In a place where modern dance and classical forms of art and entertainment seem to dominate the stage, VIBE brings to the table one of dance's best kept secrets: the art of jazz and tap.
Sitting on a plane back from our Winter Term in Mexico, I can remember how excited sophomore Cathy Doggett was about a new dance company that she planned to organize in the beginning of the second semester. Directed and organized by Doggett and Caitlin Medlock, VIBE is a fresh and talented group of young people.
Catching VIBE during rehearsal gave me a chance to get to know VIBE not only as an extremely organized and talented group of young people, but as a group of young people whose passion for this art form reflects not only in their dance but in their relations with one another.
The story begins with a jazz ExCo taught by Doggett. The class was initiated because of the lack of jazz classes at Oberlin. To Doggett, not only did this class bring jazz to the campus for those who could not get it through the college's curriculum, but the ExCo also afforded her the chance to challenge herself as both a teacher and a dancer. It was here that Doggett met Caitlin Medlock. She liked Medlock because of her energy for the art of dance, tap in particular, and decided that she would be just the person to help her effectively pull off her idea to produce a dance company with a focus on jazz and tap.
With the idea fresh in her mind, Doggett approached Medlock and together they organized general interest meetings and two separate and rigorous auditions. "We started out with 20 auditioners and ended up with five at the end of the audition," Doggett said. The auditions were so rigorous that some people left the auditions early. By the end Doggett and Medlock, with the help of their sponsor, Nusha Martynuk, had selected 11 women and one man for the company. They are first-years Ana Maria Alvarez, Vanessa Chaves, Chwee Sze Foong, Steffany Haaz, LaToyia Huggins, Arden Kaywin, Caitlin Medlock, Gizella Roberts, Christie Schroth, Kerry Wee, sophomore Cathy Doggett and senior Andrew Twiss. They are all well-versed in every genre of dance with, at the most, 14 years of dance experience.
Tonight's performance includes four jazz pieces and two tap pieces choreographed by several of the dancers in the company. The work is allocated such that each and every one had a chance not only to take responsibility for the company in a cooperative manner, but to also display his or her talent in the department of creation. So for two months the dancers practiced twice a day for two hours to produce a concert that would show Oberlin what they were capable of.
The concert begins with a jazz number choreographed by Kerry Wee to the popular techno group La Bouche's, "Be My Lover". This piece is both fast and energetic and shows innovation and freshness in choreography. The first tap number entitled Kinesis, performed by the tap section of the company, is accompanied by a combination of recorded drumming by The Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart and live drumming by first-year student Matt Hill. The most innovative element is the incorporation of the drums. It brings about a different flavor to a dance form that is traditionally either danced a cappella or to show tunes. It also serves as a reminder of how the art of dance is evolving daily and striving to break from conventions. The second jazz number is choreographed by Chaves to Cher's "Bang Bang." This piece looks like a combination of both modern and jazz. It is both dramatic and powerful in that the dance movements are extremely poignant in expression.
The third jazz piece, choreographed by Kaywin, is performed to Tori Amos' "Little Earthquakes." This beautiful lyrical number is where the group appears most unified because of its graceful and deliberate movements and the music selection works for the piece. The last tap number is entitled "Tapestry". This number is unlike the rest in that there is no music involved; only the dancers themselves feeling a rhythm created amongst the group. It's energetic and they appear to be having fun and enjoying what they do. The final jazz piece, choreographed by Doggett, is performed to a techno cut by Dr. Allen entitled, called "Sing Hallelujah." This number is very uplifting because it plays on a religious theme without actually being religious. The choreography focuses on the group's unity and style. Doggett selected this number because of its sentimental value to herself and the group. It was this piece that was presented to the dancers at the audition and that brought them together to become VIBE. The concert also includes guest artists Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone, Black Oasis, Heather Gautschi and Voices for Christ.
Not only is the group's unity present in the performances, but it is quite evident during the sometimes grueling and pressure-driven rehearsals. As Haaz put it, "At first, I didn't know what it would be like because most of them [the dancers] were jazz based, but we have become a lot more cohesive as time has gone on." "We are just starting out," Doggett said, "and we want the audience to get excited about that. That's what this concert is for." Their hope is to entertain, not to give a show where the audience has to think about what it is they have just viewed. "We'll move you," said Medlock, "just sit back and enjoy the ride."
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 23; May 3, 1996
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