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Saturday, Dec 3, 2022

Evolution Dance Crew brings “Love, Sex and Magic” to campus

The Evolution Dance Crew (Evo) made their debut for the semester with two back-to-back shows in Wilson Hall on Nov. 5. The show was titled “Love, Sex, and Magic,” a theme voted on by the group’s dancers because of its versatility and variety of interpretations. For some, the theme is about the joys and difficulties that come along with relationships with other people. For others, it’s about trusting oneself, trusting others and trusting the dance process.

Tickets for the show sold out quickly, even with four hundred spots available. The line to get in was out the door as students eagerly filed in. Before the start, Evo’s co-presidents Amina Matavia ’23 and John Bermudez ’24 welcomed the audience and familiarized them with Evo, which was founded by several students of color who felt excluded by other dance programs on campus. 

“They felt that they were excluded in favor of other (mostly white) dancers who had more formal training in styles that were considered more “legitimate,” which excluded genres like hip-hop, Afrobeats and Caribbean styles,” Evo member Devon Hunt ’23 said.

“Evo’s mission was really to create a space where everyone is accepted and allowed to express themselves through dance, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, body type or training level,” Hunt added.

Today, the group includes more than 40 members with various dance backgrounds. Saturday’s performance, which lasted for an hour, incorporated 25 pieces. This included 11 main pieces, 13 shorter transitions and one group piece with the entire crew. All dances were choreographed by students and ranged in styles including hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, ballroom and contemporary. This was Evo’s first venture into contemporary pieces and many dancers had not previously performed Latin styles. The variety of routines gave dancers the chance to showcase their range of talent and try out new techniques.

Simone Gonsell ’25 said learning to accept your own personal style of dance can be difficult at times, but the group is there to support one another’s creative freedom. 

“What’s wonderful about Evo is that everyone is encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and explore different styles, which really helps foster more confidence in people’s dancing,” Gonsell said.

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The performance also included a variety of songs and costume changes. Many pieces  began with saturated lighting from the back which highlighted the dancers’ silhouettes, then brightened into a radiant light which illuminated them from the front. All together these elements created a powerful atmosphere that told a story and invoked a range of emotions. Some pieces were exciting, upbeat and empowering while others were vulnerable, wistful and sensitive. All throughout, the crowd was cheering passionately and sometimes even calling the names of their friends on stage. After the show, all Evo members appeared on stage and gave a celebratory bow. They also gave a heartfelt send-off to Anna Saviano ’22.5 who performed her last show with the group. 

Evo members received tremendous feedback on Saturday, but they have not always felt validated at the institutional level. Hunt said Evo isn’t taken as seriously as other athletic programs or clubs.

“It took years for us to get authorization to count as a PE credit, even though most Evo members are committing anywhere from 3–7+ hours a week to rehearsals.” Receiving a PE credit is contingent on active participation in the show. 

Being a member of Evo can be a big commitment. Despite their busy schedules, dancers meet regularly and often put in work outside of rehearsal to practice routines. Choreographing the routines is also a long process. Gonsell offered insight into what it took to choreograph the opening routine.

“Lynn [Chai ’23] and I met multiple times each week, outside of organized practice and full-crew rehearsals, to come up with choreography. I would say overall it took us around a month and a half to create and finalize the choreography,” Gonsell said.

But despite the intense commitment required, Evo members attest to the supportive nature of the group even in busy times.

“Everyone is super encouraging and nice even when I feel I’m not doing well,” Hunt said.

“All our members are constantly enthusiastic and supportive of one another, especially when stress is running high,” Gonsell said.

Following their first show this school year, Evo has plenty of plans for the rest of the year. Evo will be holding J-Term workshops open to all students on a first-come, first-served basis. They will perform a campus-wide spring show, are looking to perform at the Nocturne Arts Festival and are hoping to collaborate with the Middlebury Intercultural Leaders Coalition. They plan to perform at the Night of Black Culture Gala hosted by the Black Student Union in late Spring, at a block party hosted by Distinguished Men of Color and at a conference hosted by the Middlebury African Student Organization. As Evo prepares for their upcoming events, Matavia believes that the Middlebury dance community is in a better place now than it was eight years ago before Evo was founded. Some dancers share her sentiment. 

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“This has honestly been one of the most comforting and supportive spaces I have been a part of since arriving on campus,” Gonsell said. “It does require some time commitment, but it is always worth it in the end.”