Bridging cultures through movement and music

Music may be the universal language, but dance has many dialects.

On Sunday, the USC Chamber Ballet Company invited five on-campus dance troupes to Bovard Auditorium to showcase everything from break dancing to creative interpretations to Björk songs, creating a collection of movement you don’t often see in one place.

En pointe ·  Members of the USC Chamber Ballet Company perform at the first “Dialects of Dance” concert in Bovard last Sunday. The company hosted the event, which also featured hip hop, Chinese and Latin groups. - Ian Elston | Daily Trojan

En pointe · Members of the USC Chamber Ballet Company perform at the first “Dialects of Dance” concert in Bovard last Sunday. The company hosted the event, which also featured hip hop, Chinese and Latin groups. - Ian Elston | Daily Trojan

“We knew we couldn’t handle a show all on our own, so we decided to ask other groups who were probably in the same position,” said sophomore and co-director Diana Smith of the chosen performers. “It would be a great way to bring the whole dance community together and put on a show that really highlighted the diversity of dance here at USC.”

That they did, exposing those in attendance to a number of different cultures and clubs using various styles of dance of a form of expression.

The show began with a number that included every dance group, each clad in purple, showcasing their own unique style. Initially, the variety was a lot to handle — contemporary Latin performers and traditional Chinese dancers don’t often share a stage. Once past the shock factor, the troupes’ differences meshed well, and the diversity played out through the next hour to make USC Chamber Ballet Company’s first “Dialects of Dance” a success.

Following the opening number, the first group to perform was the ballerines, who strutted on pointe shoes to “Big Spender.” The song encouraged liveliness and a roaring ’20s tone, both of which the group brought in full force.

“This show was really open, and we didn’t have a strict theme, so it was an opportunity for our choreographers and dancers to do something they’ve always wanted to do,” Smith said when asked about the troupe’s nontraditional song choice.

The Chamber Ballet Company continued to demonstrate the fruitions of its hard work by balancing en pointe to unexpected tunes such as “The Circle of Life,” managing to get into character beyond simply the choreography.

In between the pirouettes and bourees were lively numbers by the invited guest performers, including Traditional Chinese Dance, which kept it wholesome and, appropriately, traditional with its “Dance of the Peacocks.”

Then, a duo from Break on 2: Latin Fusion brought an overtly sexual element to the stage. They balanced the dance, which channeled Romeo & Juliet, with a talented singer who almost stole the whole show. The juxtaposition of the Latin and Chinese elements was surprising and contradictory, but made for a fuller display of each piece individually.

The oceans were calm and cultural, and no one was prepared for the hip-hop groups to steal the show as quickly as they did. Chaotic 3 consists of 29 people, and each brought so much heat it was as if their sneakers were on fire. The piece had attitude, and dancers moved to a unique mix of Beyonce, the Postal Service and gangster rap.

The audience was shaken up (in a good way), but was not too unsettled to regain its footing. They had bounced from classical ballet to Alosus’s interpretive-style modern dance to Björk’s “Who Is It (Bell Choir Remix).” Although these transitions were a bit confusing at first, the viewers adjusted themselves, and now they craved something different after each act.

Ask and they shall receive. Suddenly, a cloud of smoke appeared, and break dancer group Vanguard stood on stage. The group performed a mock-battle to a remix of “Canon in D Minor,” further contradicting audience conceptions of dance norms.

It was during this break dance set that the sheer craziness of the project became clear. The audience was somewhat shocked to learn that fellow students could move like that, or even that such diverse art forms existed on campus. The show brought together fans of various dance styles, and everyone in attendance saw something they likely would not have caught elsewhere.

“Dance is more than just ballet,” Smith said. “I think we showed that.”

The show culminated with the host company’s performance of a ballet piece set to the theme to Requiem for a Dream, and its choreography was just the right balance of epic and dark to conclude such a diverse, interesting and surprising show.

But the ballerinas couldn’t have done it without their guest dancers, demonstrating to the crowd at Bovard that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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