Arts & Culture

Fusion showcases emotional range in spring show

Program includes collaboration with Badmaash, dances inspired by current events

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, February 20, 2015

Nora Ellmann ’17 rehearses for Friday’s 32nd Annual Fusion Dance Company Spring Show. The show will present an assortment of hip-hop, ballet, modern, jazz and contemporary dances, all choreographed by students.

As the name suggests, Fusion Dance Company — Brown’s oldest student-run dance group — performs in a variety of styles, from modern to hip-hop. After watching the group’s Annual Spring Show, which features music ranging from the “Chicken Dance” to a ringtone to Timbaland, it becomes clear that Fusion can engage an audience with a wide range of choreography.

Founded in 1983, Fusion has put on a program of all student-choreographed and -performed pieces every year since. This year’s show expands beyond the group’s conventional contemporary and hip-hop combination. The program includes a South Asian-inspired collaboration with the Badmaash Dance Company and a rhythmic piece choreographed by alum Jamal Jackson ’00 set to a vocalized percussion track.

Lauren Behgam’s ’15 “Propinquity” begins the show with the alarming and propulsive electronica of Alt-J’s “Fitzpleasure.” Behgam’s mad-scientist approach to costuming and her jolting choreography complement the music’s frenetic sound. While the full-company performances, such as this one, sometimes have difficulty finding cohesive movement, they ultimately work off the strength of the choreography and emotion of individual performances. 

The show, despite abrupt shifts in tone, features both entertaining and passionate performances. Griffin Hartmann’s ’15 political commentary in “Handprints,” part of the passionate category,  stands out as one of the show’s most memorable moments. The performance grapples with disconnection and the images of Ferguson protestors, as dancers continuously reach out and struggle to grasp hands.

Rory MacFarlane’s ’15 “The City,” contains similar themes. The piece features four female performers, each taking their turn in the spotlight. At the end, only one of the four is left standing, the others thrown to the ground by the harshness of city life. An eerily slow recording of the optimistic “New York, New York” accompanies the piece. The contrast between visions of the city and its reality are stark and provocative.

Jacob Goldberg’s ’17 lighting design  plays an integral role in all the performances. Goldberg is able to form aesthetic environments that support and shape moods to complement the dancers and choreography. A spare silhouette against a harsh red backdrop or a single spotlight can drastically change the audience’s experience of a piece. 

The men of Fusion, despite their small numbers, stand out as performers. The powerful elegance of Jason Vu ’17 is featured heavily in the contemporary pieces, as are the crisp movements of Hartmann. And company manager MacFarlane’s hilarious turn in the penultimate “Senior Piece” alone is worth the $5 entrance fee.

Many of the women of Fusion also leave a lasting impression. Cara Mund ’16 at one point does an impressive number of fouettes, and Emma Russo’s ’15 hip-hop solo is a welcome shift from a series of dramatic contemporary pieces that, while individually strong, can occasionally meld into each other. Attayah Douglas ’17 also choreographs and dances in a thrilling and visceral jungle-inspired performance.

Fusion’s Annual Spring Show is an admirable display of original and collaborative student work. From its frenzied beginning to its uplifting final company number, the show explores diverse moods and styles. Most of all, the show is entertaining. Finding moments of humor between otherwise emotionally raw movement, Fusion’s performances should compel any appreciator of dance to attend.

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