Mac Dance’s annual showcase carries on despite COVID-19

Performing arts have the power to, for a brief moment in time, bring people together in a shared experience. This year’s Mac Dance showcase The Show Goes On is a reminder of the students’ ability to come together, albeit online, to share their love of dance. The group features a range of styles: from jazz and tap, to musical theatre and Bollywood.

Last year, Mac Dance’s annual showcase was held at Mohawk College and was almost entirely sold out. This year, the show will be held virtually as a YouTube live stream on Feb. 27.

“We want to make it feel as much like a typical show as possible, so we made a show order, a virtual program, we’re having an intermission and we’re having raffles. Chance [Sabouri, Mac Dance president] is going to do a little speech at the beginning. The biggest difference obviously is that you’re not going to be sitting in a chair screaming at people on stage in front of you,” said Lauren Shoss, a fourth-year health sciences student and secretary of Mac Dance.

In September, choreographers and dancers began the process of preparing dances for the showcase. Each piece is two to three minutes in length and it is up to the choreographer to choose the music and set the choreography for their group.

Dance classes this year have been taught over Zoom, posing its own unique set of challenges, from half of the choreographer’s body getting cut out of the frame to dancing in cramped spaces to getting kicked out of the call due to unstable internet connections. However, through mutual support, everyone moved past these challenges together.

“We've heard from a lot of our dancers that people are just so thankful. They see dance as a break and escape from the stress of school. I know that's how people feel in a typical year — you go into the studio and you kind of leave the rest of the world behind [to] focus on dance for a bit and just let yourself really get into your movement, so it's really nice that people are still able to get that from the year,” said Shoss.

The Silhouette interviewed some of Mac Dance’s choreographers to get an in-depth look at some of the pieces that will be performed this year.

C/O Mac Dance Team

Going Home by Kevin Vong

Vong described his piece’s style as a type of hip hop fusion that blends contemporary and hip hop styles.

Choreographed to Sonn and Ayelle’s Lights Out and Vance Joy’s Going Home, the piece pushes traditional definitions of hip hop. Where hip hop is typically defined by its hard-hitting movement, Vong brings out the texture and subtlety with particular attention to emotion in his piece.

“Especially during the pandemic, [I was inspired by] going home to reconnect to what is important to you instead of looking out to the material world. Sometimes family, home, is what you should rely on and it’s really important,” explained Vong.

For Vong, dance has become a form of home and he hopes that the audience will feel that through movement. Currently in his fourth year of linguistics, Vong said dance will forever remain as a source of inspiration and for all intents and purposes, his second home.

C/O Janet Bell

Got It in You & Grave Digger by Lauren Shoss

Shoss roots her dance pieces in storytelling. Drawing from her personal life experiences, her two pieces Got it in You and Grave Digger are two halves of a whole, with antagonistic but related storylines.

Got It in You, a lyrical dance set to the song of the same name by BANNERS, is based on the idea of finding the strength and power within yourself to overcome life’s obstacles and challenges.

Complimentary to Got It in You,Grave Digger is a contemporary piece exemplifying the feeling of being weighed and held down. Set to the song by Matt Maeson of the same name, Shoss described the piece’s darker and more aggressive tones as a welcome challenge, as she branched out of her comfort zone to create the more intense piece.

Now in her fourth year of the health sciences program, Lauren is considering pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology, with the intention of working with athletes from a mental health perspective.

“I think [work with athlete mental health] is really needed in the dance world. I've seen a lot of my teammates suffer from body image issues, low self-confidence, perfectionism and eating disorders . . . It is a very neglected population, but they're in need of support,” explained Shoss.

C/O Hannah Armstrong

Burlesque by Hannah Armstrong
Armstrong’s jazz group is channelling their inner Christina Aguilera in her piece entitled Burlesque, inspired by the film. In her first year choreographing a jazz piece, Armstrong decided upon the theme of burlesque as a fun and uplifting dance concept.

“The biggest challenge was probably just trying to envision how I wanted the routine, while also trying to make it [conducive to] online [viewing] . . . What can make a jazz routine really great are the transitions, group formations, interaction between dancers and just the energy on stage, so trying to replicate that online was probably the biggest struggle for me,” explained Armstrong.

As one of two co-vice presidents for the recreational dance team, Armstrong admires that Mac Dance connects diverse individuals by their mutual love of dance. In the spirit of The Show Goes On, she detailed how the Mac Dance community has impacted her as a dancer and as a person.

“I did competitive dance throughout high school and I always assumed that that would be the end of my kind of dancing career, but coming to university and then finding this team [allowed me to] keep doing what I love. . . I'm very thankful that everybody is here because they want to [dance] for fun and because they're invested,” Armstrong said.

C/O Janet Bell

Vienna by Abby Buller

When finding inspiration for her piece, Buller found that she clicked instantly with Billy Joel’s Vienna. As a tap choreographer, she liked the song for both its musical elements in combination with tap sounds as well as its message.

As tap dance is largely dependent on dancers’ timing of tap sounds with each other and the music, creating a tap dance in an online environment poses its own set of challenges. With technical difficulties in teaching over Zoom, Buller pointed to the timing of intricate steps as one of her greatest challenges.

Buller described her creative way of splicing dancers’ videos together for her dance’s showcase performance.

“When I get dancers to send me their videos, I want [to coordinate] their feet sounds, but I need to [overlay the] music in with it. I was so happy when this worked out — the [entire group] has Bluetooth headphones, so they're going to listen to the song through their headphones, film out loud so the can get their feet [sounds] and then I'll put the music in over top,” explained Buller.

The Mac Dance team hopes that The Show Goes On will bring people together in an otherwise distant time, reminding them that even though we are physically distant, we are still all in this together.

“Mac Dance reminded me of what the dance community is supposed to be just like. A bunch of people coming together to have fun, to share a common passion, to create something really beautiful and meaningful together and just having a great time,” said Buller.

Photos C/O Trevor Copp

By: Jackie McNeill

Tottering Biped Theatre, a Hamilton-based theatre company founded by Trevor Copp, has reached over 600,000 views on a TED Talk about ‘liquid lead dancing,’ a gender neutral form of partner dancing.

Several McMaster alumni are involved in the theatre company, particularly with their summer Shakespeare work held at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The theatre is social justice-focused, devising works that have addressed issues like poverty, same sex marriage and mental health and different interpretations of Shakespeare.

However, as prominent as the theatre’s work is, it is not what Copp is arguably best known for.

In 2015, he and his colleague Jeff Fox delivered a TED Talk in Montreal on a dance concept they developed called ‘liquid lead dancing.’

Liquid lead dancing, a form of gender neutral partner dance, was born out of Copp’s discomfort with the systems and rules he was perpetuating as a ballroom dance teacher.

As explained in their TED Talk, the strictly gendered partner dancing promotes a relationship shaped by dictation, where the man leads and the woman follows.

He and Fox developed liquid lead dancing to turn this dictation into a negotiation.

It proposes a system where lead and follow are exchanged throughout the course of the dance regardless of gender,” Copp explained.

This change of form will hopefully become normalized as a dance and help to normalize healthy relationships outside of partner dance as well.

The liquid lead dance between Copp and Fox morphed into a play about creating the first dance for a same sex wedding.

After a successful run of the play, a former student contacted Copp about presenting their dance form as a TED talk.

Copp and Fox’s TED talk was picked up by TED.com, and has over 600,00 views to date.

Despite the success of the TED talk, Copp admits that it has not been all smooth sailing promoting liquid lead dancing.

“Most people are comfortable with their given role, and, even though they aren't particularly traditional in their thinking, allow it to decide their roles as dancers. There's comfort in the familiar. I don't begrudge it at all. I just think that if you're going to recreate a culturally outdated form you should be conscious of it by making a choice to do so as opposed to sleepwalking your way through the dance form.”

Acknowledging that the work he had done with liquid lead dance is not that well-known in Hamilton, Copp is aiming to work harder at spreading the dance form in the future.

As explained in the TED Talk, liquid lead dancing is not about dance alone.

By addressing the strict roles perpetuated in partner dancing, Copp and Fox have begun to address the erasure of non-binary people and same-sex couples in dance, in addition to the exclusion of Black, Asian and other non-white bodies.

By bringing these issues that are prevalent within ballroom and partner dance to a wider audience with the TED Talk and Copp’s theatre company, the same issues that are prevalent in everyday life stand a better chance at being addressed.

Copp has performed liquid lead dance at conferences throughout Ontario, New York and Ireland and is looking forward to next presenting at a conference on consent and sexuality with Planned Parenthood in Virginia.

 

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MAC Dance hosted their year end showcase on April 8. Check out MAC Dance Competitive Team Year End Showcase for more information.

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Emma Suschkov
The Silhouette

Why must you taunt me so?  Every time I hear a catchy song, you make me want to move to the rhythm despite never actually imparting on me any talent.

Unfortunately for me, it is not exactly acceptable to break out into enthusiastic, if far from skilled, dancing in many social scenarios. Say for example my favourite dance tune comes on while I’m in the dentist’s office waiting for the receptionist to call my name. The other people in the waiting room might be tempted to run away if I suddenly busted some (awkward) moves. But that’s exactly what you make me want to do.  In addition to the social constraints that keep me from dancing whenever you make me want to, money prevents me from attending dance classes.  Whatever, I don’t want to follow steps in front of a giant mirror anyway.  I want to groove somewhere where I don’t have to watch myself and realize the visual horror I am creating.

Which brings me to the problem I face today.  I don’t have a dance outlet.  Apparently, that’s what clubs are for.

Except not.

When I say “dance”, I mean I want to do my thang and my thang does not involve grinding.

Grinding, while I see its utility as both a mating ritual and a way to dance/feel all sexy-like without having to learn how to dance, is not what I’m looking for.  It’s not what you make me want to do.  I’ll go to a club with the intention of dancing my face off to keep you in check for a while and instead of finding myself shaking a tail feather, I find other people trying to rub up on my tail feather.  This is not, in fact, what everyone in a club wants (some do obviously, and they have every right).

But what, then, am I supposed to do? Do I turn around and shout over the ridiculously loud music at them that our desires are not mutual? Do I give up trying to stress my vocal cords to insane decibels and just sort of run away so they are left grinding, confused, all alone?

Seriously, desire to dance, you must see how you injure me.  If there existed some way for me to manage you without all these problems and awkward encounters, we might live in harmony.

Until that day, please save it for when I’m alone in my room.

Please and thank you,

Coordination-challenged Cora

By: Zara Lewis

 

As an exchange student from the University of Leeds in England, the past three weeks have been a crash course in Canadian culture – from learning how to cut a milk bag correctly to realizing that black squirrels exist to discovering what a “smoke show” is and what it means to have “flo.” It’s fair to say that I have felt like somewhat of an alien over here. There are many aspects of being a Canadian student that were not explained to me in the Studying Abroad Handbook.

But of all the new things that have both enlightened and shocked me, nothing was quite as jaw dropping as the dancing that I have witnessed. With seductive hair flicking and dry humping from both the front and behind, it is evident that the Canadians know how to grind.

I’m not trying to claim that British kids are all prudes and dance at an arms length from one another, but over here, the dance floor appears to be a space reserved for pairs of grinding bodies, while the other not so daring onlookers remain hugged to the bar or their drinks.

So, far I have been one of the latter, crossed with a ‘deer in headlights’ expression etched upon my face.

However, the most pivotal moment of my Canadian dancing experience happened on Friday while I was innocently dancing with my friends, and I was repeatedly being pushed in the back. After turning around to see who the offending dancer was, I was presented with a girl with her legs wrapped around her thrusting dance partner’s waist. The pair danced and gyrated against one another, obviously unaware of anyone in the surrounding area.

After a few minutes, the twosome unsurprisingly left the dance floor. Let your mind fill in the rest.

So, after an educational first few weeks here in Canada, it is safe to say that whilst I expected there to be some cultural differences in comparison to England, it appears that the greatest difference is where I least expected there to be one. That is, on the dance floor.

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