HYPE hosts spring showcase for the first time in three years

Courtesy of Angus Bernet

On April 2, HYPE, Vassar’s only non-audition hip hop group, hosted their 2022 showcase at Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater. The performance marks their first showcase since 2019, with the lessening of COVID restrictions on campus allowing HYPE to finally perform for a large audience. Indeed, excitement filled the air that night—students and families populated the auditorium, loved ones brought bouquets of flowers for the dancers and every piece was met with enthusiastic cheers and resounding applause. 

Rehearsing the showcase beforehand was an arduous process for HYPE. The group split practice into two phases, splitting which pieces to be taught before break and after break. HYPE President Onyinyechi Attah ’22, better known as “O,” recalled, “[Even] those two phases were not enough time. It was like four weeks, maybe for each piece. So we had to do two hour rehearsals so people [could] get it in their brains.” The first time HYPE actually got to practice their entire routine on stage was the day of the show. Members could be found going over dance routines on stage, working with the lighting team on how to best illuminate dancers, and even cutting shirts in the dressing room.

Yet the hard work put in by HYPE members shone through with their performances. The show began with the turquoise curtains of the stage opening to reveal Creative Director Jancely Arias ’24 and Attah at stage right and left, dancing to the program’s opening act, Doja Cat’s “Woman.” Choreographed by Treasurer Camille Donald ’22, the dance sees Arias and Attah dancing individually in their own spotlights before they are joined by fourteen other members. Watching the sea of purple t-shirts across the stage, one couldn’t help but notice the confidence in each member’s steps. Each member moves in unison, yet manages to display their individuality through their movements as their bodies glow beneath the warm pink lights. Indeed, this seems to be the piece’s intention. Yesmina Townsley ’23, who danced in the opening act, stated, “The vibe of that song is just everyone on stage feeling themselves being like, ‘I’m that woman, like you can’t tell me nothing.’”

Courtesy of Angus Bernet ’22

After “Woman” came Gunna’s “alotta cake,” choreographed by HYPE Secretary Nanako Kurosu ’23. Describing her piece, Kurosu explained, “I tend to choreograph slower, more mellow pieces [with] softer movements. And [“alotta cake”] is a hip hop-like rap song, but I tried to incorporate both hard hitting movements and slower movements where each of the individuals on the piece can kind of add their own flair to it.” Through the piece, Kurosu’s dancers manage to combine heaviness and softness with their steps. The lighting adds to this juxtaposition, with soft blue lights punctured by yellow strobe lights illuminating different angles of the dancers’ bodies.

Following “alotta cake” was Saweetie’s “Best Friend.” Unlike the rest of the pieces in HYPE’s showcase, this piece was a duet, featuring Eliana Blam ’22 and Creative Director Ilana Frost ’22, who choreographed the piece. Dressed in tank tops that said “HYPE,” the two dancers’ energy together was contagious—audience members cheered for them as they moved across the stage.

Courtesy of Angus Bernet ’22

The showcase made a turn towards ’90s classics with Crystal Waters’ “100% Pure Love,” choreographed by Eric Feeney ’22. “It’s a really fun, upbeat-like dance track. A lot of attention got reignited [through a] lip sync for it on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And so like, the gays are really living for that,” explained Feeney, who discovered the piece himself while learning house in a hip hop dance class. He went on, “It’s been really wonderful to have such a high energy [with the style].” Feeney’s routine sees six dancers, each individually dressed to a color of the rainbow, swaying their arms to the music, moving around the stage before dramatically dropping to the floor as the stage turns red and the dancers become silhouettes.

The high energy of the piece carried on with Silk Sonic’s “777,” which was choreographed by Edie Pike ’25. Dancing in front of a bright orange background, the performers almost seemed to lose themselves with every step. Each step was accompanied by a smile as they seemed to have fun moving amongst each other. In this performance, HYPE lived up to its name—one could feel the audience’s hype in their excited shouting during the performance and in their loud applause when it ended.

The energy of the show didn’t die down during intermission. During the fifteen minute break, HYPE showcased their 2022 music video, an eight minute montage of various dances the group filmed in the Fall 2021 semester by VCTV. The audience watched HYPE members perform in different parts of campus, such as the Rose Parlor, to songs such as Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby.” Very few audience members left their seats, enthralled by not only the performances, but also VCTV’s camera techniques.

Courtesy of Yesmina Townsley ’23

After the intermission, the showcase’s second act began with Tank’s “I Don’t Think You’re Ready,” choreographed by Naomi Young ’24. Unlike preceding performances like “777” or “100% Pure Love,” this choreography exuded a more sensual energy. The piece incorporates chairs, accentuating body movements as dancers spread their legs out and rocked their hips. “It turned out even better than I expected, and it really came together during our final practices, especially that last formation where the pictures that the dancers create are very visceral,” Young said, reflecting on the process of creating the choreography. “It wasn’t easy, but the difficulty challenged me creatively and really forced me to view things as artistically as possible.” The dance, like the other pieces, received thunderous applause—one audience member could even be heard saying, “Yes ma’am” as they clapped.

Next came Brockhampton’s “GUMMY,” choreographed by Eliana Blam ’22. The piece began with a melodic swell of orchestral music sweeping through the stage, as Maia Beaudry ’25 came in and performed an elegant ballet routine across the floor. Her bright white dress and silky ballet shoes contrasted the six other dancers dressed in black t-shirts with their heads down. Something was not right. A loud buzz suddenly pierced the air. Lights began to flicker. Beaudry swayed her head in confusion and dashed off stage as the song abruptly cut to a hip hop, rap style, and the six dancers started to move in quick and sharp movements. They danced for the majority of the piece until Beaudry finally joined them in the center.

Courtesy of Yesmina Townsley ’23

Aminé’s “RATCHET SATURN GIRL,” choreographed by Attah and Talia Roman ’25, carried a similar theme of juxtaposition. “I’ve been wanting to do this piece since my freshman year,” Attah said. She described the song as half hip hop, half contemporary-like and accredited Roman’s experience in Coalesce in assisting with the more contemporary portion of the piece. “I wanted [to have] a small group for the hip hop parts since I don’t know how many people listen to Aminé that much… So probably in their head, they’re thinking [that] I mixed [the parts] with something but no, this is the song,” Attah said. “So I wanted that element of surprise when I was choreographing. The hip hop part [has] very strong, sharp movements. And then the contemporary one is more flowy.” In the piece, a trio danced to the hip hop parts in hoodies and sweatpants before the dramatic cut to the contemporary portion of the movement. There, all the dancers dressed in white tops and flowy black skirts, moving like waves across the stage.

The next piece of the showcase was a mashup of A$AP Rocky’s “Praise the Lord” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” choreographed by Attah, Donald, Frost and Young. Starting with “Praise the Lord,” Donald danced center stage while hands from the wings clapped along to her movements. Other dancers soon joined her, only for lights to violently flash as Young took a solo in the center. The dancers reunited to perform the last half of the piece, “Humble.”

Courtesy of Yesmina Townsley ’23

Before moving on to the final piece, Young and Arias came to the front of the stage to thank all those who helped make this year’s showcase possible. The closing number, a mashup of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Megan’s Piano” and “Thot Shit,” featured all the HYPE members dancing together. At the end of the show, the dancers all took their final bows, not before continuing to dance with each other until the curtains were drawn.

In each piece, an overall theme seemed to be the freedom dancers evoked in their performances. Reflecting on what dancing meant to them, Kanako Kawabe ’22 said, “I feel like, especially because we live in a society where so much discipline is around not moving… There’s something that can be really freeing about just letting your body move and reconnecting with the ability to let yourself move in the ways that you want to.” 

This sentiment captures the inclusive nature of HYPE—a club that welcomes dancers of all skill levels and allows them to perform in an exciting space. Speaking of her experience in HYPE, Attah said, “I did not start dancing until I got here. I’m very glad HYPE was there, because it really made a really memorable freshman year for me. So that’s why I continued to be at the org. It just lets me express myself… So I’m just very grateful and happy for that.”

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