iDance Jazzes Up HDC

Mainly Jazz Company and TAPS team up to explore styles in lively show

iDance Jazzes Up HDC
Meredith H. Keffer

The minimalist stage—black floor, black walls, white screen—suddenly lit up in Technicolor, transforming the Harvard Dance Center into a club. This riveting opening formed a suitably entertaining and vibrant preface to iDance, a fun, fast-paced and well-executed performance that showcased the talents of two Harvard dance groups.

iDance was a collaboration between the Mainly Jazz Company (co-directed by Crystal Chang ’10 and Iris Odstrcil ’10) and TAPS (directed by Caitlin D. Driscoll ’11). The show’s program alternated between pieces by the two groups, with a finale performed by both. While the two troupes featured well-thought out pieces, Mainly Jazz was often more imaginative in its dances, performing stories as well as movement. TAPS’ arrangements were technically sound, but at times creatively restrained.

One of the most innovative numbers of the evening was Mainly Jazz’s “Music Box,” choreographed by Chang. Jennifer M. Batel ’12, Natalie A. Cameron ’11, and Odstrcil transformed themselves into Coppelia-esque wind-up toys, delicately moving about the stage with the precision of mechanical instruments. The plucked strings of the folk music—a piece by Yann Tiersen, best known for creating the soundtrack for “Amélie”—resonated as the dancers replied in stiff, precise arm movements that still managed to remain lyrical.

Ola S. Canty ’11 choreographed a powerful, hip-hop inspired dance to “Wrong,” by Depeche Mode, interrupting the sequence of dances that focused mainly on fluid, sensual movement for something much more muscular. Canty, Batel, Wanxin Cheng ’13, Callie A. Kolbe (Tufts ’10), and Tiffany E. Wen ’11 rose from the floor, dressed in white hoodies that partially obscured their faces. They proceeded to create a bold, monochromatic image of vertical motion. Their strong arm movements and fluid torsos, which at times evoked military orders, expressed the power and self-assuredness capable when one possesses full control over one’s own body.

Amid a few less exciting TAPS numbers, Driscoll’s vision of “Seven Seas of Rhye,” by Queen, stood out for its lightheartedness. Dancers lined up, silhouetted by the glowing blue background of the lighted screen. Then the dancers—Driscoll, Jennifer N. Kurdyla ’11, Rachel N. Moda ’13, Elisa M. Orr ’10 (who is also a Crimson designer), Elena M. Pepe ’13, and H. Zane B. Wruble ’11 (who is also a Crimson magazine editor)—turned and sashayed forwards, dressed as sailors. Their footwork was fast and precise, broken up by salutes and spiraling upper body movements that gave the dance more narrative flow. During the middle of the piece, they paused to run into the wings and returned as pirates brandishing gleaming scimitars. The dancers were obviously having fun, and their infectious energy lit up the room.

While “Seven Seas of Rhye” was loud and boisterous, Driscoll’s choreography to The Cordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” was an excellent example of the beauty of slower, exacting, and quieter tap-dancing. Driscoll, Kurdyla, and Wruble performed tight tap rhythms that counterbalanced the choreography’s whimsical use of gestures such as yawning, stretching, and falling asleep. The three dancers precisely and calmly complemented the mellow song with their footwork, infusing the piece with effervescence without being overbearing.

The performance’s most evocative moments remained those which showcased the talents of individual dancers; large group dances were often slightly out of sync and less elegant than smaller, more intimate pairs of dancers. However, the cameo performance by the Harvard Irish College Dancers “Corcairdhearg,” simply entitled “Rhythm of Ireland,” remained buoyant and well-arranged in spite of its large size. A small group of dancers bounced up and down effortlessly, moving only their legs in a fluid, precise line dance. Then, the rest of the company unexpectedly entered, tapping out a pulsing rhythm in an impressive and elegant footwork sequence that complemented the delicate, quick movements of the dancers.

Culminating in a collective number performed to the JXL remix of “A Little Less Conversation,” iDance featured a consistently high standard of dancing. The most engaging pieces seemed to be those where the choreographer had a clear aesthetic vision of the dance formations from beginning to end, whereas the less memorable dances did not always effectively use movement to create a spatial narrative. Though Mainly Jazz achieved this ambitious comprehensiveness more consistently than TAPS, iDance admirably showcased the talents of both groups.