Take modern forms of communication, social media, twitter precisely, choreograph a few communicative moves, add captivating video, and you have a breathtaking dance performance, as a result. During this spring semester of 2014, I happened to attend a dance performance that warranted the description of outstanding. Directed and choreographed by David Rousseve, “Stardust” is a trendsetter in the world of dance. Performed in the amazing auditorium at the University of Maryland, the movements, and the accentuations of video and lighting effect were breathtakingly presented, making the 85 minutes the dance lasted worth the sacrifice.
The dance crew consisted of 10 dancers that made the movements and combinations easy for the audience to understand. David Rousseve performed a solo too, in compliment to the group routines. The dance follows the story of a black homosexual kid, detailing his struggles for friendship and acceptance in a world that seems to shun his sexual orientation. The messages screened on to the black space serve as the main elements communicating his condition. For instance, the opening message screened on to the seeming four dimension black void is an expression of his desires, ‘I want a BFF sooo bad, someone who understand how I feel and give me love’. The background of such messages expressing his desires and hopes is replicated on stage by the dancers. The messages and the movements of the dancers show his un-replicated quest for affection; thus the dance routines make much more sense when evaluated on the background of the screened messages. The dance motions kick happen intermittently with coordinated sequences, dancers dancing in unison, interspersed with a lone dancer gyrating wildly out of synch from the well choreographed moves. The synched dancers seem to represent the conformity expected in society, everyone falling in line to accustomed norms and manners. The lone dancer, out of synch with the other dancers seems to be expressing him/ herself in unfamiliar fashion, however, in rebellion or expression of his orientation. The dance progresses to a performance by all the dancers, some doing synched movements while others perform individual movements. They all withdraw from the dance floor unable to fit a common rhythm. This part shows the difficulty experienced in trying to fit society. The second segment of the dance comprised of acts by all the dancers, culminating in a sole exhibition, where the dancer gyrates energetically, culminating in a crescendo, simulating sexual gratification. The video enhancement shows a bird flying graciously against a clear background, indicating a possible harmony that would be achieved if everyone were left to pursue his or her happiness in an accommodating atmosphere (Lapecki, pag 109-45).
The dance employed creative use of time as an element in its presentation. The theme builds up from the beginning, and then layered out in the sequences that follow, thus enhancing the ability of an observer to follow the message. At its start, the dance is slow and invites the observer to taking interest. As the time advances, the dance introduces elements that build on the initial introduction, showing the interaction of the protagonist, the gay kid, with the community, his struggles. This phase increases in tempo indicating the hustle of trying to fit in within a closeted society, in a single lifetime. Finally, at the close of the dance, and at the conclusion of time, a hypothetical success for the gay kid is acted out, and possible harmony in the society at individual liberties. The tempo in this phase is quick, showing the anxiousness characterized by one enjoying a rare success. Then, the tempo slows down showing the satisfaction of finding a rare moment of joy, and savoring it, never wanting it to end. The time is utilized, therefore, as an element that enables assimilation and acceptance of all cadres of individuals in society, in a sequential manner.
The dancers utilized weight in synch with the effect their movements were intended to evoke. There were instances where the dancers seemed to float in the air, when the movements portrayed a lingering beyond the current moment (Lapecki, pag 109-45). This feature was prominent in the first and the last phases of the dance. Other movements were heavy and fast, especially in the middle phase of the dance, where the transitions between interactions were quick and mostly repulsive of contact. The stage space was utilized in conjunction with lighting. Areas where the action concentrated were illuminated by a single beam; however, it followed the dancers around the stage, helping amplify the sense of movement as an aspect of living, rather than routine in dance (Lapecki, pag 109-45). Further, the concentrated lighting and space effect helped in illumination of the beamed messages showing the happenings on stage to be happening in the larger scheme of things, the society. The contact between the dancers varied throughout the dance performance. Hard focus shone through in scenes where the performance required close contact, intimating intimacy, while indirect, indifferent, and individual performances occurred in places where solitude, neglect, and self expression were required.
The dancers wore black outfits that could pass for casual wear in the body of the dance. The costumes helped make them appear as ordinary people navigating the challenges of life. In the sensual dance routines, however, the male dancers wore fitting outfits lending them a sexual feel, while the women wore loosely fitting and more revealing outfits than in the non-sensual scenes. The music employed in the actualization of the dance is a combination of jazz and hip hop sounds, which were applied in the appropriate sequences. The gloomy feeling to the dance, achieved through use of minimal lighting and dark costumes is thawed by the music, especially the hip hop beats which the audience could rock to being it not for the intenseness of the dance theme (Dixon, pag 76-87).
The dance was a successful representation of the theme it chose. The various elements are utilized to communicate the theme of homosexuality to the audience without risking portraying indecency, despite the high risk the subject matter presents. The audience leaves the auditorium informed, entertained, and inspired. The presentation manages to tackle a sensitive subject without polarizing opinion (Dixon, pag 76-87). This feat is managed by framing the struggles of the protagonist in a wider scheme of events and space. Comparison of his experiences and wishes against a wider rationalized community, rather than by stark presentation of the specificities on the subject reduces the sensitivity associated with the subject.
Dixon, Steve. Digital performance: a history of new media in theater, dance, performance art, and installation. MIT Press (MA), 2007.
Lepecki, Andre. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the politics of movement. Routledge, 2006.
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