A day in the life of Rhythmic Bodies in Motion

The Maroon takes an in-depth look at this year’s RBIM auditions.

By Wenjia Zhao

It is a cold and dreary Saturday morning, the kind where the air feels clammy with mist and lethargy. Daybreak has somehow managed to make itself even gloomier and tiring than nighttime. For most of us, waking up before noon on Saturday—especially one like this—is almost impossible. But this morning there are actually students up and around.

At the Bartlett Arts Rehearsal Space, the executive members of Rhythmic Bodies in Motion (RBIM) are buzzing around busily. Today is the first audition for new members, and there are registration sheets and other forms to prepare. The group has set up a table beside the plastic ballet bar, where six laptops, stacks of paperwork, and signs lay at the ready. Nadja Otikor, the administrative director of RBIM, looks around to see if anything else is needed. She turns to consult fourth-year Liadan Donelly, the artistic director, about the set-up. So far so good.

Punctual at 10 a.m., several dozen dancers stream into the small studio. They come trudging in with rain boots and winter coats, but soon swap their winter gear for colorful tank tops, leotards, gym shorts, sweat pants, and leg warmers.

“Remember to sign in at the table and grab a number!” Otikor calls out.

A few stream to the tables. The others, having received their number tags, sit down in groups on the floor and begin to stretch and chat. Emily Greenwood, a first-year hopeful RBIM member, is excited about her audition. “I’ve done ballet and a bit of tap in high school,” she says, “and now I just want to get back to dancing.”

Third-year Alice Hur, a hip-hop choreographer and RBIM veteran, glances around the quickly filling room. She frowns. “There are not many people,” she mutters. “We had to put 150 people in this room once.” Around 40 people sign up for today. Still, they shrug: It is Saturday morning. More people will likely come to the audition tomorrow.

At 20 minutes past 10 a.m., Otikor calls the studio to order. She and second-year Shir Yehoshua, the publicity director and lyrical choreographer, briefly run through the rules. Each dance practice runs for an hour a week, extending a bit longer just before shows. Those who are in the RBIM Performance Company, a semi-professional performance team, have to commit more time. Members are responsible for attending practices, as well as selling tickets for the shows.

RBIM as a whole performs only one large-scale show each year in May, in which they try to incorporate a variety of different dance styles. (The smaller RBIM Performance Company division, though, has several smaller gigs throughout the year.) This year’s show will feature the theme of “renewal” and will include a step dance piece, the first in RBIM’s history. The choreography is still in its early stages, so how the introduction of tap shoes will play out in a repertoire that has historically been mostly lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop still remains to be seen.

As the choreographers are preparing to teach the auditioners, the executive committee is keeping the new dancers on their feet. A quick warm-up led by Yehoshua to tunes like Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music,” brings the multi-colored hoards onto the dance floor. Yehoshua faces the large mirror in the front of the studio and runs at a frantic speed through several routine leg stretches, quick jumping jacks, and squats. The crowded dancers follow her in a flurry of arms, legs, heads, shoes, and flying shirt sleeves. The morning lag is evident in a few stragglers, and the energy level seems to have ebbed.

After a relatively quiet, on-the-spot jog, Yehoshua spins around and jokingly asks, “Is it early or something, or are you guys just really tired?” The crowd laughs, and seems to be restored.

By now, the actual audition is starting. There are three separate categories for the audition today: Hip-hop, jazz, and lyrical. Most of the dancers are auditioning for hip-hop, so when the main hip-hop choreographer, third-year Kevin Lee, motions for them to step onto the floor, only a few leotard-clad dancers are left behind. Wearing a baseball cap and a loose jersey, Lee looks the part. He and his dance mate perform a short hip-hop segment that involves a few locking movements and a high kick at the end. The sequence lasts for about half a minute. It looks doable, even easy. The dancers appear confident. But learning it is slightly trickier.

Lee and his dance mate run through each movement slowly. As with most dances, the difficulties lie in the transitions: how to make the foot crossover look fluid, and not like a scarecrow trying to walk with too many feet (though sometimes that is the point). The dancers seem to be coping well so far.

Once satisfied with what he has taught them, Lee leaves the dancers to dance to the music on their own. The first part of the music is “empty”—that is, it has no steps choreographed in, and the dancer has to improvise. There are some stiff, uncertain attempts. “Dance around. Don’t just stand there!” Lee shouts. The dancers respond, and seem to move around more energetically.

The segment finished, Lee looks around and then turns back to face the mirror in front of the class. Many of the dancers have sweat dripping down their faces at this point. The spotlight above the studio floor is shining hard on them.

After another attempt, Otikor, who is watching from the side, pulls up her sheets and shouts, “Okay! Numbers one through 10, step up!”

Another call to cue the music and another round of auditions. All those who audition for the general RBIM team will be offered a chance to join, as will many who try out for the Performance Company. And provided they regularly practice, they will have their chance to shine this spring quarter in the massive orchestration that is the RBIM spring show.