What do you call a collaboration of red ribbons, hoop skirts, strait jackets and bouncy balls? Out of Control.
This past weekend, the CofC Department of Theatre and Dance showcased a dance concert aptly named “Out of Control,” which featured dance students from the College. Directed by CofC dance instructor Gretchen McLaine, the concert also included choreography from assorted professors in the department.
“Out of Control” was composed of seven different pieces in which a variety of dancers spun, leapt and crawled around the stage. Some of the highlights included dances titled “Rendering,” “Only Fragments Remain,” “To See What Comes” and “What Goes Around.”
If you’ve ever seen rhythmic gymnastics performed, the first performance was kind of like that, but on fast forward. The four dancers continuously intertwined themselves with the ribbon — and each other’s ribbons — and each other. There was a kind of acrobatic-ballerina feel to it all, even though the dance was accompanied by what sounded like a xylophone. Personally, I was just impressed that nobody got clotheslined or tripped on someone else’s ribbon.
My attention was piqued when the curtain opened up to the second dance: “Rendering.” Onstage there were three girls in red costumes standing in a straight line facing the back of the stage. As the music began, a video started to play on the back screen of three girls dressed in the same costumes doing similar movements. This really messed with the audience’s mind (or mine, at least), because at some points the dance moves coincided perfectly with the video, but at others the timing and movements were mismatched. There were several elements to this piece that took my focus away from the dancers. Not only was I watching the video on the back wall, but there was also fog coming onto the stage from both sides as well as a strange song playing in the background that sounded eerily similar to Florence Welsh counting to one hundred and then did it again backwards. That’s not to say that these elements took away from the dance, but this was just more of a multi-faceted performance than some of the other ones in the concert, which is why it stuck out to me.
Since it is a spooky time of year, it was only fitting that one of the performances include some creepy choreography. “Only
Fragments Remain” opened with two rows of dancers each lit separately with what appeared to be slivers of light leaking in from a cracked door. The scene was complete with a threatening piano and violin accompaniment. All of a sudden, the dancers began to move. They looked somewhat like broken marionette dolls creeping around the stage. The movements were almost spastic—like how I would assume rigor mortis to look. I think this performance was unique to me because it was broken and twisted, but also beautiful. The best way I could explain it would be like the Land of Misfit Toys meets “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”
The second act took a different turn. Upon walking into the theatre at the beginning of the night, I saw a projected image on the wall inviting audience members to text their choice of music to a poll online to choose the music for one of the dances. I texted in “All Blues” by Myles Davis, because you can’t go wrong with Myles. This was a very different aspect of the show because the dancers had no idea what song was going to be played, but had to apply the same choreography to whatever song came on. What did come on? “No More ‘I Love You’s'” by Annie Lennox. The dance began to unfurl as certain characters left the stage and then came back on and then left again. What was really unexpected was that some of the moves corresponded perfectly with the music even though the music was chosen by the audience moments before the dancers went onstage.
The last dance was just plain fun. The curtains were pulled and the dancers on stage were dressed in 80s wear (complete with neon sweatbands, legwarmers and leotards.) You know that song that plays at horse races? That came on, and all of a sudden the stage came alive. The audience began to chuckle collectively because the mood of the entire show was flipped instantly. It went from eerie and serious to goofy and hyper. In the midst of the dance, a big blue exercise ball rolled onstage. Throughout the rest of the dance, other assorted tennis balls, dodge balls and bouncy balls were thrown at the performers from offstage. As the music built up, the immensity of balls grew until the end of the dance, when, spoiler alert, hundreds of ping-pong balls rained from the ceiling onto the dancers. The audience burst into laughter and applause as the dancers bowed and the curtains closed, concluding the “Out of Control” performance.
These dances were intertwined with a couple of others that were a bit slower paced, but equally as interesting to watch. I’ll give you the abridged version and say that one looked like a graceful combination of rhythmic gymnastics and ballet, one reminded me of a ballet-inspired version of the musical number “Be Our Guest,” from Beauty and the Beast (complete with costumes that mirrored the dancing napkins and teacups), and another one artistically involved the restriction of purple silk strait jackets (I’ll let you use your imagination on how that one played out.)
Overall, the show was really interesting. The dancers displayed a wide variety of genres and it was clear how much effort went into the production. I was pretty much just fascinated with trying to keep up with how many different things were going on at once. Regardless, the show certainly lived up to its name in the best way.