Syracuse University’s renowned dance organization, DanceWorks, performed its opening night of “Cirque du Cuse” Thursday in Schine Goldstein Auditorium in celebration of their 25th anniversary. Boasting more than 120 cast members, DanceWorks is easily SU’s largest club sport, giving them further inspiration to do it big for this year’s performance. “Cirque du Cuse” was inspired by the acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil - a touring theatre troupe founded by Quebec-native Gilles Ste-Crois in the 1980s.
From the free cotton candy and popcorn that awaited ticket-holders to the black, yellow and purple banners and balloons that seasoned the stage, the DanceWorks team made a point to embrace the circus theme. According to the organization’s board, DanceWorks was committed to perform, perhaps not “The Greatest Show on Earth,” but at least “The Greatest Show in Syracuse.”
Last night’s performance featured 18 dances showcasing the works of 23 different choreographers. Hip hop, jazz and lyrical dancers swept the stage throughout the performance. While the show began rather weak, the pace quickened as the dancers warmed up to the enthusiastic crowd response.
“Everyone feeds off the high of the crowd,” junior Emily Ralph said. “The crowd is what makes it all worth it.”
Having rehearsed since September of last year, the dancers in “Cirque du Cuse” were impressively in sync and the sheer variety of choreography was moving. For example, the hip hop dance “Mannequins” proved to be a crowd favorite as the dancers told the story about department store mannequins coming to life to dance with the shoppers. The final number “Take It Off” got the crowd even more pumped as the dancers stripped down to their bedazzled skivvies to the sounds of jazz.
Overall, the programming was spot-on, allotting only two or three minutes for each performance before the next cast of dancers took the stage. The show moved quickly between soft lyrical dances and punchy rhythmic footwork. There were several outstanding performances, especially from the male members of the club.
Juniors Michael Hunter and Gerald Obah appeared in the background of a few dances before breaking loose for their own solo numbers, in the lyrical performance of “The Scientist” and the hip hop rendition of “Upgrade Your Remix,” which took the audience pleasantly by surprise. Outnumbered more than 20 to one, these powerhouse dancers held their own against a cast of femmes fatales.
“[Gerald] has really improved as a dancer,” Ralph said. “Everyone loves seeing him do so well.”
For a club so large, DanceWorks’ organizational structure welcomes both newcomers and oldcomers alike, admitting dancers who are new to the SU campus and veteran dancers who are vying for a choreographer slot in the Spring show. But with loyalty comes more opportunity. Dancers who have been in the club for a year are only allowed to perform in three numbers, two years admits four numbers and so on.
“Over 275 people auditioned this year,” Messinger said. “You really have no idea what kind of a commitment it is until you’re going to dance practices over three hours a week.”
But besides the actual talent that ran the show, the performance also included plenty of theatrical elements to further dramatize their acts. Strobe lights, fog machines, glow sticks and spotlights added special flare to this 25th anniversary show. DanceWorks didn’t hold anything back.
“Cirque Du Cuse” is performing again on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Schine's Goldstein Auditorium. Tickets are on sale for $4 with SUID and $7 for the general public at the Schine Box Office. To find out more about DanceWorks visit their Web site.
Photo by Alyssa Stone