Arts and Entertainment Editor
Photos on Instagram Taken by Alena Kochinski
Pitch darkness. The dancers walk quietly on stage. Music begins. Lights up. The first performance of Dancewise: Corporealities, a beloved Sewanee dance tradition, begins. Each year Dancewise works under a specific theme, that all of the dances interpret. This year the theme was Corporealities, meaning evaluating lived experiences and how those, and your perception of various relationships with the tangible and the visceral, help to shape your identity, and your sense of existence.
The opening number was “NEW DORP. NEW YORK.” by SBTRKT, and had the entire Dancewise ensemble involved. Each movement was precise and drew your attention all across the stage. The dancers glided across so naturally and fell back and forth into one another. It was a unified performance, yet each piece was unique.
Every performance following the first began with a voice before the music, often quoting someone, or simply making a statement on what the performance to follow entailed. Many performances also included video behind the dance, as was the case for the second performance.
In the second number, choreographer and dancer, J.T Michel (C’23), was first pictured on screen figure skating, and then Michel slowly glided on stage, before falling to his knees, watching himself on screen. The performance mimicked a figure skating routine, and Michel’s dance with his partner, Lily Oakley (C’24), was filled with chemistry and emotion as the two swirled around each other, reacting to the video and to the music. Each move was perfectly timed with the lyrics of the song, “Without Fear” by Dermot Kennedy. The performance took you along on a ride of leaving your past and innocence behind.
The third number was dark and angry, the stage saturated in red light as the dancers pounded their feet, all dressed in black. The dance was filled with raw emotion, as one dancer was spotlighted a few times and was being pulled down by the other dancers, as she tried to escape their grasp.
The fourth performance brought something new to the audience, with the inclusion of props. The two dancers, both stood in front of a large standing mirror as they began their song. The two songs from Lorde, “Liability” and “Green Light” juxtaposed each other nicely, as “Liability” was mostly used when just the two dancers were on stage, and “Green Light” began when more dancers were introduced, and the large mirrors were pushed back and each dancer got a tiny handheld mirror that acted like spotlights as the dancers paced around the floor.
The fifth performance was deeply emotional and not only started with a voice at the beginning, but included several voicemails for the choreographer’s Yana Van den Abbeele (C ’23) voicemail box. These voicemails overlapped with each other and occasionally with the music. The dance told a story of depression and isolation, and how the fight in a person’s head sometimes makes them reject the people who love them, and how even when people love, they might not understand the struggles that make someone isolate themselves. The video in the background included images of deleting contacts and changing contact information to “do not text” as a way to display the raw emotion of isolation. As the dancers twirled around the room to the beat of “Windswept” and “Weight” by Crywolf, the shadows crossed over the screen and left the audience mesmerized.
The sixth performance told the story of love, as many dancers begin the dance looking for a partner. They dance with a few people, but it never feels just right, and as some of the dancers leave the stage, the rest feel lost and disconnected. Each pair of dancers gets their moment alone on stage, basking in the honeymoon stage of their love. This dance is paired well with the song, “In the Kitchen” by Renee Rapp which has the chorus line, “Strangers, to lovers, to enemies.” In the conclusion of the song, the pairs get torn apart, and half of the dancers are left on stage, arms outstretched for their love to return.
The seventh performance is a tap dance, choreographed by the Artistic Director of Dancewise, Courtney World. Two dancers on stage are barefoot, while the rest of the dancers are in tap shoes, and while all of the other dancers seem perfectly in sync with one another, the two barefoot dancers break off and do their own thing, only to be rebuked by the other dancers. In one portion of the song, the barefoot dancers try to tap along with the other dancers, yet they are one step out of the line arrangement, and struggle to keep up, like they are trying to learn steps that were never taught to them, and don’t fit their style.
The final performance uses three songs to tell the story of protests and freedom. The first song is “Ohio” by Neil Young and is accompanied by dancers on a large wooden platform pouding their feet in unison, as they hold up protests fists, dressed in attire reminiscent of the ‘60’s. The pounding of their feet recalls the sound of a drum beat, which this performance tries to emulate. The songs are ones of protest and resistance, and the drum beat is the loudest and most powerful instrument, calling us to move forward with purpose. All three songs used have a history of being banned on the radio, and the second song used, “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone, was written in honor of Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy who was lynched. This song has the dancers sitting on the edge of the wooden platform as one dancer stands in the center, doing their own free dance, before bringing up another dancer and sitting down as that dancer performs. Each dance is different and each dancer gets a chance to dance their emotions out.The final song, “Eve of Destruction” by P.F. Sloan is paired with dancers running across the stage with dedicated purpose, and in the final moments, the dancers pound their feet in unison, like a protest, but dancers start falling out of line and come to the floor, rejecting the unity and finding their own way of protest.
Overall Dancewise was an exciting and excellent performance, and one of my personal favorite Sewanee traditions. I can’t wait for next year, and I hope you’re just as excited.