AHANA’s semiannual dance performance always comes with a massive range of possibilities.
Where else could you see caricatures of every type of performer, video-game mockeries and evocative, elegant works, all in the span of one hour?
The diversity of AHANA Dance’s performances is undoubtedly owed to its role as a vehicle for student artistry. Every single element of the performance is student-created, from the pieces’ choreography to the technical choices.
The show offers opportunities for independent student choreographers as well as specialized dance groups.
And with that much of a range in choreographers, you never quite know what you’re going to get.
In the case of AHANA Dance’s Spring Show 2013, which ran from April 4 though 6 at the Performing Arts Studio in the Burlington Road Building, it meant everything.
The show kicked off with “Kill This Switch,” choreographed by College senior Lauren Kaplan and set to Icona Pop’s exuberant “I Love It.”
The piece was visually striking, with arresting colors and sensational tricks, but for the amount of energy generated by the music and Kaplan’s vivacious choreography, the overall mood of the piece was surprisingly lackluster.
The show went on to showcase performances by dance team E-Motion, tap group Tap That and several individual choreographers.
For the most part, those pieces were engaging for the span of the performance but didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that AHANA Dance’s choreography as a whole has grown, even over the past couple of years, and that evolution in the sophistication of their movement deserves to be recognized.
But the performance that undeniably left audiences talking was that by Trickanometry (TNT), Emory’s all-male hip-hop group.
Since the club’s inception four years ago, TNT has garnered an incredible amount of Emory star power for their high-energy performances, crowd-pleasing satires and explosive hip-hop stunts.
TNT’s self-titled routine was particularly noteworthy for its collaboration with Moving in the Spirit, an Atlanta-based organization that strives to inspire confidence and leadership in kids through dance. “Founded in 1986, Moving in the Spirit reaches over 250 young people annually through dynamic programs that educate, inspire and unite young people through dance in order to help them become successful, compassionate leaders,” according to their website.
Before the show began, TNT co-founder and College senior Julio Medina explained alongside Moving in the Spirit director Chris McCord that TNT had recently begun a partnership with the kids’ hip-hop group, Men in Motion, and this production marked the first time the boys were performing on the Emory stage.
But by the time TNT’s slot in the performance arrived, a good half-hour had passed, and most of us audience members had forgotten about that announcement and were just anticipating a good old-fashioned TNT performance.
The dancers started upstage, in dim lighting, moving in slow-motion towards the audience.
But as soon as the lights went up and the performers removed their hats, we were thrown for a loop – this wasn’t TNT at all, but rather their kid counterparts.
And by and large, these kids were unnervingly exact doppelgangers of the TNT dancers, demonstrating the same commitment and energy, which was a delight to see in action.
The TNT dancers themselves did not disappoint. They kicked off their routine with a satirical movement set to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” even parodying the “goat version” of the song that has recently gone viral.
They went on to mimic the old-fashioned Pac-Man video game sounds, and naturally, closed the routine with their trademark hip-hop stunts, bringing the kids back for solos of their own.
Together, the entire team dominated the stage with their fierce, uncompromising cool and confidence. That collaboration and demonstration of charisma alone was well worth the price of admission.
Additionally remarkable was College sophomore Dana Sokolowski, whose “Why Don’t You Like Me” closed the show on a bang.
The piece featured over a dozen performers, each depicting caricatures of a different kind of dancer: the prim and proper ballerina, the straight-faced hip-hopper and the Shirley Temple-esque, smile-permanently-pasted-on performer, to name a few.
As these dancers got tired, annoyed or frustrated, they gradually moved offstage, eventually returning as changed characters.
The piece exhibited technical talent, characterization and storytelling, and perhaps most importantly, the high-flying fun we’ve come to expect from AHANA Dance.
Serious, interpretative pieces are beautiful, but audience members come across humorous pieces like this one so rarely that the tonal shift always comes as a welcome change.Sokolowski’s willingness to poke fun at herself and how seriously artists take themselves could have come across as tactless, but she managed to keep it lighthearted and charming.
Like any ongoing conversation, the AHANA Spring Show came with plenty of filler.
The remainder of the pieces seemed to blend together, often leaving the audience with nothing but an impression of the costumes or the music.
Ultimately, this production didn’t leave me speechless. But AHANA Dance did succeed in providing an entertaining performance and giving Emory students an opportunity to showcase their creativity.
And in that vein, I was definitely impressed with the range, imagination and presence of Emory students. Fortunately, they’ll be back next semester to continue the conversation.
– By Emelia Fredlick