Dance Labs Display Cultural Diversity in Student Performances

In the darkness, Katherine Wang ’21 began her solo to gnash and Olivia O’Brien’s “I Hate U, I Love U.” As the music intensified, the spotlight switched on and illuminated Wang onstage. Wang’s piece was a self-choreographed contemporary solo and one of the acts in the Fall 2018 Dance Labs.

“I chose that song because I wanted to try choreographing a piece that was more contemporary for the first time, and I found the emotional conflict in the song to be very interesting to portray. I choreographed it close to the lyrics and spent a few times in the studio to choreograph and practice,” said Wang.

“Even though I had many favorite performances, I truly enjoyed Katherine Wang’s in particular because it was beautiful to watch and very elegant. She performed with many smooth movements and kept me engaged throughout the whole time,” said audience member Angie Collado ’21.

This past Friday evening, the Dance Department held its Fall Dance Labs, which featured a variety of dance styles, including hip-hop, traditional Indian dance, contemporary, and modern. Uanne Chang ’20, Director of Dance Labs, hopes that the event can draw more students outside of members of the dance community.

“Something that I really liked was the diversity in the dances [showcased]. For Dance Labs, we didn’t want it to just be for people in the Dance Department. We also wanted people who don’t normally do dance as a sport… It’s for people who love hip hop and want to do it on their own or people who want to try choreographing a solo for the first time. As a result, because our range was so open, everything was so diverse,” said Chang.

According to performers, inspiration for choreography came from each dancer’s personal background and cultural influences. Layomi Oloritun ’20 drew inspiration from Afro-Caribbean and hip-hop music. His performance to H.E.R.’s “Still Down” incorporated long, fluid movements contrasted by sharp pops and locks.

“I’ve been dancing professionally since [Junior] Year, so since two years ago. My favorite dance styles are Afro-Caribbean and hip hop… My moves are very fluid, and with this song in particular, there’s a lot of isolation, which means there are a lot of very fast and small movements that really stand out,” said Oloritun.

Though directing her first Dance Labs presented new difficulties, Chang says she was happy to participate in an experience that drew dancers from a wide range of cultural and dance backgrounds to one space.

“Learning how to work with a lot of these things like tech, lighting, scheduling, and rehearsal — I had never done that before, so it was a challenge, but also a new experience for me. Something that was really fun was working with all of the dancers and being able to see what each dancer and each group created… on their own,” said Chang.