Every dance show I’ve seen at Michigan has had its own flavor. In Pure Dance’s winter show, Callisto, there were many flavors spread throughout in a performance that was at times entertaining and at times lacked cohesion.
Pure performed eight dances and a finale, alternating between jazz and contemporary numbers with seven guest performers: a cappella group 58 Greene, contemporary company Ambiance, alternative percussion outfit Groove, jazz ensemble Blue Bop Jazz, hip-hop crew Flowdom, contemporary ballet company Salto and the ballroom dance club. All of the guest performances were good on their own, but there were too many of them for the number of dances Pure performed; it felt like the guests were onstage for a longer amount of time than the company itself. Blue Bop Jazz even opened the second half, taking the spotlight off the show’s supposed headliner.
Because of the abruptness of transitions between so many different types of performances, the show never really built up a rhythm. Still, it had its moments. I really enjoyed “Under Pressure” — set to the song by Queen and David Bowie — which Pure smartly placed toward the end of its program to ensure it was remembered. The choreography, by Libby Owen, was smart and went well with the music.
Overall, Pure’s contemporary pieces were stronger than the jazz ones, with “Under Pressure” as the exception. The jazz numbers seemed at times out of sync, but they got stronger as the show went on.
Pure did do some innovative things with lighting, staging and choreography. They frequently created a silhouette-like effect with the lighting, turning themselves into shadows dancing across a colorful backdrop. In the number “Elastic,” Pure walked out to flashing white lights, as if cameras were flashing as they strutted across the stage. They wore high-heeled boots, still managing to complete turn sequences. I appreciated the artistic risk they took in the piece, and it’s a risk that paid off. They also utilized lifts to good effect several times.
Overall, though, I wished I’d had time to truly settle in with Pure rather than seeing them constantly alternate with a litany of guest groups. In particular, Ambiance performed a contemporary number that I thought outshined the ones that came before and after.
Callisto had a lot of potential, and Pure Dance did a lot of cool and innovative things I haven’t seen in other student-run dance shows. However, the organization of the show ultimately undersold Pure’s talents and I wish I had been able to see more from them.