Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Dance Production (DP) 2019 takes the audience on a rollercoaster of emotion through passionate modern dance. The performance is made up of 15-16 dance numbers depending on the weekend. The themes of said productions vary greatly, from showing what it is like to be high on psychedelic drugs to embodying feminism through dance. However, all had more or less the same style.
Emotion and passion were abundant in the dancing. They could be seen in every aspect of DP, and it was clear that the dancers felt strongly about everything they were doing. One prime example was “In My Mind,” where each movement was meaningful and added positive attributes to the performance. Each dance told a story and each had a theme, but some were much easier to follow than others. At times, dancers were rather asynchronous, which I felt took away from the number. Two examples of this were “Headspace” and “Faith,” although there were a few others that needed work. That is not to say that the dancing was not good; on the contrary, many of the dances were performed quite well with little to no mistakes.
Aforementioned dances like “Headspace,” “Faith,” and “Watershed” all featured songs by Kanye West, which was a surprising choice, especially for Berkeley and the current political climate. That is not to say that the songs did not work; conversely, all of them worked well with the choreography. “Watershed,” which was the second to last number and features the song “Ghost Town” by Kanye West led into the closing well and was arguably the best part.
The atmosphere during DP could not be imitated. The performance had both upbeat, cheerful numbers as well as deeper, dense, and thought-provoking ones. Each unique theme, creating a different mood. Starting with “Ya Feel Me?” was a strong choice because it created an upbeat mood that grabbed the audience’s attention right away. Performances got progressively deeper before the first intermission. “Everything In Between” was the last number before the intermission, and closed the first act out effectively. The mood changed from excited to tense to resolved. The second act had a substantial number of dancers on stage at once. While these were marginally well rehearsed, the stage felt too busy. They were overwhelming and hard to follow for a non-dancer. By contrast, those with three to five performers filled the stage the way the larger ones did not. Having fewer people on stage provided a larger window into the emotion that each dancer contributed.
In general, the emotion baked into the performance was sublime. “This performance was all about the ride of emotion. Each piece required a very specific mindset and mood, so for the dancers, the show was able to take them on that roller coaster,” said Orli Hellerstein, BHS junior and DP dancer. “Every time performers come off stage, there’s a very specific type of exhaustion that comes with putting so much of yourself out there. It’s really one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in a while.”
DP 2019 was an enjoyable watch, breathtakingly passionate at points, but some dances fell a bit flat. It embodied what I believe modern dance is all about, but some choices did not quite land with me. Passion and emotion are important in dance, and DP incorporated those elements successfully in almost every part.