In the midst of November’s Harvard-Yale excitement, the women and men of Mainly Jazz and Taps presented an entertaining collaboration of dance forms with their show “No Turning Back.” Though showcasing a wide array of styles and skills, both groups left much promising room for technical and artistic growth.
Despite some unevenness of technique and lack of commitment to performance quality, Mainly Jazz’s overall performance featured individual talent, clean formations, and beautiful moments of unity. In the show’s opening number, for example, set to the song “Crawl” by Kings of Leon, dancers strutted powerfully with flowing arms and effectively accentuated the music with sharp movements. Unfortunately, when the timing was off in the duet sections, this powerful effect was momentarily lost to the audience. The sizzling number, “Fever,” showcased four of Mainly Jazz’s women scantily clad in various articles of black lacey clothing, which was slightly distracting given the already sexy choreography. Seductive expressions and silhouetted lighting, however, made this well-rehearsed piece fun to watch.
Co-director Ola Canty ’11, choreographer of “Crawl,” displayed more artistic potential with her second work, “Glass, Concrete, and Stone.” The eclectic beats of the sleepy but distinctly alternative music provided a base for the juxtaposition of melting, fluid arms with flexed feet and isolations. The movement and music, however, were at times ineffectively incongruous, especially when the dance became showy and presentational. If remedied through a greater awareness of and commitment to this incongruity, the piece could have taken its effect a step further.
Mainly Jazz’s second piece, “Say,” presented codified lyrical movement with modern and ballet influence. Though rhythmically simple and redundant as the chorus of the song repeated, choreographer Jennifer Batel ’12 made use of flat-back arabesques to create clean lines and canons for particularly strong visual effect. Among the eye-catching white sequined tops, co-director Natalie Cameron ’11 shined particularly brightly, as she sustained her attitude turns and embodied the feeling of the music. In fact, throughout the evening, Cameron’s outstanding performance quality and solid technique set her apart from the other dancers on stage. This was especially evident in her 1920s-inspired piece, “Le Jazz Hot.” Had all performers similarly committed to the dazzling fringed costumes and flirty flapper flavor, it would have significantly elevated the energy of the piece.
Given the small size of the group, the overall display by TAPS was extremely impressive. The numbers “Come Fly With Me” and “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” employed elegant motions, syncopated beats, and classy outfits to reflect the jazzy voices in their accompanying songs. At one exciting moment in “Come Fly With Me,” performers executed tricky turns on the tops of their tap shoes one-by-one, synchronized with the music. The intricate footwork in “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” was well-managed, though the apparent difficulty could have been masked with more consistently pleasant expressions to match the easy feel of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice.
The contrast of the hip-hop inspired number, “Kiss Kiss,” was puzzling. The gentle movement and serious expressions failed to match the heated lyrics and pumping beat. An entirely different song choice would have done much more justice to the performers’ excellent ability to keep in time and carry out their steps.
The standout piece for TAPS was a trio choreographed by director Jennifer Kurdyla ’11 to “Dog Days are Over” by Florence & the Machine. Kurdyla effectively used the driving groove and contrasting slow and fast sections of the song to inspire the movement, crafting a piece that was cohesive but displayed great diversity of style and a wide range of dancing ability. The noise of the tap shoes was creatively juxtaposed with the clapping in the music, and jazz movements without a tap component distinguished this piece from the others performed by the company. As the piece came to a climactic close, all three dancers simultaneously broke out into individual variations of the movement, mirroring the many components of the music.
The final piece featured all the dancers from both companies. With many people coming and going from the stage, the number was vibrant and exciting. The integration of styles could have been pushed farther, but the partnering between dancers, flawless formations, and beaming smiles made this number an effective close to an enjoyable evening.