Winter Dance Show Review: Performers On Pointe

Let me start by saying that I am not a dance enthusiast.

Opinions vary, but most people agree this is not a stellar way to begin a review. However, I feel that by setting the bar low, I tend to exceed other’s expectations in the quality of my writing.

I take the same approach with my own expectations. Set the bar low, and be pleasantly surprised. But sometimes, the bar is raised — nay, thrown to a level that surpasses even my highest expectations. That is what happened on Friday December 5, when I attended the 2014 Winter Dance Show.

I have been to many school events at various levels of attendance. When I was still a part of band, we had a fair attendance at our concerts. DVHS Drama pulled a respectable crowd for their last performance, In-Laws. But I have never seen an elective-sponsored event able to flaunt its attendance records.

The Friday show was nearly sold-out, with no open seating left by the time the show began. What shocked me most was the fact that it was students filling the seats. It’s common to see parents, and maybe a few good friends, attend similar events, but never a crowd of one’s peers. To anyone who says that Dougherty has lackluster attendance in anything non-academic, I direct you to that Friday night under the dim theater lights.

Because as soon as the lights dimmed, people started screaming. There were names and a plethora of “I love yous” and “Yaaaas”, but mostly just the loud garble that comes from being genuinely excited to be somewhere, and unable to express this feeling articulately.

The event began with the pop-tune “Welcome to the Circus”, a mashup of Britney Spears tune of the same name and “Enter the Circus” by Christina Aguilera. Immediately, the senses were assaulted on multiple levels, with the combination of carnival sounds and rainbow-colored skirts announcing that a spectacle had arrived. The show was introduced with dancers from Dance 4, the highest level of dance offered at Dougherty.

The introduction’s high-energy start was impressive, but so was the ability for the show to switch between pure pop and more rhythmic tunes. The lighting coordination had almost robotic perfection, and the lighting director deserves kudos for stellar execution.

If I am to get nitpicky, the main problem that I noticed in some of the dances, particularly the ones that didn’t have flashy outfits to distract the eyes, was that the dancers coordination with each other was slightly off. “Giving My Love” involved choreography high dependent on every person being in sync. The dancers were only off by quarter- and milliseconds, and often in just the hand or the angle of their head– but it was enough to be slightly disorientating. This seemed like a problem that could have been remedied with a few more group practices, and certainly not something exclusive to the otherwise great second song of the night. Dance is difficult because it requires an extreme amount of coordination with a group of people.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some standout performances. Dance 3 member Sajal Kulhari oozed with that special something (the word I’m looking for here is kind of like ‘swag’, if ‘swag’ were a socially acceptable description to use) in his group dances, particularly R. Cali and Detention! (which we will return to later). For the ladies, Isabelle Perlada and Malaysia Windham were exceptionally good in “Burlesque” with a combination of pure talent and confidence that radiated into the audience.

My favorite performance of the night was “Alma”, which was choreographed and performed by Jocelyn Leung and Rachel Su. Based off the eponymous animated short, “Alma” was choreographed taking into account just the right combination of graceful storytelling and technically difficult moves that demanded, and received, perfect execution. The pair had the audience so entranced that I could hear people behind making noises of enraptured horror as Alma came to life and trapped the curious girl who brought her to life. It is impressive to get such a complex story across without sound, and Leung and Su’s success was the highlight of the night.

Other notable dances of the night were “Skeletons”, “Flawless”, “Nightmare Before Christmas”, and “You’ll Find a Way.”

The only aspect of the show that I had mixed feelings about were the costumes. For a number of the dances, the outfit for girls seemed to be tutus and crop-tops, some of which were uncomfortably revealing. One can argue that dancers require close-fitting outfits that don’t interfere with their dances, but this still doesn’t explain why girls came out in bustiers and short-shorts while guys slinked in suspenders and variations on a v-neck. Particularly, I noticed the dichotomy in “Detention!” between the girls in the stereotypical schoolgirl outfit and the teacher (Kulhari) in formal attire. While I believe titillating outfits have their place in certain songs like “Burlesque”, the flashiness of the outfits often detracted from the sparkle of the dancer’s moves. My recommendation is either that some of the female looks get toned down, or perhaps we put some guys in some more revealing cuts. Since the show did begin with “Welcome to the Circus”, I am partial to the latter option.

Despite not having extensive knowledge in dance, the one thing I could surmise from the Winter Dance Show that dancing is really in the details. You never know what the audience will remember. Will it be the wordplay of B.O.B’s “Magic” segueing into Magic!’s “Rude” (courtesy of our very own Michael Shi)? Perhaps the pretzel intro and conclusion of “Heart Like Yours”– or maybe just the well-designed brochure.?

One things for certain: the Winter Dance Show got almost every single detail right. I can only imagine what’s in store this Spring. Good luck dancers; I’ll be setting my bar high. Maybe you can use your horizontal-split to kick it even higher.