Heroes Take the Stage in “Enter the DASACverse”

This past weekend, Dance and Step at Amherst College (DASAC) demonstrated what it means to be the hero or the villain. Staff Writer Lauren Siegel ’27 reviews the Fall 2023 showcase, analyzing each choreographer’s approach to this theme and the effects it had on the audience.

Heroes Take the Stage in “Enter the DASACverse”
Dancers captivated the audience in DASAC’s Fall 2023 showcase, “Enter the DASACverse.” Photo courtesy of DASAC.

“Welcome to the DASACverse!”

The packed crowd at the Eighmy Powerhouse roared with excitement at these words, which kicked off the Dance and Step at Amherst College (DASAC) Fall 2023 Showcase. The student dance group, which highlights dance styles rooted in Black American culture and the broader Black diaspora, performed “Enter the DASACverse” on Dec. 2 and 3. The title is a reference to the 2023 film “Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse,” and the superhero-themed performances critically explored what it means to be a “hero” or a “villain,” investigating the nature of power through incredibly fun, energetic, and expertly choreographed dances.

From its first light cue, the showcase immediately captured the audience’s attention. As the stage turned red, a voice rang through the Powerhouse, proclaiming, “Attention all citizens of DASACverse, this is a code red. The bandits have broken out of solitary confinement.” Suddenly, dancers emerged on stage wearing ski-masks and began dancing to the hip-hop song “Superhero (Heroes & Villains)” by Metro Boomin, featuring Future and Chris Brown. This short, introductory piece not only established the primary theme of the showcase, but imbued the audience with enthusiasm and excitement through the dancers’ energetic movements.

At the end of the piece, DASAC’s artistic directors Abadai Zoboi ’24 and Jasmynh Stokes ’26, and company manager Adetola Makun ’26 took the stage and introduced the showcase, telling the audience, “Be hype, have fun, and make some noise!” Encapsulated in this statement is what DASAC’s Fall Showcase is all about: joy and community.

While the showcase featured pieces of various dance styles, the performances were further distinguished from one another by their unique storylines and varying thematic elements. For example, in their debut piece “Antihero,” the choreography duo Jasmynh Stokes ’26 and Andrea Diaz-Pacheco ’26 explored the binaries of hero and villain through two distinct cohorts of dancers, one dressed in white (the “heroes”) and one in black (the “villains”). At first, the heroes and villains were first presented as opposing forces, with the former making bold, sensual movements and the latter embracing sharp, intense, and energetic choreography. By the end of the piece, the boundaries between these groups blurred as all dancers came together and performed as a unified community. “Fun & Games,” the debut piece of choreographers Adetola Makun ’26 and Teni Aina ’26, similarly staged a battle between good and evil. The colorfully dressed “heroes” radiated infectious enthusiasm through upbeat choreography to Baby Tate’s “Hey, Mickey!” This contrasted the darkly-clothed “Infernos,” who embraced intense, high-energy hip-hop movements to “LOOK DON’T TOUCH” by odetari. The two groups confronted each other at the end of the piece as “Angels in Tibet” by Amaarae played behind them. In this moment, their movements were similar yet distinctive. They mock-fought one another and lifted each other up into the air, turning the stage into a captivating battleground that felt ripped from the pages of a comic book.

Another creative storyline took shape in “Operation Angel,” choreographed by Mica Nimkarn ’24 and Justin Ruiz ’24, the pair colloquially known as “JICA.” This piece drew inspiration from the popular action movie and TV series “Charlie’s Angels,” even integrating audio from the 2000 film into the score. Dancers embodied crime-fighters through their fast, energetic, and powerful movements, depicting the angels’ training, battle, and eventual celebration. Through this empowering storyline and the piece’s spirited, synchronized choreography, “Operation Angel” revealed the value in collaboration for achieving success. The piece “Bad B*tches in Space,” choreographed by Quincy Smith ’26, explored heroism in a similarly fun, engaging manner, as dancers masterfully embraced fluid, bold movements of the house dance style to express their own empowerment. The reclamation of power was further expressed in “Mama, We Got a Problem,” choreographed by Georgina Omaboe ’24, the closing piece of the show. The monologue that played before Beyonce’s “America Has A Problem” featuring Kendrick Lamar affirmed to the audience that one must “Be A Problem.” Appropriately, this piece employs bold, enthusiastic choreography and various call-and-response sequences of movement, demonstrating the power of community in recognizing one’s worth.

The theme of resistance was investigated in depth throughout this showcase. In “Truly Humble Under God,” the debut piece of choreographer Anjalis de la Cruz ’24, dancers transformed into vigilantes through intense and high-energy choreography. However, many moments throughout the piece — particularly the ending, in which all the dancers kneeled on the stage, pointed at the audience and looked upwards pensively — adopted a retrospective tone, expressing that vigilantes, in taking authority into their own hands, are complex thinkers. The notion of rejecting structures of authority is further explored in the piece “9:00 to 5:00,” in which choreographer Abadai Zoboi ’24 explored an overthrow of late-stage capitalism and what it means when the world “counts you out.” While the piece begins with all dancers wearing white button-downs, this visual symbol of authority and conformity breaks down as dancers remove the shirts to reveal colorful, metallic tank tops in a Clark Kent-esque transformation, embracing the fluid and distinctive choreography of a traditional majorette routine in the process.

One of the highlights of the show was “Step City,” a step number choreographed by Quincy Smith ’26. The step piece is a crucial element of the DASAC showcase, and this performance undoubtedly demonstrated the power and beauty of this Black American dance tradition. While the piece begins with a pre-recorded, male voice welcoming the audience to Step City, the dancers interrupt his speech and exclaim “Man, shut up!” The performers reclaim their narrative and address the audience directly multiple times throughout the piece, demonstrating the theme of empowerment that is equally affirmed through the dancers’ masterful, captivating synchronization of stomp, claps, and chants.

This showcase spotlighted the incredible creative talent of Amherst students. And its energetic performers and enthusiastic audience made the Powerhouse feel like one, close-knit community. “Everyone has been super welcoming and supportive — I’ve had such a great experience,” said Ellie Stolzoff ’27, a new member of DASAC. “Everyone has made me feel so welcome and valued, and this sense of community has really helped me step outside my comfort zone. I can’t wait to start working on next season’s showcase.”