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RnM, Terpsichore, and Ajoyo Spring Show a Success

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The Rhythm and Motion and Terpsichore show on Friday, one of the most anticipated and attended performances of the year, exceeded expectations. The show consisted of thirteen RnM pieces and five from Terpsichore, with one piece from the Bryn Mawr group Ajoyo.

RnM’s doesn’t have a single style, but in the past, it has been more influenced by the African Diaspora dance. This was evident the most in the opening piece, choreographed by Tinuké Akintayo ’18, Freddy Bernardino ’18, Ashley Mbah ’19, and Aly Rabin ’18. The opener exhibited aspects of the Umfundalai dance technique, which is also taught in the African dance courses offered here at Swat.

Many of the RnM pieces in the show came from other stylistic and cultural backgrounds. “Thicc Gyal and Latin Ting,” choreographed by Bernardino and Moniesha Hayles from Bryn Mawr, drew on Latinx and Caribbean-based movements and music. “Afghan Jalebi,” choreographed by Soumya Venkateswaran ’18 at Bryn Mawr, showcased a South Asian dance style against the Bollywood hit song “Afghan Jalebi” by Pakistani singer Asrar Shah. The student choreographers successfully incorporated traditional aesthetics while also using popular movements.

Part of what makes RnM pieces so fun to watch is that they choose popular dance styles and music selections. Songs like “Finesse” by Bruno Mars and Cardi B, artists like Beyoncé, clothes like a “Rugrats” sweatshirt, and trendy dance moves are immediately recognizable and relatable. It’s a celebration of our generation’s popular culture in a performance setting. Pieces like “Thicc Gyal and Latin Ting” and Akintayo’s “#Triplef:fiercefunflirty” also blurred the line between audience and performer when RnM dancers came out and danced in the audience.

For Ahsley Mbah ’19, popular media platforms are a basis for her choreography.

“I have definitely grown up watching tons of YouTube videos of dancers and being moved to create something that gives me the same feeling that I have when watching a dance video. I think I’m listening to music all the time and I’m dancing all the time. Every song I hear, I feel like there’s a choreography waiting to be made for it. Any song in general has the potential to be expressed through dance.”

Terpsichore is also a dance group based on student choreography, but whereas RnM participation is based on auditions, anyone can choreograph for Terpsichore. The pieces tend to display more lyrical and modern dance styles, but there is some crossover with incorporations of popular movements.

Ajoyo, a dance group from Bryn Mawr, also had the stage for one piece entitled “The Showdown.” Using inspiration from West African movements, the piece imitated a rivalry and then coming together of two groups, with a humorous ending when one of the dancers came back out to show off her splits.  

One aspect that makes the show so exciting for students is that all of the dance is choreographed by their peers. Student choreographers have control over all aspects of the process, from the music choice, the style of dance, the specific movements, and the mood they want to portray. The amount of creative freedom can prove daunting, but student choreographers have developed methods to make their visions real.

For student choreographers  music choice is central to the choreographic process. Liz Lanphear ’19 choreographed “Rain Dance” in fullfilment of a vision she had while listening to the song “Rain Dance” by Whilk and Misky.

“My mind constructed this story of a band of farmers recognizing the signs of the oncoming storm … and then celebrating this force of power and unpredictability that would also secure their livelihoods. That, to me, was a story I thought could be told compellingly through movement,” Liz Lanaphear said.

For Rabin, her inspiration for “Evergreen” simply came from finding a cool new piece of music, in this case the song “Evergreen” by YEBBA. When coming up with movements to set to her music choice, she looks back to past RnM pieces.

“My dance [is] definitely inspired a little bit by the choreography of past RnM performances, especially dancers who were seniors when I was a freshman. [They] did a really good job of combining African with Contemporary and finding a balance.”

Not all pieces are inspired by or set to music, however. Zara Williams-Nicholas ’19 set part of her piece “Colorblind” to an interview with Misty Copeland describing what it was like for her to be the first black principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. Homogeneity of body type and skin color has been a barrier for a lot of dancers in the professional world, and the highest paying and most accredited positions in the dance world are still largely held by naturally thin white people.

Williams-Nicholas, in her choreographic debut, impressively tackled this issue. In the program, she explained her objective.

“The piece attempts to create discourses about blackness in a white space, the desire to be heard, and the feeling of loneliness and a desire for solidarity.”

The show finale brought all the dancers onto the stage, and honored the seniors in each group: Tinuké Akintayo ’18, Freddy Bernardino ’18, and Aly Rabin ’18, and Bryn Mawr student Soumya Venkateswaran ’18 of RnM, and Charlotte Raty ’18, Rachel Diamond ’18, and Prairie Wentworth-Nice ̕18 of Terpsichore. The show was a highly entertaining break from the weeks leading up to finals.

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