For more than two decades, Cal Poly has hosted a spring dance concert, an entirely student-led performance that students direct, choreograph and dance in. The tradition has grown in success, enough to be comparable to a professional composition. This year’s cast boasted a handsome troupe of 200 student-dancers.
A unique aspect of the concert was that all who auditioned, regardless of experience, were accepted. This accounts for the sizable cast in this year’s performance, titled “Inertia,” which showed this past Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. in the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre.
Co-director and biological sciences senior Claire Levine explained why this year’s performance was titled “Inertia.”
“We really liked the idea that we are taking all of the positive, awesome changes and positive values that the show has had in the past, and we’re moving forward with that,” she said. “We’re pushing forward at that speed and that amazing performance quality that we have given. So we’re pushing forward, we’re giving inertia to move forward, and that was our inspiration.”
And that inspiration turned to reality in a diverse array of performances that promised not to disappoint.
Students swayed in a foggy, mysterious performance of psychedelic indie hit “Gooey” by Glass Animals.
Describing the dream-like dance, performer Nathaniel Abrea said, “The song is just weird. If you actually listen to the lyrics, it makes almost no sense at all. But it just feels kind of ethereal. It’s like this hazy, transcending-esque, sort of light feeling — like you’re discovering a new sense of self, in a weird way. And the movement is inspired by that; you’re kind of going with the flow, but you don’t necessarily understand everything … Essentially we describe it like a hazy sort of feeling, except you’re not lost, you’re just kind of wandering and it’s okay.”
A color splash hit the background as smiling girls in tap shoes bounced across the stage in sparkly gold tops to “Animal” by Neon Trees. The peppy dancers tapped to the upbeat baseline and clapped at guitar riffs. The beat was fun and playful, and the dancers’ exuberant smiles infected the crowd.
In “Absence,” a more somber and poignant piece, performers embodied lost love to “The Wolves (Act I & II),” by contemporary folk artist Bon Iver. Dancers wore rugged grey and white attire, and moved slowly and fluidly to the cadence of the song. Two bodies of male and female dancers ebbed and flowed at each side, expressing distance as the ballad professed “what might have been lost.”
“Werk” was an energetic piece blatant in sex appeal. Dancers in burlesque attire and platform heels dominated the stage to Sevyn Streeter’s “How Bad Do You Want It? (Oh Yeah).”
Sharing her inspiration for “Werk,” choreographer Larissa Clawson said, “This is the first time I’ve ever danced in heels myself, and I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s go crazy and see if we can make a piece out of this.’ So it was really just the novelty of seeing these tall dancers get even taller with six-inch heels, and pushing them to their limit to see what they can do in heels. I had a base idea, but working with the dancers was my inspiration to finish the rest of the piece. It was so much fun.”
“Money Talks” was another sensual performance, but in a 1920’s “Chicago”-esque sort of way. The Broadway original “Big Spender,” by Valarie Pettiford and Voss Ensemble, brought audience members back to a sultry, old-school jazz club. A red curtain backdrop paired with seductive hip-swinging and hair-flipping allured the audience.
“Rogue” moved further away from modern dance era with a traditional Spanish flamenco number. Bright red flowy skirts and sparkly black hand fans added ample movement to the piece, which was to a variation of Don Quixote’s “Kitri” and “Spanish Dance of Mercedes” by León Minkus.
“Black and Blue” brought a different kind of energy. The fierce hip-hop showcase incorporated remixes of “Here” by Alessia Cara, “Down for the Click” by The HBK Gang, “Acquainted” by The Weeknd and “Yellow Alert” by Dumbfoundead and Awkwafina.
Co-choreographers Ryan Sutardji and Kelby Hertanu wanted to show “just a generally swagged out dancing style.”
Sutardji said, “We have kind of a happier vibe, then kind of a slower, sexier vibe and a kind of hard-hitting vibe. It’s mainly just trying to portray the same type of choreography through different music. There’s no real theme behind it. It’s kind of just Kelby and I expressing our choreography.”
The various performers shared what “Inertia” means to them, and why it should matter to Cal Poly students.
“Black and Blue” choreographer Hertanu said, “It’s a student-run show, so first and foremost that’s already an amazing feat. It’s amazing to see all these different choreographers and dancers bringing all different kinds of skills, personalities and cultural tendencies to these performances. I think it’s an excellent aspect of the humanities and arts program here.”
“Inertia” co-director Cheyenne Liu said, “It’s just like any art. It’s very satisfying to see an idea in your head come out and be on 16 bodies. To have an idea, to communicate it and and then have it there … It’s just such a satisfying process … So come to the show! It sells out almost every year.”
Choreographer and sociology sophomore Anna Charney encourages all students to come to the Spring dance show.
“It’s something where if you’ve never seen a dance show, it’s definitely a great show to see because there are so many different ranges of styles, and it’s really fun,” she said. “You’re definitely going to see someone you know because there’s over 200 people in the show. It’s just a lot of fun for Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo.”