DOBC Makes 'Thirteen' A Lucky Number
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 10:01
With unbound spirit, The Dance Organization of Boston College (DOBC) returned to Robsham Theater last weekend with Thirteen, an eclectic exercise in dance. Special guest Fuego del Corazon joined the 46-woman company for what proved to be an unapologetic collective of student-choreographed work.
With 23 individual routines, Thirteen served no rigid structure, but worked rather as an edifice, lifting the company’s performers to a rockstar-like standing. The audience heartily embraced the concert-like feel, and as they hollered out names and held up signs, Robsham felt more like an arena than a relatively cozy venue. Subtly tied together with the theme of luck evoked by the number 13, the roughly 90-minute work ushered in the new year with a mix of nostalgia and explosive celebration—as if to suggest a world waking up. Director Honor Flannery, A&S ’13, described Thirteen as a series of stories, with “some interpreting the bad luck we have experienced and others interpreting the good.”
Thirteen opened with “Black and Gold,” a lively pairing of dubstep bass lines and adroit, delicate form. In militaristic uniformity, 16 dancers captured the stage with geometric precision, as if to hint at the monstrous scope of the project through this prelude. This initial display of brutish force quickly shied into “Give Me Love,” a series of reaching leaps and sweeping crawls set to British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s folk sound. A birdlike quality defined the large ensemble’s movement, and at times, there almost seemed to be a prevailing wind, blowing dancers across the stage.
This more intimate moment gave way to “Bottoms Up,” a raunchy display of hip-hop expertise. In polychromatic mid top Nikes, sweats, and tie-dyed tees, the ladies of DOBC showed no absence of the pop and lock in a club-inspired routine, even affording a second of unbridled “twerk,” perhaps to verify the authenticity of their work. “Carnevale,” alike only in its fervor, followed street prowess with campy circus nuance, as eight dancers evoked trapeze artists in a comic suite, featuring a rather brilliant moment of ballet, setting the performer’s nimble silhouettes over a deeply green backlit cyclorama. This was followed by “Va Va Voom,” an explosive hip-hop number with exhilaratingly crude temperament.
Latin dance troupe Fuego Del Corazon then seized the stage with “Turn It Up,” a visceral blend of classic merengue and modern Latin dance. Brazenly focused and explosively sensual, the number functioned on a push-pull basis. In the capable hands of Fuego del Corazon, Latin dance is a well-polished play with seduction.
DOBC returned with “Crave You,” which began with its dancers seeming asleep on stage. Representative of the awakening of passion, the number quickly developed a strobe-lit banquet of dubstep. “Kill the Lights” alluded to the iconic dance of artists like Britney Spears and Madonna, perhaps best likened to the “Vogue” music video, setting perfunctory glitz to frothy blue backlighting. “Secrets” began with dancers posing as wooden dolls, strung to the ceiling by invisible string. However, the restrained movement quickly exploded into loud, yet sophisticated visual brilliance.
Although dance attire certainly is a matter of discretion, every choreographer I’ve worked with at least has set the same standard—dancers don’t wear jeans. And yet, DOBC did just that in “Your Easy Lovin’,” a rollicking country tap number. Working with the restriction of blue jeans, choreographer Honor Flannery highlighted the movement of the upper body. If anything, this constraint was the basis of the number’s magic.
Feverish spotlights, sculpture-like poses, and contortionist bliss characterized “Continuum,” and “Baba O’Riley” ended the first act with a similar experimental charm. The second act opened with Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out,” a glossy number with a particular fondness for 3-2-3 and 4-by-4 formation, and yes, as the title would suggest, there was a fair deal of “shaking.” “I Like That” was the obligatory salute to the sequin, blissfully forward, greedy, and was also indulgent in its style.
The charm of Thirteen came largely through its versatility. “Chasing Cars” painted a portrait of angels in headlights, using offstage spots to give the dancers’ flowing white attire a seraphic quality. “Carry On,” on the other hand, was jaunty and playful. “Hella Good” took to a raunchy burlesque, elaborately crossing cabaret with hip-hop under a lacy black veneer. “Last Request” was nostalgic, dark and intense, setting reaching, longing motion to Paolo Nutini’s raspy vocals. “Up With the Birds” sought to disband gravity, through a sensory storytelling of leaps and twists. “Pressure” operated under a mechanical spacing, and used silhouette to highlight form. “I Never Loved a Man”—a title audibly amusing to the audience—took on the bluesy nuanced style of musicals like Chicago. The individual works in Thirteen were alike only in their unlikeness—recognizing this as a strength, DOBC created opportunity for a wide array of dancers, and granted artistic sovereignty to each number’s choreographer.