Upon entering the Powerhouse last Wednesday, you could immediately feel the excitement permeating the room where the fall 2015 Dance and Step at Amherst College performance was held.
DASAC’s only showcase this semester, aptly named “HOTLlNE DASAC,” was a huge, highly anticipated event, especially considering that it had been postponed for two weeks due to the Amherst Uprising protests and Thanksgiving break. Many students arrived early to get good seats and the eager crowd soon spilled out of the limited seating and up the stairs into the balcony, straining to take in the night’s performances.
The night was extremely successful and well worth the hype, but was not without flaws that slightly marred the experience.The show was littered with short, awkward pauses, moments during which nothing was happening onstage and the audience’s attention drifted either to their phones or peripheral conversations. This was only reasonable: The dancers performing one piece overlapped with the dancers performing the next piece and perhaps the piece after, and time was needed for costume changes and breath-catching.
Still, the pauses dampened the experience. The most noticeable pause was at the beginning, when the lights went off and colored spotlights were thrown onto the ground and into the audience, whose members immediately quieted in intense expectation for the show to start. But there were at least another five minutes before the dancers actually emerged, causing the heightened excitement to significantly descend.
Between pieces, there were often long gaps where music was playing and the colored lights once again traced the walls and floors of the Powerhouse, but nothing was happening. One could visibly observe the number of lit cellphone screens increase by the second during these gaps, and the captivation that the impressive performances induced in the audience members began to diminish. I only realized halfway through intermission that it was actually intermission, rather than just another pause. I felt myself getting restless, checking the time, scrolling through my newsfeed and wondering if perhaps this time could have been better spent.
Another aspect of the show that was disappointing was the formation and attention of the dancers. The experience of the show is undeniably much weaker from the side (which is where I sat) — even from a front row side seat, where I was close enough to reach out and touch some of the dancers. Dancers rarely faced the side, and even when they did, it was rare for a dancer to look into the audience or make eye contact with someone.
The formations on stage are also much less captivating from the side. One such formation was a line made by the dancers that was parallel to the line formed by the audience sitting directly in front of the stage. This formation obscures all of the dancers, besides the dancer on the end, from the members of the audience on the side. A similar problem occurs by a line of dancers perpendicular to the line created by the audience. The effect of this formation is completely lost to members of the audience on the side. Many aspects of the choreography, like sidesteps, gyrations of the hips and facial expressions conveying mood, were lost to me because the dance was oriented for the front of the stage.
One piece stood out to me as a radical exception to this rule: Steppin’ Back to Back, by Shanera Brodie ’16 and Lorraine Thomas ’16. This was the major step piece of the show, and the dancers did a great job of using diagonal and square formations to engage the side audience.
Despite shortcomings, the show was still as phenomenal as everyone expected. The set was obviously thought out carefully, and, despite the fact that each “piece” was comprised of several smaller segments, all of the segments were chosen intentionally and belonged under the same theme.
Several pieces stood out as truly striking. Thomas’ Rude Gyal Army had an amazing amount of variability within it while still sticking to its theme. The last segment of the piece was contagiously energetic and powerful, but the segment just before was calmer and slower while still maintaining its general Carribean vibe.
Kali Robinson ’17’s solo stage was a breathtaking show of control and passion. The expression on Robinson’s face, coupled with the subtle power and strength contained by his mechanical and precise movements, was unforgettable, and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from him. Most performances were accompanied by loud screams and jocularity, but Robinson’s performance pulled the audience into a more emotional, intense and focused place.
There was a strange and unplanned mishap on stage during which Robinson was unable to continue dancing, but he was so professional about it that most audience members seemed not to notice what was going on. He continued dancing after the mishap, and his performance was, without a doubt, a huge success.
Another crowd pleaser was David Huante ’16’s Crushin, which elicited quite a few screams from the crowd with its sensual dance moves. The dancers in this piece did a great job, both with facial expression and with intensity of motion, and they effectively conveyed the performance’s sensuality to the audience (who ate it right up).
All in all, 1800-HOTLINEDASAC was not without its shortcomings, but still one of the best, most well-attended and lively campus-wide events of the semester.