This week, Street had the opportunity to sit down with the officers of BodyHype and chat about their experience with one of the most successful and captivating dance companies on campus. President Amy Sun ’14, Vice President Celina Culver ’15 and Artistic Director Alison Malkowski ’14 offered an inside look into BodyHype’s group dynamic, artistic inspiration and their upcoming show “Redemption.”
The Daily Princetonian: How has BodyHype changed over the years since it was first created in 1991?
Amy Sun: We used to be a much smaller company. I’ve met a lot of BodyHype alumni who comment on how much we’ve grown and how it’s great to see that the males in our company have a much stronger presence now. Before, many of the guys in the group had the main role of lifting girls — but now, they do a lot more lyrical, contemporary and hip-hop movements.
DP: In your opinion, what makes BodyHype different from the rest of the dance groups on campus?
Celina Culver: I think we are the most diverse dance group on campus, in terms of style. A lot of times, people try to break into a category of lyrical or hip-hop, but there’s such a wider range of movement throughout the dance world. BodyHype strives to show all the diversity in dance — we have all types of jazz, musical theater and so much more. I even have a personal example. I’m a ballet dancer, so I never really considered myself a hip-hop dancer of any sort … I wouldn’t even be able to say I’m a jazz dancer. But that’s what I do in BodyHype now — I have my contemporary, but now I’m also doing a hip-hop piece this semester which I would never be able to do a year and a half ago.
AS: Adding to that, I remember within one piece, we went from tap to jazz to hip-hop and then to salsa. It was awesome. We want to make sure everyone in the company is featured in shows. No matter how good they are in the beginning, people who want to choreograph will always have an opportunity. In fact, you’ll rarely see one person choreographing more than one piece for one show. Also, since there are so many different types of dances, we basically dance with every member in the company. We strive to have two big company pieces in each of our shows, as a chance for everyone to dance together. So I feel like we’re a more cohesive group as a whole.
Alison Malkowski: Yeah, I was in a similar situation and ended up doing hip-hop. Through BodyHype, you just end up finding things you didn’t know you’d find just because you now have the opportunity to do so. We have a stereotype of being the lyrical group, but I think it’s just because people see a kick and turn in a dance and assume it’s lyrical. However, there are so many other styles within our dancing. Even with contemporary, we have our serious modern contemporary — but we can also have a different, fiercer contemporary style. We try to cover all bases. Another difference is that since we traditionally keep to being a smaller coed dance company, we want our shows to be a creative product of everyone in the company, instead of a showcase for a few individuals.
DP: How would you describe the group dynamic of BodyHype?
AS: We’re really known for supporting each other. During rehearsals, we watch each other dance. Everyone’s in different pieces and it’s not uncommon to hear all these random cheers and people screaming things like “Yeah high kicks! YEAH THREE TURNS!” We support each other like crazy. That’s the best part of having a smaller and more diverse company — you get to know everyone.
CC: We have double runs every week, where basically our whole company meets on Sunday and watches each other’s pieces. Whenever we have a new piece, everyone goes crazy!
AM: Our group dynamic extends outside of rehearsal too. Since we have people in other performing arts groups as well, we have Google Docs planning when to go to each other’s shows. It’s just really cool. We have a whole family backing whatever we’re going to do.
DP: Can you tell us a bit about your dance choreography?
AM: We typically have proposals at the beginning of each semester. Everyone attends the meeting and anyone can stand up and propose a piece. We have some people who choreographed for the first time here in BodyHype. People are kind of nervous about choreographing for the first time and they really want to learn, so we pair them with someone who has had experience. The ability for everyone to choreograph is a really unique opportunity that we offer.
AS: I feel like a lot of our pieces try to tell a story with our movement. It’s cool to have abstract pieces, but we also have pieces with more obvious stories. We had one about mad housewives, our bed piece about abandoned love, and one was even in a workplace. We try to have fun themes in our pieces so it’s more entertaining for the audience to watch and makes the show more dynamic as a whole.
DP: Where do you get your artistic inspiration?
AS: I get a lot from my past studio, YouTube videos and just messing around in the dance studio. For a lot of the choreographers who are starting out, we’ve had times they find music they want to choreograph to. If you find a good song, it just goes from there. A good song leads to a good concept, which leads to good choreography.
AM: It also depends on the person. I do a lot of listening to music and figuring things out and envisioning it. We have some people who work in a different fashion. One of the members approached one of us and just said, I have a vision.
DP: What is special about your upcoming production “Redemption”? How would you compare it to last semester’s show?
AS: Well, the fact that we even have a theme is very different. We actually chose our theme after we chose our pieces, but we realized that it all worked out! However, I don’t think it’s necessary to have all the pieces fit to a theme because then you’re constraining peoples’ ideas.
AM: We have some really unique choreography coming out this semester. We’re hearing from a lot of people we haven’t heard from in the past — we have freshmen and even some alumni choreographing. We’ve also had a lot of crossover casting, so we have a lot of ballerinas in hip-hop pieces who try on a stank face for the first time.
DP: What would you say to those who have never seen a BodyHype show?
AM: It’s a little bit crazy, a little bit unique, definitely unlike a lot of dance performances I think people would expect. Also, in part because of the way we shape the show choreographically and in part because of the theater, the audience feels super involved in the show.
AS: We keep our audience engaged, definitely! We have a good variety of pieces — we have those serious pieces where no one in the piece is smiling and we’re really engaged in our own story. But then we have the fun, cheesy pieces when we’re winking at the audience and just having fun keeping the audience entertained!
DP: How does it feel at the end of each dance show?
AS: It’s an amazing feeling. First of all, we’re performing for our friends, so we get all sorts of texts and comments from them. Secondly, it’s so great to know that something that we’ve been working on all semester long has finally come to this. Just knowing that people loved our show is a really good feeling.
CC: Also, since most of us are trained dancers, BodyHype is the first time that we’ve done everything as a purely student-run dance group. Putting on an entire show is a crazy thing for students to do, so at the end it’s a great feeling to know that we’ve done it.
AM: Yeah, everyone at the end of the experience is just so proud of everything. I always think of the moment when we’re all watching our videos at 2 a.m. We’re all exhausted, but we’re also all yelling compliments at each other. I watch these pieces and I’m so proud. I always feel slightly in awe at how absurdly talented my friends are. They end up putting on all these amazing performances while at the same time balancing everything else in their lives.
DP: What’s your favorite part of BodyHype?
AS: I don’t have a favorite. Everything’s so great. These are some of my best friends and we party together, study together, dance together. Just performing in general is an awesome feeling, but not only that – performing with my best friends and for my friends is definitely a huge reason why I love BodyHype. Also, we’re just a cool group. Have you seen our show breaks? We are serious about our dancing, but we’re also funny. We don’t take ourselves ridiculously seriously.
CC: I like how BodyHype has my best friends inside and outside the dance studio. And I know that no matter what, I can always be with them. When we get to a point where we want to be, then it’s all about the fun and joy of performing.
AM: I think one of the best things about it is that, especially here in an environment that’s very high pressure and high stress and everyone has 5,000 things they need to do, it’s so important to me to have this space to go to. I can go to the studio and everything gets forgotten for a second and we all kind of dance and it feels like completing something as a group. It takes away from the stress of everyday life. Also, I love the feeling at the Saturday night shows where alumni you’ve never met in your life before who are so in love with their memory of BodyHype come back and scream at you and already know your names.
AS: We’re just all so addicted to BodyHype, we love dancing.