Lust, desire, sloth, gluttony. Everyone has experienced these damnable sins. Through the art of expression, dancers dive in.
Thriving for 45 years, N.C. Central University’s Dance Group returned to the stage for its spring concert, “Vices and Virtues,” on April 3 in the University Theatre. As the name of the concert implies, the focus of the program was consequence of yielding to temptation and the reward of sticking to virtues. The songs used in the routines came from a variety of genres, including rock, folk, and hip hop.
With guidance from instructors, students choreographed the program. In all, about 40 students were involved in the program.
“I give constructive criticism, help with placement, staging, lighting and presentation to help the audience receive the message,” said Nancy Pinckney, director of NCCU’s Dance Group.
The opening dance, “Eve’s Obsession,” harks back to the Garden of Eden, where evil first entered the world. In the routine, dancers are hypnotized with percussive rhythms and follow alluring red apples with their eyes.
In “Whodunnit” students dance to Naughty Boy’s “No One’s Here to Sleep.” This is one of the more cinematic routines. The sin here is murder. During the routine, the victim stands at the back of the stage. He’s on everyone’s conscience. Time is moved backward. With an “Ah Ha” moment the audiences sees the killer stab the victim. Midnight blue lights set the tone for this murder mystery.
“I feel for that piece,” said dancer and choreographer Travis Simmons, who played the murderer in the routine. Simmons explained that the routine deals with betrayal. “All of the people the victim worked with or worked for either betrayed him or went away somehow. “I’ve been taken advantage of myself, it was a cool piece to be a part of.”
In “Feeding Time,” which Simmons choreographed, the performers slip into an eating frenzy while the sound effects amplify the sounds of eating. At one moment some of the dancers lean over as if they are tables, or perhaps even part of the menu.
“I like self-expression, putting my motives through the movement. I like teaching other people and passing that on to others.” Simmons said.
The display of humankind’s weaknesses, were interrupted with routines that explored humankind’s better angels. “Glory,” the second routine in the program, focused on togetherness and hope similar to the protoevangelium foreshadowing of redemption in Genesis.
Guest dancers were featured, one of them including the Platinum Praise Dancers from St. Joseph AME Church. Choreographed by Nancy Pinckney, the mothers performed to Hezekiah Walker’s “I Need You to Survive.” In the routine, the dancers console a seated woman who appears to be weakened by grief. The audience, clearly moved by the scene, chanted along with the Walker song. The routine drew a standing ovation.
In all, it was evident that the two months of hard work and practice paid off. The performance explored humankind’s struggle with both vice and virtue gracefully and skillfully. Even more importantly, the program brought students together while they choreographed and embodied the themes of good and evil.
“There’s something different every semester, but I think in this one we got closer, growing a lot in technique, as dancers, and as brothers and sisters,” said Justin Williams, a mass communication junior who both choreographed and danced in every routine in the program. “We faced a lot of adversity and as a group we bonded together to make sure we stayed strong.”