The stage of Frist Theatre bursts into a flood of pink fluorescent light. The audience immediately erupts into a deafening wave of cheers and screams. Onstage, the dancers of eXpressions Dance Company groove to “Vroom Vroom” by Charli XCX before the song switches to Billie Eilish’s “you should see me in a crown” and their undulating movements become sharp and staccato. Their bodies radiate energy and swagger, while their faces beam with confidence, fueled by the cheers of their peers. And as the show’s title “Transparent” suggests, the audience is quickly able to see through the dancing on stage to the passion and dedication of the dancers in eXpressions Dance Company that exist underneath all their movement.
Founded in 1979, eXpressions Dance Company is the oldest dance group on campus, with 31 company members ranging from freshmen to seniors. As eXpressions performs primarily contemporary and modern styles, it was refreshing to see a hip-hop piece in the show this year: “Take the Throne,” choreographed by Marshall Schaffer ’20 and Yuxin Zhi ’22. From abstract modern to dark contemporary, a range of different styles characterized the two-hour show and mesmerized the audience.
It was hard to believe that the company only had five weeks to put together such a professional performance, filled with intricate lighting and stylish costumes. The opening piece, “Reaching for You,” immediately enthralled the audience with dancers clad in all black and fierce looks in their eyes, turning and kicking to the hard-hitting contemporary choreography. The dynamic lighting produced shadows and dimensions that completely transformed the performers on stage. “Chairs” explored the human body as a physical chair with dancers sitting on top of each other, while others slowly crawled on all fours across the stage.
In addition, the creativity among the choreographers was fascinating. “I/Us,” choreographed by Leila Ullmann ’21 and Phoebe Warren ’21, seemed to suggest inspiration from the streets of Europe, with dancers in pedestrian clothes and colorful handkerchiefs. The whole audience was captivated by the choreography and dancing in Esin Yunusoglu ’19’s “This is a Party.” In the piece, smooth and flowing movements were juxtaposed with sharp choreography characterized by shaking and convulsions, making for an extremely exciting dance to watch. At two points in the piece, a single dancer stood in the center of the stage repeating the same movements over and over again at an increasing speed until her limbs almost became blurred.
The show-breaks throughout the program offered a light-hearted and entertaining pause from the dancing. In the first act, the audience could hardly contain their laughter as they watched members of eXpressions tap into their acting skills in “Harry Potter and the Cloak of Transparency.” The show break in the second act featured a different student group each night. The audience was treated to the mind-blowing skills of the Juggling Club on Friday night and were blessed with the angelic voices of Shere Khan and the Tigertones during the Saturday shows.
As I sat in the first row of the audience, the message of eXpressions’ show was clear: to “peel back layers of emotion, thought, and feeling to reveal an opaque whole.” The dancing was raw and expressive, and the dancers’ vulnerability and willingness to organically emote onstage reflected this theme of authenticity. There was no barrier between the audience and the performers; their movements captivated our attention and had us on the edge of our seats. Staying true to the theme, each piece told a unique story and brought a different set of emotions, inviting the audience to experience the thrill of performing and reminding us of the power of transparency.