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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Middlebury Clubs Create Magical Night of Music and Dance

Author: Yvonne Chen

"'What does it feel like when you're dancing?' Once I get going, I forget everything. I sort of disappear. I feel a change in my whole body, like this fire in my body. I'm just there, flying like a bird, like electricity. Yeah, like electricity."

This quote from the recent film "Billy Elliot" describes the way many dancers feel when they are finally able to loose themselves in movement. The Middlebury College community is no exception.

I learned last Thursday night at a student-produced show entitled "Dance the Night Away" that whether we love to perform or just love to watch and wish we could do it, there is something magical about dance.

Among the highlights, old school rap was turned on its head when Generation Today (GT) Break Dancing wowed a crowd with visually inspiring tricks.

Against the hardcore beats of old school and techno, we saw popping and locking, which consists of bending one's limbs out of position like "you're made out of rubber," explains breaker Morgan Jones '04. They also performed gravity defying acrobatic moves such as hand stands, spinning on their heads, and flipping — what in the industry is termed "b-boying." Jones, inspired by a friend in Brooklyn who first taught him to "break," founded GT at Middlebury in an effort to spread the hip-hop culture to Vermont.

Break dancing, which since the early '90s has come back as an urban art form, is heavily influenced by the Brazilian martial arts form Copeira. This form incorporates elements of gymnastics and dance as well but also "a lot about having fun and goofing off, technical moves as well as power moves."

On Tap mixed line dancing with N'Sync in an energy pumped rendition of "Space Cowboy." The tap group, one of the larger and longer established student dance groups on campus, was a big crowd pleaser and has been in numerous other performances. It's own spring show will take place on April 21.

"Dance with Me" was another all-female ensemble that, with bared midrifts and enthusiastic smiles, teased the crowd with their back hops, violent hip rolls and other popular hip-hop moves found in today's videos. Judging from the low baritone cheers, male audience members seemed to enjoy this act very much.

Among the new groups was Higher Ground, a ballet pointe group formed mostly of members from a workshop that Gillian Wood '03 led during Winter Term. In the final act four performers showed that ballet dancers have a hip-hop side when Wood, Devon Parish '05, Carolyn Gersh '04 and Melissa Crab '04 collaborated on choreography that was set to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song from the movie "Center Stage."

Probably the biggest highlight of the night was the long awaited debut of Middlebury's Cheerleading Squad. The team, which is composed of nine women and one man, promoted school spirit with animated smiles and gravity-defying stunts.

Far from the pom pom waving that is popularly associated with cheerleading, these disciplined individuals performed competitive college cheerleading. It is a form that combines elements of gymnastics and dance, including throwing one member of the squad 10 feet into the air Although they did not perform many of the more complicated twists and formations found in televised competitions, the routine was a big crowd pleaser. The group hopes that next year, with an earlier start, they will be able to visit some of these tournaments and compete.

Although neither the dancing nor the choreography in "Dancing the Night Away" was overly polished or awe inspiring, it is probably due to the fact that this is a small liberal arts school where the student groups have a different experience than dance groups at larger state universities.

Yet who can pass up watching some of the most talented dancers Middlebury has to offer? With its free admission and pop-inspired music and choreography, "Dancing the Night Away" drew in a relatively large crowd.

What's more, the effort that most of these clubs have put in during the month's time that they have been working on these routines clearly showed in their performances.

In a behind the scenes look, I found that each of these clubs is truly inspiring.

All of the performers are doing something they love but that requires an almost insurmountable amount of teamwork and dedication. Whether it's the cheerleaders practicing until 1 a.m. or GT meeting at least four times a week for hours at a time, one can imagine that to be a member of one of these dance groups truly takes nothing less than extreme passion.

Gillian Wood '03 brainstormed the idea for the student-produced show.

Wood remembers that she arrived at Middlebury her first year with a strong background in ballet and jazz, but was unable to locate a proper outlet or group to showcase her talents. "On campus there are a lot of different groups. Tonight was a celebration of dance for these groups to get together," said Wood, who performed in five of the nine performances of the night. After contacting the various dance groups on campus, "Dancing the Night Away" was born.

In less than a month's time, the dance groups worked away at choreography, recruited members and practiced.

In addition, the members of the production paid for all the costumes, publicity posters and programs.

In addition to these clubs, keep a look out for the Middlebury Ballet Club.

For those of you who missed out on this magical night, many of these same groups will perform at the upcoming African American Alliance- sponsored dance production slated for April 22. Wood also hopes to continue to "dance the night away" in a fall show next semester.