Following a two year in-person hiatus from performances, “EnCounter Culture” returned to Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Saturday evening. The two-hour performance was emceed by Bri Peet ’21 and Marc Chappelle ’21 M.S. ’23, and organized by the hip-hop group Dv8, with a bevy of other Stanford dance groups taking the stage.
The dance performances drew from various eras, ranging from Swingtime’s 1930s Lindy Hop (reminiscent of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling à la “La La Land”) to contemporary American R&B and hip-hop (including Alliance using Kelis’ “Milkshake” and both Alliance and Dv8 dancing to 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop”).
During Stanford Jump Rope’s outstanding performance, the audience audibly reacting with excitement and anxiety. Within a double Dutch set up, the team would start bouncing between the ropes: deftly performing tricks like handstands within the swinging ropes. The handoffs of the swinging rope between jumpers were remarkably swift, akin to relay sprinters passing a baton.
Edgar Mercado ’22, who has been a member of Stanford Jump Rope since his frosh year, was overjoyed to see the turnout on Saturday evening: it’s “so much fun being creative and coming up with new tricks as a team. Seeing everything come together on stage and hearing the crowd’s reactions makes all of our practice worth it.”
I also enjoyed watching cultural groups such as Basmati Raas, Stanford Bhangra and Mua Lac Hong (MLH); their enthralling performances pushed the definition of dance beyond styles typically portrayed in American media. The groups were unified in their use of props, with Raas clicking garba sticks, Bhangra expertly moving their saap and khunda and MLH adroitly flicking their fans. Bhangra and MLH’s performance music particularly piqued my interest because I could hear various cultural influences in the tracks. In the former, I briefly heard the hook of Kanye West’s “Praise God” in an otherwise Punjabi song and in the latter, a traditional reggaetón dembow beat kept the pace of music with Vietnamese lyrics. Perhaps, this blend emphasizes how globalized both contemporary music and dance are.
The evening was widely acclaimed by attendees. Coming from a busy night of Resident Assistant duties, Isaac Garcia ’22 was only able to stop by for a short time but characterized what he saw as “electrifying.”
Likewise, I appreciated how the dancers exhibited intimate bodily movement in an artistic way, especially in modern culture where lively expression is often sexualized. The fun and freedom that the performers provocatively displayed on stage was thrilling, and the audience cheered them on with each gyration. Groups such as Jam Pac’d, Alliance and Dv8 put on very explosive and sensual performances, emphasizing and portraying the power of femininity.
Hannah Pingol ’22, who fondly remembers the last “EnCounter Culture” she attended pre-pandemic in 2020, found the in-person and togetherness aspect of this year’s performance to be heartwarming.
“Just getting to cheer and clap with people was enjoyable. I loved the fact that the dances were a lot more sensual, and they made me feel empowered as a woman. It felt very female,” Pingol said.
The performances were evocative and the music well-chosen, with the mix of song snippets ranging from heavily popularized social media bops to lesser-known artists requiring a Shazam search. The massive groups were able to stay in sync with each other and move on beat with impressive accuracy, reminding me of high school drumline practice — incessant repetition of steps until they were down cold. For groups not using props, I found their use of the floor space to be tactful. Dancers would disperse, then coalesce, then literally fall to the floor in a flurry of movements.
Overall, the evening was an exciting way to unwind as our second quarter back on campus comes to an end. With both audition and non-audition, competitive and non-competitive groups, I strongly feel that dancing is open to all within the Stanford community. The camaraderie we felt cheering for fellow students as they proudly flaunted sets, pouring their hearts into each move, was fun and emblematic of what makes Stanford “Stanford.”
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.
The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of “Chappelle.” The Daily regrets this error.