This past weekend, Brown community members packed into Alumnae Hall to watch the contemporary hip-hop dance group IMPULSE perform its 16th annual Spring showcase “Cake.”
The two-act performance — described as “incredibly impressive” by audience member Kaleb Hood ’21 — featured a dozen student-choreographed dances set to remixes of well-loved hits by artists like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande and 50 Cent.
Founded in 2003, IMPULSE is a 23-member, entirely student-run dance operation. While primarily a hip-hop group, IMPULSE prides itself on incorporating elements of other dance disciplines in its numbers and “encouraging choreographers to share whatever style they’re most comfortable in,” said Megan Gessner ’20, who has been involved with the group since her freshman year.
Though the group is known for its intense, multi-round audition process — and several of the current members are interested in dancing professionally — Gessner emphasized that IMPULSE dancers hail from a wide range of experience levels and dance backgrounds. “Some hadn’t danced before coming to Brown or (Rhode Island School of Design), and some were members of Elements before joining IMPULSE,” she said, referencing the IMPULSE-directed educational workshop and performance team that aims to provide Brown and RISD students with a “…collaborative outlet for (those) interested in hip hop dance.”
IMPULSE rehearsed for a full year — up to 12 hours a week — to perfect the dance numbers in “Cake,” and it showed. Each mesmerizingly complex number was inspired by a different theme. “Haunted Fem,” choreographed by dancers Carlos Tejada ’22 and Mindy Ng ’19, offered audiences what the program described as a “juxtaposition of spooky and powerful feminist vibez.”
“Confidence,” choreographed by Gessner, delivered a masterful exploration of three instances of confidence, “the groundedness that comes from knowledge, wisdom and time, the power that comes from embracing femininity and sensuality and the growth that comes from pain, heartbreak and experience,” according to the show’s accompanying program.
Group dances were regularly punctuated by creative interludes like “College Hill” and “40days40nights” — the former a sketch satirizing one RISD group member’s 20-minute commute to College Hill, and the latter a haunting solo performance by Eve Zelickson ’19 replete with fast-paced pops and body isolation moves.
On Friday and Saturday night, members of Elements performed dances they honed in a 5-week performance workshop directed by IMPULSE members Ng, Tafari Williams ’20 and Nkemdilim Ugwu ’20.
“As the years go on, I feel like they try to make it more and more inclusive, both in the number of people they recruit and the support they give us, which is really nice,” said Celina Sun ‘20, a Herald copy-editor and post- managing editor for narrative who has been involved with Elements since her freshman year.
Gessner also emphasized IMPULSE’s culture of support and inclusivity. “Our seniors and upperclassmen have been carrying on the tradition that they learned from those who came before them — bringing in the newbies and creating a really supportive environment. I’m really going to miss our seniors, it’s their last show and they made my experience on IMPULSE really special,” she said.