Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
“The more energy you give us, the more energy we’ll give you,” shouted Rhythm ‘n’ Motion co-director Tanya Gonzales ’07 [corrected 12/4/06 by AQ] at the beginning of the Rhythm ‘n’ Motion Fall 2006 Concert on Dec. 1. The packed Lang Performing Arts Center exploded in raucous cheers in response. True to their word, R n M fed off the crowd to deliver a high-paced and spirited performance on both the Friday and Saturday concerts.
The show opened with a silhouette of Kane dancing to African music before she was joined by the rest of the company in an animated piece that emphasized the purpose of R n M, the Swarthmore College dance group founded 5 and a half years ago.
“While there are various styles and techniques within the group, they all revolve around the goals of the mission statement: to present styles of dance from the African diaspora to the Swarthmore and Tri-Co community,” said co-director Twan Claiborne ’07, who co-directed the ensemble with Gonzales.
These styles include Afro-Modern, Modern, Jazz, Tap and Hip Hop, a diversity well represented in the evening’s numerous pieces.
The crowd pleaser “Carnival Madness” had the dancers dressed in eye-popping red, green, and yellow to reflect the frenetic routine. The routine featured groups of dancers popping on and off the stage to showcase moves such as the “low rider” dance led by Seth Hara ’08 which simulated a smooth ride in a car, complete with braking and horn honking.
“My inspiration was the Carnival celebration that occurs in the Caribbean and Brazil but I find inspiration everywhere,” said Claiborne, who choreographed the routine, “It varies per piece, whatever message I want to convey, whether it be in choreography or by music, is my inspiration.”
Another playful dance involved dancers dressed as a guitar player, track athlete, businessman, and two “nerds” moved by the infectious power of dance through a hat proffered by G Patrick ’10. The production highlighted each dancer’s unique skills by allowing each to take center stage but also their group dynamic in a later routine that elicited both laughs and appreciative yells.
One popular routine featured Brandon Washington ’08 as the leader of a confident gang of guys eyeing girls fronted by Anne Tucci ’10. The flirtation was translated well by the in sync hip hop moves of both parties that reflected the familiar uncertainty and fun of a crush.
Although he loved all the pieces, Claiborne said he is most proud of what he calls the “Newbie piece.”
“Being new to any group is tough, and in this piece, they demonstrate to Rhythm and Motion members as well as the audience, including the skeptics, why those few were chosen,” said Claiborne, “This group, from my standing, firmly found their niche within the family of Rhythm and Motion, and after this concert, they are no longer Newbies!”
The noteworthy “Introducing…Newbies!” number was comprised solely of brand new R n M dancers. The piece featured a mock “dance battle” between dancers who stepped and dancers who tapped, backed up by dancers in the background drumming out the beat with sticks and trashcans. The escalating energy then was transfused into a hip hop routine that ended with the dancers shouting, “Newbies!” at the end of the song.
The seamless show ended to thundering applause but it came only after weeks of tireless rehearsal and choreography from the R n M dancers.
“Rehearsal times are at the discretion of the choreographer, but usually the piece meets once a week for an hour. For this show, it took seven and a half weeks to put together, typical for the fall semester,” said Claiborne, “The date of the concert, since it varies with LPAC availability, also affects how much time we have to prepare.”
Claiborne feels all the hard work has been worth it for the concert, which had “something for everyone.”
“The show was short, sweet, and had a great deal of variety. No two pieces were alike,” said Claiborne, “Every choreographer had a different vision and ran with it. The dancers gave it their all onstage, the audience is always hype. I couldn’t have asked for a better show.”