Despite the dreary conditions outside, temperatures were rising on Friday evening in Lowell Lecture Hall during “Too Darn Hot,” a joint performance featuring Harvard’s Mainly Jazz Dance Company (co-directed by Taylor M. Owings ’08 and Alyssa N. Nylander ’08) and TAPS (directed by Erin P. McKenna ’09). The show was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of dance that was highly energized, widely varied, and enthusiastically executed.
The strengths of the weekend’s performance lay in its fast pace and well-planned program order. The evening’s mixture of jazz and tap, with a guest appearance by the South Asian Dance Company and a stunning Irish dance number thrown in for good measure, provided a recipe for success.
Excellent music choices and clean and well-rehearsed footwork made the numbers by TAPS consistently entertaining. An easy-to-watch, smiling stage presence clearly conveyed how much fun the dancers were having. They set a lively tone for the evening with their company number, which Megan M. Powell ’08 choreographed to Lily Allen’s “Knock ‘Em Out.” The dancers executed the choreography with enthusiasm and exhilarating precision, an impressive feat for a company piece.
The other TAPS numbers did not disappoint. Susan E. Maya ’08 choreographed a piece to “Crabbuckit” by K-Os that presented a fresh and compelling juxtaposition of the dancers’ refined steps and the funky, hip-hop vibe of K-Os’s sound. Caitlin D. Driscoll ’11, Jennifer N. Kurdyla ’11, Natalie J. Peters ’09, Jayne Wolfson ’08, and Maya herself admirably combined the music’s more laid-back elements with the choreography’s demanding footwork.
TAPS appeared again in a piece that McKenna choreographed to “I’m My Own Walkman.” Bobby McFerrin’s piece was an excellent musical choice, as his smooth and innovative vocals lent themselves to the dancers’ sophisticated stage presence and polished movements. The choreography’s greatest strength lay in brief moments of silence in which the dancers froze, creating a striking contrast to the rest of their movements.
The Mainly Jazz Dance Company’s strongest appearance in the first half of the evening was a piece that choreographer Christina G. Vangelakos ’09 set to B2K’s “Take it to the Floor.” The high-energy piece combined elements of hip-hop and jazz for a fresh performance in which Kelly L. Fitzgerald ’10, Iris Odstrcil ’10, Owings, and Vangelakos truly shone. The choreography, which involved some demanding floor work and turn sequences, was generally strong but flagged a bit during a few redundant sequences when all the dancers repeated the same movements.
David F. “Ricky” Kuperman ’11 showcased his considerable talent in a self-choreographed piece to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah.” Kuperman successfully incorporated stunning jump sequences into the slower choreography and seamlessly moved to and from floor work in a way that the other slow jazz pieces could not.
Alissa Cooperman ’10 choreographed a strong piece to Ciara’s “Like A Boy.” Costumed in DHAs and cut-off tees, Ola S. Canty ’11, Samantha R. Reiser ’11, Odstrcil and Cooperman effectively captured the song’s focus on liberation. The choreography, which focused on shoulder movements and torso contractions, expertly expressed the masculinity of Ciara’s words while maintaining fluid transitions between steps.
One of the highlights of the second act was an Irish dance number, “Ceili Reels,” in which women from both Mainly Jazz and TAPS collaborated. In beautiful and brightly colored traditional Irish dance costumes, choreographers Siobhan P. Connolly ’08, Whitney L. M. Kress ’08, Meaghan J. Beattie ’08, Driscoll, and Fitzgerald performed complex sequences of incredibly fast footwork while keeping their upper bodies still with seeming ease. At the end of the piece, the music cut out and the dancers closed with an amazingly unified and increasingly rapid sequence of steps.
In the final performance of the evening, TAPS and Mainly Jazz came together for a classy and high-energy piece that McKenna choreographed to Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot.” The performance culminated in an effective series of poses synced with colored light cues, followed by a huge pyramid formation in which the dancers finished with a thrilling, Charleston-inspired sequence.
As the contagious enthusiasm of the final number demonstrated, “Too Darn Hot” was an exhilarating evening of high-quality dance—and a great deal of fun.
—Crimson reviewer Rachel M. Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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