Perpetual Motion, Sewanee’s biannual student-run dance show, concluded its first run in two years this Sunday. As was the case with many other performing arts events, the show was stymied by the pandemic, and remained in a long period of dormancy until its return this semester.
Perpetual Motion is notable for permitting all members of the student body to audition, no previous dance experience necessary. Perhaps as a result of that method, the dancers not only performed in the numbers but clearly exercised a great deal of creative control- and perhaps because of this agency, the dancer’s commitment to these numbers was very evident. Perpetual Motion, to an extent unseen in many other dance performances, functioned not only as a showcase for talent and creativity but for the dancers’ and crew’s love of their craft.
The show, which openly encouraged audience participation, covered an eclectic range of genres, beginning with swing in Catherine Bratton’s (C’22) Dancing in the Moonlight, and proceeding to cover everything from hip hop to lyrical to K-Pop.
While the fast-paced numbers were naturally sonically energetic, the more down-tempo numbers tended to be grounded in a sense of emotional urgency. Between the almost post-apocalyptic anxiety of Rendi Britt’s I Know the End and the heartbreak of Gina Jeffreys’ <3 (which was, to quote the toddler seated next to me throughout the performance, “so sad”), they tended to interrogate more melancholy emotions via the use of more ambient music.
This is not to speak poorly of the uptempo numbers. The dancers in “Streetwise Hercules,” a highlight of the first act, seemed to have more fun in five minutes than I have ever had in my life. The show’s finale also consisted of almost entirely high-intensity numbers, back to back to back. “Beginning with Pretty Savage,” a bombastic K-Pop number performed to BLACKPINK’s song of the same name, all the final songs involved stage dressing, lighting changes, and enviable costumes. The next number, “Yikes,” cycled through three songs, a stage change, and floor work- a performance made all the more impressive by the dancers performing in teetering stilettos. The last number, crowd-favorite “Diva”, incorporated the “Diva/Everybody Mad” mashup made infamous by Beyonce’s 2018 Coachella performance and subsequent documentary Homecoming. There are no bigger shoes to fill, but the dancers did so with aplomb.
The crew’s technical knowledge should also be applauded. Though this capability was most on display throughout the propulsive final numbers, which featured so many quick changes in lighting and sound that the audience was warned that they posed a risk to members with seizure disorders, it is also shown in quieter moments of the performance. A favorite of mine was the lighting design for “… and then restart.” a dance choreographed to the song “Shake It Off” by Florence + the Machine. The number begins with the dancers silhouetted and in shadow before light floods the stage when cued by the lyric “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
All in all, Perpetual Motion seems to signify a triumphant new beginning for Sewanee dance after a long period of dormancy, one continued by the Dynamics show at on April 15 and 5 p.m. and the Too Turnt Tigers performance during Sewaneeroo on April 23. If you’d like to audition for the fall iteration, be on the lookout for casting calls!