FlyPeople demonstrates emotional range of dance forms

FlyPeople, Vassar’s student-run dance company, presented their fall showings on Dec. 2 and 3., showcasing a diverse set completely choreographed and art directed by student members. Courtesy of Kimmie Nguyen

On Dec. 2 and 3, Vassar’s oldest student-run dance company, FlyPeople, hosted their annual Fall Show to exhibit the talent and diverse range of styles that each member of the group possesses. Comprising 10 pieces that were all choreographed by students, the Fall Show, held in the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, was teeming with students, parents and faculty.

The show opened with “Bergamot and My Brain,” which used “Sea Castle” by Purity Ring as the soundtrack. A modern piece that combined flowing movements with jerky ones, it aimed to convey the various emotions one feels as they progress through the different stages of life. The piece symbolized the breaking of societal norms, and its intense contrast between the music and choreography, as well as the dark undertones of the lighting, translated the anger, frustration and madness beautifully.

The next piece, “Process,” was distinctly unconventional. The instructional voice of Bill T. Jones from a fragment of “The Breathing Show” washed over the theatre, dictating the movements of the three dancers on stage. Yet each dancer embraced their own style, and the piece became progressively frenzied as the cast lost themselves in the music, each bringing their own interpretations to a standardized set of instructions. FlyPeople Executive Board member Tiana Chung ’19 relayed her understanding of the piece: “It tells us that there’s no defined way of moving; that there’s no right or wrong in the general realm of dance.”

Titled “oh.,” the next piece was meant to extract exactly that reaction from the audience. With “Woke Up Today” by Jacob Collier as its soundtrack, this high-energy piece was a surreal experience that involves the passing on of happiness. Dancer Kaya Deuser ’20 shared, “I think Ryan, the choreographer, is a genius. I would call this a quirky, happy piece. I really felt that it expressed that everyone’s a child at heart, showcasing complete madness and joy.”

“Push,” a contemporary piece, played with various dynamics. Co-choreographers Henry Gilbert ’20 and Turner Hitt ’18 explained, “We had ideas of how different relationships can seem supportive but are actually toxic, and how that disparity can play out. So, we tried to create movement that showed these ideas by incorporating lots of cause-effect motions and various interactions between the dancers.” The theme of imbalance that they played with was translated very emotionally to the audience, with grace that conveyed passion and angst and matched the mood of their music, “Push Me To The Floor” by Parlotones.

“Heavy Metal & Reflective,” named after the song by Azealia Banks, was an absolute delight. The hip-hop style and distinct “street vibe” added a new dimension to the show. “We were a scooter squad,” Chung, the co-choreographer, joked. “This piece was meant to be high energy and edgy and showcase some of the hip-hop talent of the group.” Deuser, who danced in this piece, shared how much she loved it: “You just feel empowered after dancing this piece, ready to take on the world.”

The next piece, “For a While,” was heart-wrenching, characterized by graceful movements, frantic running and melancholy lighting. Abby Hebert ’20, a dancer in this piece, explained, “It’s about losing someone dear to you but holding onto them. Our blue collared T-shirts symbolized wearing the T-shirt of someone you have lost, and feeling connected to them through it.” Appropriately, the piece was choreographed to “In this Shirt” by The Irrepressibles.

The following piece, “Zoom,” was easy-going and mellow, with the soundtrack “Green Aphrodisiac” by Corinne Bailey Rae. Petch Kingchatchaval ’20 explained the choreographer’s intention behind this contemporary piece: “The dance was meant to be very organic, with a contrast between sharp and sensual movements.”

Choreographed to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, the next piece was distinctly nostalgic, with the cast dressed in flannel shirts, as though longing for home, or for simpler, happier times. The chorus was the high-point of the piece, culminating into an energetic flurry of hope that contrasted with the sad undertones of the song.

The subsequent piece, “Flowing or Flowing Out,” was an alternative, contemporary work that matched the feel of its soundtrack: “Taro” by Alt-J. Hebert, one of the dancers, elucidated, “This piece is about transitions … It’s about taking on new things while still holding onto your old life with a tinge of nostalgia. The piece also has some dark undertones, symbolizing the fear of change…”

The finale of the night, “Flove,” was an upbeat, high-energy conclusion to a brilliant show. Hebert smiled and said, “Everyone has different dance backgrounds but we really came together as a unit throughout this show, especially in this piece.”

FlyPeople spans all types of dance, from contemporary to jazz to hip-hop, and provides the opportunity for all members to choreograph. According to Artistic Director Kerri Bell ’17, the vibe of every show is different. Since choreographers have full control over their pieces, they can take complete liberty with style, lighting, costuming and music, essentially designing completely unique pieces, which make for entirely differing shows.

“This year,” Bell elucidated, “the show has a more mellow, feel-good, relaxing vibe to it, which is a nice change … I also really enjoyed helping our first-time choreographers stage their pieces. Choreographers have a hard time because it’s one thing to picture a piece in your head but it’s quite another to then apply that choreography to the different styles and body movements of different people. But it’s very rewarding to incorporate everyone’s styles and bounce ideas off each other. That way, we all learn from each other, and each person is highlighted, showcased and just has a good time, which is what we strive for here at FlyPeople.”

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