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diSiac serves more than pancakes at ‘International Heat of Princeton’ (IHOP)

A crowd of dancers strike dynamic poses on a black stage, lit by spotlights.
Members of diSiac on stage.
Brianna Suliguin / The Daily Princetonian

As reading period drew closer, I found myself spending more and more time at Frist Campus Center, doing homework and catching the two late meals to keep me going. One day, in front of my usual study spot, I was captivated by diSiac’s promotional flyers for their winter show: "International Heat of Princeton" — IHOP, if you will. The playful and creative concept instantly drew me in. As I bought myself a ticket for their Saturday show, I wondered what sweet and savory performances awaited me. 

With three shows at Berlind Theatre, this season’s performance was something to commemorate: diSiac was celebrating their 25th anniversary as a dance group, using the original crew’s name as this season’s show name. diSi did not skimp on the concept, turning their print-out programs into tiny IHOP menus. The venue was almost at full-capacity as the lights began to dim, and I was transported into the show, prepared to be served.

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The show opened with “Welcome to IHOP:” a blend of contemporary, hip-hop, and R&B. The dancers rose to angelic, panoramic chords, spinning across the stage and transitioning into 2000s swag with Ciara and Missy Elliot’s “One, Two Step.” What surprised me was the range of this piece, as I had always imagined diSi to be a hip-hop-focused company. This piece, however, solidified their scope, acting as a tasting platter for what was to come. 

Their next dish was “Another Day, Another Shaggy,” a cool and chill dance to follow the opener. As they danced to Shaggy and RikRok’s “It Wasn’t Me,” the audience took a breather from the hype energy from the previous performance. I loved how fun the formations looked, especially the floor work. Just as I settled into the swaggy vibes of the choreography however, diSi switched it up, remixing the Shaggy song with bass boostings, matching the energy of the breakdown with sharp hits to the beats.

Dancers mid-movement gather in a circle on a black stage illuminated by purple lighting.
diSiac members dance in a circle mid-performance.
Brianna Suliguin / The Daily Princetonian

With the energy already bursting through the crowd, the next performance, “SoundCloud Princess,” started with an ominous intro to Ariana Grande’s “How I Look on You.” The performers’ outfits instantly caught my eye — bright blue and orange splotched jumpers reflected the bright heat the company serves. I loved the attention to the extensions, which emphasized the sassiness and sexiness of the piece. Speaking of sassy, the piece continued into the TikTok-famous remix “yummy x righteous,” with the hyperpop energy permeating through the hairography and the poses. They really hit home with the Juicy Couture vibe.

Next up was another contemporary piece: “Desoleil.” Danced to Loyle Carner and Sampha’s song of the same name, it remains one of my favorite pieces in the show. With the song being minimal instrumentally, but heavy on raw vocals and rap, the cast’s lyricism carried them to great heights — at times literally, as one of the most jaw-dropping parts of the performance was when a dancer fell into the arms of their dance mates. At the end of the piece, the quick, sharp movements matched the crisp rap style, effectively contrasting the flow seen in prior songs.

After a short video filler about the Great diSi Bake Off (and some very interesting looking pancakes), “And Therein Lay Selfhood” set a more dystopian mood with striated lighting across the stage and dancers wearing sandy drapes. After a start filled with flowy movements matching the wind-like energy of the bare instrumentals, it suddenly all unplugged. Tensions arose to “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” sending chills down the audience’s backs. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was holding my breath through this one. 

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As I took a breather from the potency of the previous dance, diSi continued their service with “That’s Hip-Hop!” Starting off with some J. Cole, the crew delivered swag and carefree textures, hitting the beats and lyrics. They then switched to some chill rap, where I loved the breakup of the crew into solo parts that showed off each of their specialties. Just when I thought it was ending, diSiac cued another switch up, finishing the piece with powerful canons and energy.

During intermission, I watched the crew set up square tiles across the stage. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, what are those for? Tap dancing?” Precisely. Act II opened with a tap dancing act to Amaarae’s “Princess Going Digital,” what I felt was the most surprising thing that came out of this show. The seductive music feeds the dancers’ energy as they strike a pose to the audience. What a way to start off the second half of the performance.

A line of dancers on a black stage form the shape of a wave with their arms.
diSiac dancers perform "Cry Me a River."
Brianna Suliguin / The Daily Princetonian

The next part was “Cry Me a River,” danced to Justin Timberlake’s song of the same name. Spoiler alert: this was also one of my favorite pieces of the night. The textured lighting set a rainy mood, and the choreography constantly generated a sense of urgency and longing. The dancers melted into each move, establishing wave motifs across the stage. It was like watching a water droplet moving across a leaf. 

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Following the previous melodramatic dance, “Levitation Tingz” opened with Kendrick Lamar, whose opening red-shadow silhouettes contrast to the trippy back track. But, the switch to Missy Elliot’s “Bad Man” made it more reminiscent of a cheerleading team. Here, the choreography mirrored the lyrics, like the punchy hits during the line “smash the place.” The piece finished with “Whine Dat,” my favorite segment of the dance. The bass-boosted 2010s phonk instantly got me dancing with the company, as the dancers shined in their solo parts for the finale. 

Similar to previous sequences in the show, “No, It Isn’t True” slowed it down with a taste of artistic vision. The dancers were dressed in gingham cotton shorts and lace blouses, creating a doll-like image. They angled and raised their arms like puppets tethered to a string, entranced by the music. Then, the creepy aspects settled in. As Cinderella’s conversation with her fairy godmother played out in the background, one of the dolls broke down, watching the others circle her. In a final breath of trippiness, the dancers freaked out to “Nasty Girl / On Camera” and unplugged.

Dancers pose, lunging to the left with their hands in the air, on a black stage illuminated by red lighting.
diSiac dancers perform a piece in the second half of their show.
Brianna Suliguin / The Daily Princetonian

Nearing the end of the show, “Girl Dinner” served — and I mean it. I screamed when “Beautiful Liar” by Beyoncé and Shakira came on. Circling their hands and posing on the floor, the dancers delivered the seductive energy under the red lighting, entrancing the audience to desire more. 

Before the final performance, diSi prepared a video celebrating the history of the company. I love how diSiac commemorated their anniversary by including past members, especially one of the founding dancers of the company. Remembering their roots but continuing to innovate, diSiac looks nowhere but forward.

The showcase ended on “Mr. Chik-O-Stick,” a mashup of several hit hip-hop songs like “Laffy Taffy,” “Crank That,” and “Soulja Boy.” In a final hurrah, dancers shared one last moment on stage, whipping out classic dance floor moves. The twerking and drop sequences were so much fun — they know how to get the crowd hype. As the company came out for their final bow, diSiac reminded Princeton that they are here to stay.

Brianna Melanie Suliguin is a staff writer for The Prospect. She is a member of the Class of 2027 and is from Toms River, New Jersey. She can be contacted at bs7122@princeton.edu.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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