Breaking Ground: A smashing show of versatile performances

Dec. 4, 2022, 11:13 p.m.

On Friday, 18 Stanford dance groups delivered on Dinkelspiel stage one of the most highly anticipated dance shows of the year: Breaking Ground 2022. Tickets for the show sold out within hours, and the audience completely filled the auditorium’s 710 seats. Hosted by Common Origins, Stanford’s largest non-audition dance group, the 10th-anniversary show was a lively reminder of the huge variety of art forms Stanford students are passionate about, from hip hop and tinikling to jazz and bhangra.

Although the show was almost two and a half hours long, it was engaging throughout due to the vast variety of dance styles. The amount of talent within the Stanford student body was evident; almost every group had perfect coordination. Put short, Breaking Ground was my favorite student performance I have been to this year. 

Common Origin alumni Olayami Ajao ’21 M.S. ’22  and Tyler Shibata ’22 M.S. ’22 emceed the show, delivering pun-driven introductions that edged towards cheesiness but were loveable nonetheless.

A group of Bhangra dancers jumping in the air
Stanford Bhangra impressed the audience with their use of traditional Indian props and festive movements. (Photo: LENA MIKACICH/The Stanford Daily)

The show opened with Bhangra, who feature the high energy, colorful style of dancing originating in Punjab, India. The dancers used khundas (a hooked stick) and saaps (a wooden prop that makes a clapping noise), moving quickly and rhymically to cheers from the audience. Their energy was infectious, and I found myself sad when the lights dimmed at the end of their set. They were followed by Legacy, a team dressed in all black with red neck gaiters that they positioned over their mouths, faces or necks. Legacy had a horror-themed set, adding sexy zombie energy to their performance, a mix of hip hop, break dance and contemporary. 

These two first acts were symbolic of the rest of the show, a blend of cultural and contemporary elements. Highlights included Kayumanggi, a Pilipino cultural arts group that did a “tinikling” routine, where some dancers hopped over painted bamboo sticks slid by others. It was reminiscent of a more sophisticated and artful version of double dutch. While the movements themself were fun and upbeat, the pinnacle of the performance was just the technical skill demonstrated. 

Innovative Styles’ performance was slower and smoother, their blue clothing forming a sea on stage. Basmati Raas had incredible spirit, leading a group cheer on stage before an energetic performance. 

Swingtime’s three swing pairs on stage had audience members tapping their feet and wanting to sign up for social dance. The jazzy tunes and flapper-esque outfits were reminiscent of the 1940s. While bopping to the music, the six dancers on stage executed impressive jumps. When the performance ended, one of the dancers beckoned the audience for a heartier applause from her final position in a low dip.

Act one was concluded with the first Common Origins set. The set had five different numbers ranging in styles, with around 40  dancers bringing them to life. What Common Origins lacked in synchronization they made up for in excitement, engaging the audience with energy and animated facial expressions. 

Intermission was not a typical boring bathroom break. Rather, the stage quickly filled with over 50 dancers — both audience members and performers — forming a freestyle circle, a tradition that happens at every Breaking Ground show. Duos or individual dancers came center stage to strut their stuff while other dancers circled the perimeter. It felt like a club with talented dancers that invited the audience to experience the skill up close.

A group of hip hop dancers
The Stanford dance group Legacy delivered a sexy and rhythmic performance. (Photo: LENA MIKACICH/The Stanford Daily)

Act two was just as energetic as the first. Alliance was crisp, clean and powerful. Stanford Chinese Dance radiated divine female energy in gauze black pants and matching blue tops. Stanford Dance Sports had a refreshing partner tango to a violin rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” followed by a waltz. Dv8 had a fast, sexy and energetic hip-hop routine. Common Origins finished the show with five more numbers, all choreographed by various members of the team. 

As audience members began filing out, Common Origins took to the stage to thank everyone for attending and making the event happen. “This family, this dancer would be nothing with you,” one dancer who grabbed the microphone gushed to presidents Emma Wang ’24 and Lanna Wang ’24. As pink roses were passed out and supporters jumped on stage to congratulate their friends, it became clear that the evening, showcasing the best of dance that Stanford has to offer, was as enjoyable for audience members and dancers alike. 

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Annie Reller '24 is interested in French and American Studies and grew up in Bellevue, Washington. In her free time, she enjoys eating tikka masala from farmers' markets and reading on trains.

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