BAC’s ‘Code Purple’ engaging but hindered by arrangement

A good hip-hop show has to strike the proper balance between routines that are hard-hitting and high-energy and ones that are slower, smoother and less aggressive. BAC reaches that balance in their fall show, “Code Purple,” with a nice assortment of routines that varied tremendously in style, mood, concept and choreography. However, these dances were tempered by their arrangement within the larger performance.

The hip-hoppers in BAC are fantastic. They are energetic, enthusiastic and committed to the quality of their performance. But 14 pieces is ambitious for any dance group and any audience, and 14 pieces interspersed with five filler videos and one guest performance detracts from the flow of the entire production. The dancers are better than the excessively long transitions between pieces, and they are better than the fillers, which negatively and unnecessarily impact each of the dances. Had the transitions been minimized, the fillers trimmed and many of the dances themselves been shortened just a little bit, BAC’s “Code Purple” would have been absolutely phenomenal. As it was, the dancing was impressive and the dancers were enthusiastic, making the performance highly enjoyable and entertaining.

The production hit its stride with its third number, “Men,” choreographed by Paul Oh ’14 and Kevin Chai ’14. The two pieces before this have energy, attitude and swag, but “Men” brings BAC’s standards up to a whole new level. As a complement to the piece before it (an all female routine, “Girl Code”) “Men” has a cast of six guys who (I hate to say it) knock the girls out of the water. The choreography in “Men” does not seem significantly more intricate than the choreography in most of the other BAC routines, but the careful mixture of fast and slow as well as the dancers’ use of vertical space made this piece quite a standout. The purple suits the dancers wore were also a nice touch, as were the costumes throughout the rest of the show.

The next two routines lived up to BAC’s newly set standards. Both had careful choreography, impressive synchrony and great costumes, but they would have made more of an impact if each one came right after the other without a brief video filler between.

With the sixth dance, however, the BAC dancers seemed to cross genres a little too drastically. “Codeswitch,” choreographed by Damali James ’14, involves a far more abstract narrative than any of the other pieces. To construct this narrative, the dancers rely on slower, more refined movement, bordering and potentially breaching contemporary dance. Diversity of dances is excellent, but it is possible to tell a contemplative story within the bounds of hip-hop, and this, perhaps, would have been a better direction to explore. BAC performers are talented hip-hop dancers, and though they danced well and acted even better in “Codeswitch,” the genre was unclear and the dancers did not benefit from this.

“Code to My Heart,” the final dance in the first act, was a return to the high-energy and hard-hitting hip-hop that BAC does so well. Again, the dancing itself was faultless. The choreography and staging were excellent and visually interesting, and the dancers themselves delivered a great performance. This piece, however, was prefaced by a significantly long break in which three stage hands rolled out three large mirrors as set pieces. This seemed highly promising, as mirrors have the potential to make an excellent routine epic. Unfortunately, the set went a bit to waste in the actual number. Again, the dancers were performing well, but they had very little interaction with the mirrors behind them. Rather than heightening the performance, the mirrors made the stage look overly crowded and limited the lighting.

The second act included one of the best routines in the show, “Miscoded,” choreographed by Jordan Best ’14. This “Matrix”-themed piece was one of the strongest in terms of a clever narrative, detailed choreography, thoughtful staging and sound editing. The dancers got to show off their technique on top of their acting abilities, and the piece was thoroughly entertaining to watch. Other dances in the second act demonstrated a significant range in style and mood. The happy-go-lucky “Less Than Three” contrasted blatantly with the rather suggestive “Body Language” piece, which was further juxtaposed by the cheerful, perky “Purp-Love on Top.”

There was no shortage in stylistic diversity in BAC’s “Code Purple,” and the dancing itself was impressive. As the dances went on, however, they began to blend together slightly. Because of the transitions, fillers and sheer length of all of the pieces, the impact of each individual routine was impinged upon. This said, BAC still put on an excellent production — its members are excited, dedicated and talented dancers.

Pros: High energy, the dancers were enthusiastic and committed, good diversity in terms of the vibe of each piece

Cons: A little long, some pieces fell below the standard BAC sets for itself

Paws: 3.5

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