Crimson Dance Team Tackles TV

In the wake of performing at nationals, CDT looks forward to a more relaxed show

As your average Harvard student traded spring break sun-worshipping for response papers and problem sets under the dreary early-April skies of Cambridge, the 14 young women of The Harvard Crimson Dance Team (CDT) fouetted their way to a fifth-place national finish in a band shell overlooking Daytona Beach.

Performing to a Hollywood-themed medley—including Madonna’s “Hollywood,” Missy Elliott’s “Shake Your Pom Pom,” and Prima J’s “Rock Star”—at the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship held April 10-11, the CDT dancers made their jumps and turns look effortless. But make no mistake: there’s a lot of technical training and maybe even an aspiring ballerina or two behind this rock star exterior.

“Within the dance team, all the girls come from different backgrounds of dance,” co-captain Daniella G. Urbina ’10 says. “The junior class is, like, all lyrical dancers,” she adds, laughing. “The sophomores have a more jazzy background, I would say. And our freshmen are a little bit more trained in ballet, and some of them are hip-hop as well.”

This diversity of styles will be on display this weekend in “CDTV,” the CDT’s latest rendition of their annual Arts First concert production. The pieces, choreographed by individual members of the team, will range from an emotionally intense lyrical duet on the theme of cheating on a loved one, to a jazzy and sassy dance set to a Britney Spears mix, to a reprise of the nationals routine. Loosely organized around the theme of television stardom, the dancers will spoof programs like “America’s Next Top Model” and “American Idol” in between numbers.

After bi-weekly performances for men’s basketball and a grueling training schedule leading up to nationals—including nine hour daily practices during spring break—the CDT dancers describe the few short weeks they’ve had to put together the 14 pieces for “CDTV” as a welcome reprieve.

“You come back from nationals and have extremely intense rehearsal for everyone else’s piece in addition to your own,” Kristen E. Calandrelli ’10 says. “Yet everyone calls it the most fun part of the year. All of a sudden, you’re getting to learn what their style is, how they like to put pieces together,”

Nationals routines pack the punch of three discrete styles—jazz, pom, and hip-hop—in under two minutes. Yet the judging rubrics don’t leave a lot of room for individual interpretation: movement must be hard-hitting and in unison all of the time. “Even jazz and hip-hop are reduced to such a tight-looking form of dance that everything looks like pom,” Malin S. von Euler-Hogan ’10 says, referring to the competitive dance style characterized by precise and tight arm movements.

Performing for a Harvard audience rather than Universal Dance Association judges this weekend, the CDT members look forward to the opportunity to showcase their individual dance personalities instead of mere technical precision.

Together, Calandrelli and Euler-Hogan are choreographing an ebullient jazz number to Gnarls Barkley’s “Smiley Faces,” a piece that allows them to draw on their own experience with a looser, stylized form of jazz dance.

“Out in the sun havin’ fun and you’re feeling free / And I can tell you how hard this life can be / But you keep on smilin’ for me,” the boombox blares during evening practice at the Malkin Athletic Center. As the dancers break into grins while practicing handstands of sorts, it’s hard to see how the audience this weekend could not catch their contagious enthusiasm.

—Staff writer Alison S. Cohn can be reached at