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May 11, 2004

Rhythmic Bodies in Motion brings R&B, house, jazz to Mandel Hall

Audiences were drawn to Mandel Hall on Sunday evening to attend the creatively invigorating dance performance "Rhythmic Bodies in Motion," the first-annual show of its kind.

Sponsored by the Student Government Finance Committee and the University of Chicago Fine Arts program, the show was directed by student choreographers Chantale Stephens, Sasha Dolgicer, and Tokoya Williams.

For an hour and a half, dancers held the audience in awe as they boldly leapt and chasséd across the stage, demonstrating a burst of new and refreshing talent in a variety of genres. Ranging from hip hop to swing to ballet (and everything in between), the performance was the culmination of a year's worth of preparation.

Exploring how society shapes the evolution of performance, the directors sought to infuse their own interpretation of culture and personal experience through the medium of dance. Director and third-year Stephens noted, "The voice of dance is not heard on this campus. The goal of the show was to educate the community about the different types of genres that exist in dance and how all of them are just as important as the next."

Another director of the show, third-year Dolgicer, described the show as an expression of herself, as well as a portrayal the personal struggles in life. She added that for her, dance served as an outlet for individual examination, bringing out a renewed sense of commitment and community.

Imbued with the musical influences of R&B, house, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean beats, the show kicked off with an energetic African dance, featuring live vocals and drums. Dancer and choreographer Mailla Sylla said the reason she chose to choreograph the piece was to appeal to the more traditional forms of African and Caribbean performance—where the dancers change movements according to vocal chanting and the intermissions of percussion beats.

Other genres of dance included a variety of modern and lyrical mixtures. Choreographer and high school student James Johnson directed pieces influenced by Alvin Ailey, whom he will be performing with next year. Dolgicer's lyrical performance fused spoken poetry with modern movement. She intended for the piece to reach the audience not only artistically but also personally, in an examination of personal introspection through the symbolic power of dance.

Later transitioning into a more mainstream approach, choreographers Oluwaseye Tairu and Oluseyi Oyenuga opened the second half of the show with a go-getting hip hop "tut'in" dance, complete with music by Missy Elliott, Pharrell, other popular R&B artists. Swing and ballet pieces appeared intermittently to offer a highly diverse set of genres sure to please any viewer. Afro-modern dancers—colorfully adorned in whites, greens, and reds—closed the show with a number that would not soon be forgotten.

Overall, the show gleamed with talent. Many of the dancers had worked with companies and agencies before matriculating to the University. However, those who did not have previous experience certainly gave beautiful and inspirational performances.

"The show was a taste of something new for the University community. I can't wait to see the outcome next year," Stephens said.

DVDs and soundtracks of the performance will be available soon on Marketplace.