REVIEW: Resurgence: We’re Bringing Sexy Back by Pure Dance

Apparently, the dancers at Pure Dance had been busy last semester.

Their annual showcase took place last Sunday evening and featured nine stunning student-made choreographies complete with all the twirls, body rolls, and hair whips you could ask for. Furthermore, we were treated to a diverse range of guest performances by Salto, Gimble, FunKtion, Groove, Blue Bop Jazz, DB3, and Flowdom. Sitting in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater, the energy of the crowd was close-knit and infectious–people were not shy about loudly cheering for their friends on stage. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the showcase’s theme coming in, but I found that they were able to present a really interesting curation of dances embodying “resurgence”… and dare I say sexiness?

My favorite number had to be Illusion of Bliss, which was impressively performed in black high heel boots. The contrast between the slow hard beats of the beginning section with these incredibly sensual movements backed by Alicia Keys’ soulful raspy voice and the ending section with the imagery of the dancers sinking to their knees in prayer as she sings “I don’t wanna be a fallen angel” told a compelling story. Meanwhile, Mad at You and War of Hearts approached the concept from a more modern/contemporary angle, with flowing cascades of movement. Like a Boy seemed to pull from old-school hip hop influences with sharp jutting elbows while Toxic had a high-energy hard rock edge such that the dancers were practically throwing themselves into poses.

I also thought the guest performers did an incredible job. Hip hop dance practice videos on Instagram are probably one of my guilty pleasures, so I loved FunKtion’s tight transitions and incorporation of humor as well as Flowdom’s clean hits and charisma. Plus, it was nice to see Blue Bop Jazz’s saxophones hyping each other up during their solos!

The final choreography was Bride, which created some beautiful visuals out of the entire ensemble. The dancers wore a pretty pastel/neutral color palette and had a continual flow of synchronized bodies passing on and off stage, which paired well with the bubbly hopeful music. As a goofy ending note, the showcase fittingly concluded with everyone dancing to Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack for the curtain call.

Congratulations to all the performers who were a part of the event! I look forward to seeing what Pure Dance will bring next.

REVIEW: Callisto presented by Pure Dance

A photo of Pure Dance from its Facebook page

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.

PREVIEW: Callisto presented by Pure Dance

At a school with a plethora of contemporary and jazz dance groups, Pure Dance sets itself apart in a completely different way: its inclusivity.

“We recognize that the world of dance is often extremely demanding, both mentally and physically, and we strive to provide a safe environment where our members can express themselves without the pressure of conforming to the ‘ideal dancer’ archetype,” its Maize Pages description reads.

Rather than focusing strictly on its dancing as most dance-related student orgs do, Pure’s writeup highlights its commitment to a close-knit community, non-discrimination policy and the fact that it doesn’t charge dues to allow students of all socio-economic backgrounds to join.

Of course, like all other student dance groups, Pure works hard throughout the semester and choreographs its own pieces, culminating in a winter show, this year called Callisto.

According to the event’s Facebook page, Callisto will feature nine jazz and contemporary pieces from Pure as well as several guest performances.

While I’ve seen several other student dance groups on campus, I’ve never seen Pure. But I’m a huge fan of contemporary dance and I like what I’ve seen from other groups, so I’m excited to see what this one has to offer.

“Pure Dance Presents: Callisto” will be on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Mendelssohn Theatre of the Michigan League. Tickets are free with a Passport to the Arts.