With the lights dimmed, three silhouettes appeared in front of an ominous blue background. Suddenly the lights came to life, the dancers were revealed and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” reverberated throughout Thorne Hall, kicking off Dance Production (Dance Pro) 2014.
The 66th anniversary of Occidental’s entirely student run, choreographed and produced dance show, began with this powerful number “Yoncé” choreographed by sociology major Dalin Celamy (sophomore). The dance included 52 of the 300-member cast and used a number of Beyonce’s greatest hits to channel the passion and dedication of the Dance Pro cast.
“[The dance] was so much better than last year,” Celamy said. “I had a lot more people in my dance, so that meant more responsibility, but it also meant that we could start the show off right and distinguish our piece as really special.”
According to their note in the program handout, Dance Production co-presidents psychology majors Courtney Jones (senior) and Ricah Rejano (senior) wanted to teach and spread the love of dance while bringing their audience on an adventure.
Having missed out on Dance Pro last year while abroad in Rome, this show was particularly important to Jones, who has participated in Dance Pro throughout her Occidental career.
“Well, anyone who went to the Saturday show saw that I was really emotional,” Jones said. “[Rejano] and I have been involved with Dance Pro for four years. It happens so quickly, and then it’s just over. Dance pro has a really special place in my heart; I just have so much love for the club.”
The influence of contemporary genres such as hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM) added to the program. Pieces such as “Hip Hoppers vs. Hipsters,” choreographed by economics major Michael Schulze (junior), and “The Big Game,” choreographed by undeclared major Clare Shuey (sophomore) and theater major Declan Meagher (sophomore), highlighted these contemporary genres. The transition between hip-hop and EDM in Shuey and Meagher’s dance was both unexpected and well-executed as the dancing grew more robotic as the music progressed. Not to mention, Shuey blowing a kiss at the end of Schulze’s piece melted hearts throughout the theater.
“One of my favorite things about Dance Pro is you have all these people that love to dance on the DL [down low] all year long, then they go wild on stage and show what they can do, and no one expects it. It’s such a cool thing to see happen,” Shuey said.
The modern influences widely exhibited in the show were often coupled with foundational genres, such as swing or jazz.
Pieces like Art History and Visual Arts major Raven Juergensen’s (junior) “The Breakfast Club,” and Jones and Rejano’s “Willy Wonka and the Hip Hop Factory” made use of props and costumes to remind the audience of the dances’ cinematic bases.
“Everyone pretty much has free reign to do what they like with their dances, and I think that really showed in the creativity of our dances this year,” Jones said.
Dancing to sounds that varied from Linkin Park’s “Paranoid” to soundbites from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie required the dancers to exhibit a wide repertoire of performing skills.
A diverse array of cultures were also represented in this year’s Dance Production. The show’s second piece, “Dilli ke Badtameez Dhol,” choreographed by Urban and Environmental Policy and theater double major Marisha Thakker (senior), contrasted the dark and sassy feel of the opening act with its yellow costumes and eastern sounds.
Breaking from the show’s fast-paced, often contemporary emphasis, the traditional Hawaiian dance “Ike i ke one kana a’o Nohili” by sociology major Tommy Smith (junior) brought a sense of peace and calm to the production, as the dancers moved like statues brought to life by the beat of drums and Smith’s live vocals. Similarly, the dance “Ruins” used slow music and expressive dance to tell stories.
Traditional Latin dance, Irish step dancing and Middle Eastern belly dancing were also given contemporary makeovers in the hands of the talented student choreographers.
The show ended with a finale comprised of all the senior participants, along with the choreographers and e-board members. With fast-paced dance moves to a catchy mix of songs, the finale quickly evolved into a full cast number as dancers flooded the aisles of Thorne Hall.
The finale left the audience full of energy and with a palpable appreciation for the hard work the students put into the show. “Most of my Oxy experience has been built around it [Dance Pro], and I think I’m leaving it on a great note with this year’s show,” Jones said.