On The Rocks concluded its fifth day with Shimmy Society’s “Around the World of Dance”, an inclusive showcase of dance and music from around the globe. With ten performances ranging from traditional Highland dance to K-pop, the event brought an immense array of talent to the StAge.
Blue Angels kicked off the show with Highland fusion, a modernized take on traditional Highland dance. Initially, it was unclear just how exactly the performance was a fusion between tradition and modernity (as the first musical track seemed to be a Bombay Bicycle Club song), but an engaging solo dance and the final performance to a folk-rock song with the familiar sound of bagpipes amounted to an effective (if brief) representation of the style. Blue Angels deserve credit for the obvious enthusiasm they brought to the stage: regardless of how many of them were performing, they smiled throughout the show, and seeing such joy on stage emphasized the work that went into their performances.
This was followed by a duo from Ballads (Ballroom and Latin Dance Society) in a performance that incorporated tango, Viennese waltz, and foxtrot. Michael Bublé’s “Cry Me a River” brought an electrifying change of pace as the performers were submerged in red lights and impressively made full use of the stage, sliding from one corner to the other and in and out of the reach of the light flares coming from above. It was a pleasure to look at, and a later return from the society’s dancers received long applause from the audience.
Shimmy Society continued with a bellydance performance that explored the style’s Egyptian roots. The society’s very own bellydance tutor Andreea Oniga later returned solo with stunning moves and vibrant enthusiasm, emerging as one of the absolute highlights of the night.
The show’s first half concluded with the University’s top swing dancer Federico Mazzola’s performance. Mazzola was the only dancer to encourage audience interaction in the form of clapping along to the rhythm of the music, and our struggle to keep up with the intense pace made his performance all the more comical and memorable.
Between each performance presenters Tom Chivers and Gordian Leo made the exact same remark “What an excellent performance!” (which somehow never got old), bringing plenty of levity to the show as a whole. Their consultation of a worn-out book allegedly about “the art of dance” provided each group’s style with some context, and with their exaggerated theatricality proved to be both informative and hilarious.
The second half kicked off with SHALU’s Indian fusion style group, which included bhangra, gaana, garba, and Bollywood. The concept of fusion was undeniably at the fore of this show, as instead of performing to individual songs the group danced to a single track of multiple tunes edited together. Seeing the fluency in their movement and the excellent coordination was made all the more memorable when one song merged into another and required the dancers to quickly change rhythm and style, which they pulled off smoothly.
The Celtic Society’s ceilidh was a well-timed return to Scotland after the globe-spanning dancing styles. The dancers brought radiant enthusiasm to the stage and a somewhat familial vibe that worked well as a transition from what we’d seen and what was yet to come.
The organizers certainly left the best for last. Before the final group Saints of Seoul, the presenters introduced Ben Gillen and Maisie McDavid (by the name Maisie Williams for some reason – whether that was an inside joke or just a slip of tongue is completely beyond me, it was hilarious nonetheless), whose salsa was an absolute highlight. Like the couple from Ballads earlier, they elegantly made full use of the stage and infused their performance with much-needed chemistry.
The night concluded with the up-and-coming Saints of Seoul, whose focus lied on K-pop. Without a doubt the most visually stunning show of the night, they made effective use of neon colours and moving strobes that worked well with their urban style. Each of their performances stood out on its own, showing the audience plenty of potential in the society’s future.
To assess the event as a whole, “Around the World of Dance” was an eye-opening night that reminded us of the wide array of talent in this town. I can’t really think of any other place where I’d see all these styles performed in the brief timespan of 90 minutes – for this reason, I was ultimately a bit disappointed by the somewhat low turnout. This event – and all these talented dancers – really deserve to be seen by a larger audience, and I would be glad to see similar nights organised in the future on a much larger scale. The stock images projected behind the dancers and the relatively small size of the stage were compensated for by a stunning attention to detail in costuming – the Celtic society’s tartan, McDavid’s green dress, and the outfits from Ballads are just a few of the standout examples that made the show visually arresting. Such an event is an excellent way to showcase the various cultural backgrounds existing within the Bubble, and Shimmy Society deserve praise for this idea. I truly hope there’s more to come.