Most performing arts companies at Princeton would turn a reviewer away from their first dress rehearsal. Not eXpressions. On the Tuesday night rehearsal for the company’s fall show, “Journeys,” there were no excuses for recently learned choreography, apologies for missing dancers or even any sign of nerves or anxiety.
eXpressions is, after all, Princeton’s oldest dance company, with 35 years of performances to date. Granted, like all college companies, it has a four-year turnover. But with “Journeys,” the ladies of eXpressions present themselves as a group with a strong identity.
There are three general types of pieces in the program. There are the fun, hip-hop numbers to techno and dance music like The Black Eyed Peas’ “Rock that Body.” Then there are the emotional, lyrical dances to songs like Snow Patrol’s “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” And finally, there are a couple of intense, in-your-face pieces, such as the Act I closer “Royal T” by Crookers featuring Roisin Murphy.
Most of the songs in the program are recognizable, and the choreography is similarly accessible. The light-hearted pieces in particular seem like they could be performed in a club or at a party, and the lyrical numbers use tropes from “So You Think You Can Dance.”
While accessibility is a good thing, it also means that much of the choreography is formulaic. For many Princeton students, who haven’t spent years learning countless lyrical combinations, this might not be a problem. But after seeing the same jump to the ground and over-the-shoulder roll for the third time, even the dance novice is likely to note the monotony.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a few pieces in “Journeys” that break the mold. “Wanna Be Myself Tonight,” a piece to the song “Get Me Bodied” by Beyonce that was choreographed by Jessica Cabral ’11, turns standard arm movements into a kaleidoscope of limbs and creates interesting angles out of ordinary canons. All the dancers beam during this piece, especially Cabral.
The lyrical piece that stands out is titled, “Close to the Ground,” choreographed by Catherine Hsieh ’12 to Temper Trap’s “Soldier On.” It is a piece for six dancers, but there is always one that strays from the group. Although there are moments when the dancers break off into pairs, Hsieh avoids resorting to the symmetry that often comes in choreographing for an even number.
Although the lyrical pieces are enjoyable, some of the best moments in the show are when the dancers relax and don’t take themselves too seriously. In the fun pieces, energy and excitement make up for some lack of technique, whereas the more serious dances sometimes seem over the top.
The costumes throughout the show are relatively pedestrian — variations on a theme of leggings and either loose or cropped tops. The lighting, however, is superb and will catch audiences’ attention with each piece.
A special treat comes toward the middle of the program when company members Brittney Scott ’11 and Jess Turner ’12 perform “Someday” by John Legend, singing and playing piano, respectively.
Without fillers, “Journeys” is just under an hour and a half, a great length for a campus production. As stated, the ladies of eXpressions seem to know exactly how to put on a show. This might result in some hackneyed choreography, but in general “Journeys” is a fine way to celebrate 35 years of dancing on Princeton’s campus.
Pros Accessible and fun music and dancing.
Cons Repetitive choreography.
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