staff writer

Dance Troupe

Kresge Little Theater

May 9, 8 p.m.; May 10, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.; May 11, 2 p.m.

Anyone who has been to a Dance Troupe show knows the feeling of anxious anticipation, that high-pitched electricity buzzing through the theater after the lights go down. It culminates in enthusiastic catcalls and shouts from the audience while the dark shadows of the dancers take their marks for the first number. The viewers are a privileged group: after all, what other campus arts event begins with a swarm of vulture-like MIT students dashing madly for the best seats in the house? This year’s spring show, “Fervor,” took hold of that energy and ran fully charged for an unforgettable two hours.

The show was delightful, with a colorful blend of unique styles, revealing that the group is capable of much more than the hip-hop it’s known for. One of the most original concepts, “Cosmic Girl,” recalled the retro-futuristic feel of The Jetsons. Six women donning electric blue bobs hypnotically swayed to smooth Jamiroquai lyrics, their taunting smiles and mechanical coordination conjuring images of femme-bots with deadly dance moves.

Anyone familiar with Korean pop acts, and even those who aren’t, would appreciate the parody “Kpop Medley,” in which dancers mocked the styles of stars like Lee Jung Hyun and Park Ji Yoon. Luckily, the program included a substantial amount of background information that helped tremendously in appreciating the dances.

Providing a cultural balance, the show incorporated a bhangra dance from MIT’s South Asian Culture Show. Popular hip-hop beats combined with Indian classical moves drew the crowd’s applause to a deafening roar. Other dances of notable uniqueness include the Goth-themed “Rejection” and the introspective, lyrical “Focus.”

The dancers of “Sing Sing Sing” made valiant attempts to stay synchronized during long tap sequences but failed occasionally. Admittedly, rounding up a team of tap experts at MIT must be no easy task, and the enthusiasm with which the dancers performed helped conceal the fact that their legs moved in different directions.

All was forgotten when the men of “Sausage” took the stage, sporting sharp outfits and even sharper moves. The comical interlude might have looked like something from Sigma Kappa’s Late Night, but the hilarious dancing left the audience chanting, “We love Sausage!”

On the subject of costumes, how many parachutes died to make the humongous UFO pants worn throughout the show? After their first few appearances, the oversized cargo wind pants lost their cuteness. The outfit selection reflected more diversity than in past years, however. Especially noteworthy were the bohemian calico dresses and headscarves of “Summertime.”

The three hip-hop numbers were crowd-pleasers, as always, which begs the question: do MIT students suffer from a dearth of provocative dancing in their daily lives? “Southern Hospitality,” “Hip Hop, It Started Out In The Heart,” and “Rumble” laid down ill beats and sharp steps.

The pieces ran the gamut of technical difficulty. At one end of the spectrum, “Just A Little Longer,” a crowded Gap commercial set to Linkin Park music, fizzled with generic moves and a lukewarm reception. At the other extreme, however, the sensational moves of Jackie Ou G and Garrett Peavy ’04 exhibited daring and flawlessness. Exciting lifts and dramatic tosses drew gasps from the audience followed by immediate applause that lasted well after the music ended.

Occasionally, campus critics assail Dance Troupe for sacrificing impeccable technique for size or easy crowd-pleasing party moves. But part of what makes Dance Troupe such a popular organization on campus is its ability to incorporate all skill levels while remaining devoted to the pursuit of excellent dance.

The amazing Chicago medley “The Vaudeville Rag” exemplifies how professional technique is not required for an outstanding performance. Flappers doing the Charleston to “And All That Jazz” and scantily clad inmates doing the “Cell Block Tango” transported the audience back to the movie without too much flashy footwork.

In its ninth year at MIT, Dance Troupe has grown into the largest and most prominent dance organization on campus. The shows consistently sell out as MIT students see the productions as a study break, perhaps an opportunity to view their lab partners in costume, and a foray into the world of arts that is all-too-easily overlooked in a life spent before a workstation. “Fervor” proved that the group continues to grow in stylistic diversity.