One of the most surprising things I’ve found about Princeton culture is its strong dance community: newbies and veterans alike join together to grow and share their love of dance. Some of the most eye-catching flyers I’ve seen around campus have come from dance company promotions: When promotions for the Black Arts Company’s Fall Showcase “Verified” started, I was instantly taken in by the paparazzi-esque, trendsetter style that set the tone for the Fall Showcase.
With four shows at Frist Theater in front of full-capacity audiences, I attended the 6:30 p.m. performance and was instantly greeted by member introductions in the form of a scrolling Instagram feed. After a few minutes, the first concept videos played ahead of us: Focused on the protagonist, Justin, and his journey towards the “Verified” status on his social pages via his Monday vlogs. Then all the lights dimmed. Lights. Camera. Action.
The show starts off with “it’s a barbie world (& we all just livin’ in it),” a Barbie concept dance to Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj that sets the precedent for the rest of the show through its fun and sassy execution. The dance opened with two lines of doll-like poses, with the Barbies awakening to energize the crowd. The recognizability of the reimagined Barbie theme solidified the show’s concept: fresh and self-assured.
The next performance, “from the ground up,” was choreographed to a mashup of Drake and Kendrick Lamar and contrasted the previous style. Here, the swaggy stage presence showed itself in its use of floor work and canon techniques. Sticking with the swag but adding a ’90s style, “The Miseducation of BAC” pays tribute in its title to Lauryn Hill. I especially liked how the choreography utilized stage outfits — specifically, baseball caps — to add some extra flare. Also, incorporating the Wobble into the final parts of the dance was genius: it got me dancing along with them.
Now, it’s time to turn up the heat. My jaw dropped for this next performance: “who’s telling us what?” The two songs, “CLASSY” by BIA ft. Swizz Beats and “Jealousy” by Offset and Cardi B, exude swag and pride, requiring the dancers to deliver on sharpness, power, and execution. The result? They did not come to play. The strobe lights quickly set the tone, with red and white lights used throughout. I particularly enjoyed the many formations and the use of the stage, affirming it as one of my favorite choreographies of the night. And can I talk about that solo moment at the end? One dancer came to the front of the stage and stylishly jumped towards the crowd, only for the lights to shut off and leave me wanting more.
After intermission, Act II opened with a video: There’s trouble in paradise for our verified BAC member, Justin. Amid the brewing troubles that Justin must navigate to keep his “Verified” status, BAC quickly brings us the next dance, “status update,” involving Mariah Carey’s “Emotions (12’’ Club Mix)” which instantly got me dancing in my seat. My favorite aspect of this piece is the arm and hand work, as it takes advantage of both voguing and whacking techniques. Reintroduce the sass, sisters.
Next up was “Get Critical,” a mashup of four viral songs I’ve probably heard on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits.” I was enthralled by the artistry and the tiny details, specifically the lean formation and hits with the beats. A random walking formation did a great job of both being fun but also paying homage to every member in the choreography. And how could I not mention the twerking? That got the crowd — me included — so hyped.
Was I expecting Beyoncé to show up in this setlist? Absolutely. The first thing that stood out to me was the outfits: a cream and brown mix with gold accents. The lyricism of the choreography was refreshing, matching the lyrics of Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” with corresponding elevated hand motions.
Before the end of the show, the company held their traditional dance competition, inviting the audience to take to the stage as competitors. Breakdancing broke out on stage — with some competitors pulling out the worm and the splits? It’s such a beautiful reflection of how BAC affirms dance for all.
After this, the dancers delivered a sexy piece called “Low and on Heels.” Laden with lace and leather, the performers got “Low” to SZA. Unsurprisingly, they delivered on confidence and style, making good use of extensions and floor work to charm the audience.
Now, for one of my other favorites of the night: “Dancing Dead” brought Halloween to Princeton a few days early. One of the most creative choreographies of the night, the footwork and formations were on point. The combination of strobe lights and red lighting nailed down the spooky vibes. More importantly, the lyricism of the choreography exuded Halloween: the use of electrocution and zombie-walking was absolutely creative in solidifying the theme. The show-stopper for me though was when the formation went from militant order to disorder — a great transition in the mashup. To close the set, the whole company came out for “ACCOUNT DEACTIVATED,” with the members bowing in order of class year, celebrating together.
Overall, BAC’s energy was unmatched. They constantly hyped each other up before, after, and during each performance, demonstrating their camaraderie for one another. The concept was well executed through its mid-act clips; while there were technical difficulties with the projector, everyone was a good sport and made the best of the situation. Personally, I’m looking forward to the Spring Showcase!
Brianna Melanie Suliguin is a contributing writer to The Prospect. She is a first-year from Toms River, New Jersey. She can be contacted at email@example.com.