Dancers Change for the better, but spring show stagnates from lack of variety

By Emale Gray

As the Rhythmic Bodies in Motion (RBIM) website states, “Life is a stage…dance,” and that has been the group’s mission since its inception in 2004—to inspire students to choreograph, design costumes, and, of course, dance. Furthermore, the organization drags dancers away from the style of dance most comfortable to them and drops them in unfamiliar territory, where they must fend and create new identities for themselves. Change Is Gonna Come was the visual culmination of the labors of each member of this dance company.

“Each member started out at a different level of dance at the beginning,” third-year RBIM advertising chair Janet Hong said. “But after six months of arduous practice, I firmly believe every single member has improved.”

Hong was living proof of this claim, showing off her undying determination and adaptability by participating in hip-hop and salsa pieces, and even belly-dancing to the jazzy “God Moving Over the Face of the Water” by Moby. The most impressive performance of hers, however, was a tap dance choreographed by third-year Wendy Gonzalez to Rob Thomas’s “This Is How a Heart Breaks.” True to theme, the number featured the most unlikely pairing of rock with tap, in addition to bright costumes and even tapping on boards held in mid-air.

“I was hesitant at first, but I had so much fun with my group and left the dance with a new set of friends—and I even experienced dancing in boots, which isn’t easy,” second-year Hector Santana said. In a group with five women, Hector represented for the men during the lively line dance to Sugarland’s “Down to Mississippi.”

Fourth-year Rachel Vander-vort experienced a similar evolution while dancing in numerous numbers, from the gritty and theatrical introduction of the show to stunningly designed ballet to tight-knit hip-hop. “Each year, I learn what I am capable of as a dancer and performer,” she said. “I felt that I really pushed my range and tested my versatility, not to mention my endurance.”

The most entertaining performances of the night were the African and Caribbean numbers. Though they may not have been the most thematic, the relentless vigor and taut choreography excited the crowd to clap along—even despite wardrobe malfunctions more noticeable than Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl stunt. “I previously choreographed African dance in high school, so I was very happy to be a part of something similar in college,” first-year Zainab Raji said. “[Choreographer Efe Ukali] pushed us hard and really emphasized the importance of representing the cultures we were depicting in our piece correctly and respectfully.”

Most surprising was the professional-quality, show-stopping choreography of third-year David Fuentes. Through the entire performance, Fuentes stayed true to each of the original artists’ dance styles, accentuating the bubble-gum pop moves of Janet Jackson, the sensual strokes of Ciara, and the bombastic thrusts of Missy Elliott.

Yet the show as a whole missed that theme almost entirely, mainly utilizing ballet and lyrical performances. The choreography of most numbers, while impressive, remained redundant, especially in the ballet acts. The “change” promised in the title never came, and was only briefly seen in the performances by the African and Caribbean dancers as well as those for tap, country, jazz/belly-dance, and Fuentes’s final piece. This year, Hong illustrates the change as more of an internal affair, as “the challenge and growth presented an opportunity to ‘change’ in all of us.”

Nonetheless, almost 100 interested students came out to weekly practices, showing that, at the very least, the interest in this awe-inspiring group is growing. I would like to commend the three directors, the board, and the committee for all of their hard work to lead a dance company of 90 members and present such a great performance that incorporates diverse students of all dance skills. Though this year may have been an experimental period for many dancers, if the “change is gonna come,” perhaps it will shine through more in next year’s performance.