Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
As I walked backstage, the smell of hairspray and hot curling irons greeted me. Red lipstick was smudged onto lips and costume changes hung in rows in the dressing rooms as dancers got ready, joked with friends and stretched before their show.
Dance Connection had its spring show, “Reign the Stage,” at Thurber Theatre in the Drake Performance and Event Center on Saturday.
Dance Connection is student-run, and many of the participants danced in high school but chose not to study dance while in college, said Dance Connection President, Sara Whitacre. The students choreographed the variety of dances themselves, and that student-made aspect made the show more fun than usual performances. There wasn’t the stuffy or overly conservative pieces that a lot of other dance shows seem to have.
“That’s What It’s All About,” a tap piece done to a mashup of “The Hokey Pokey” with other songs, including “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” was the most entertaining to watch. The dance moved from tap to hip-hop and then back to tap again. The mesh of different songs was fun and made the piece silly but cute.
I was surprised by the number of tap dances the group featured. “Mixed Rhythms” began with a single dancer on stage tapping without any music, and she was then joined by two other dancers. The dance had an almost street tap feel to it since it didn’t have any music to it, creating a really interesting piece with an advanced style not usually present in student shows. The only downside to not having music was I could hear one of the dancers say the count out loud to make sure the three were all beginning a section at the same time.
“On and On,” “Storm,” “Follow The Leader” and “Foundation” were all contemporary lyrical pieces and some of the best of the show. “Reign The Stage” showcased several types of dance, from tap to hip-hop to contemporary to jazz, but as a whole, the contemporary pieces all looked better choreographed and better executed than the others. With the contemporary dances, the dancers all seemed to have more training in that style, and the movements were all together, whereas with some of the other styles, the movements were not as in sync.
There were only two of the 20 dances that I didn’t like, which is a pretty good ratio for me – “Don’t Judge Me,” the hip-hop duet, and “Heritage,” the en pointe ballet piece that opened up the second half of the show. The duet was very “So You Think You Can Dance”-esque with its slower, hip-hop style, but it wasn’t as sharp as it should have been, and one movement seemed to get lost into the next.
As the lights came up for “Heritage” I was excited to see a pointe piece, a type of ballet on pointe shoes where dancers literally dance on the tips of their toes, included in the show. The dance was more contemporary than pointe pieces usually are with its choice of music but didn’t live up to the expectation I had at the beginning of the dance. I guess I really just wanted more from it.
“The Hypclique” was a hip-hop dance, that was better than the “Don’t Judge Me” duet done to a mashup of different hip-hop and rap songs. The movements were sharp, and the dancers looked like they genuinely loved the piece. Also, how could I not love a dance that included rip-off track pants? The dancers began in all-white T-shirts and green track pants, and as the music moved into “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the dancers moved to the back of the stage to rip off the green pants to reveal thrift shop-type clothing, and put on fun jackets and other clothes.
Dance Connection also included several videos with the dance, which broke up the show nicely. The first was a video of the dancers talking about the club, and how it got started, and the second video introduced the finale dance as a semi-tribute to the ’90s.
“Party (Come Get It)” was done to a mashup of ’90s songs with different sections of dancers for each different ’90s band or group. The dance had sections from Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, ‘N Sync and others, and with each set of dancers in different costumes to reflect the different groups.
Dance Connection really created an inventive and creative spring show that made the dances fun and worth seeing.