Amherst and Mt. Holyoke Dance in “Amalgamate”

This weekend, the Mount Holyoke Dance Department and the Amherst Department of Theater and Dance produced their Fall Faculty Concert “Amalgamate,” a showcase of varied styles.

On Nov. 9, 10, and 11, the Amherst and Mount Holyoke dance departments collaborated to present this year’s Fall Faculty Concert, titled “Amalgamate,” in Kirby Theater. A play on the word “amalgamation,” this concert fittingly unified the creativity of choreographers and performers across the Five College Consortium. Consisting of six different dance pieces, each choreographed by a different faculty member in collaboration with their performers and varying drastically in theme and style, the concert was masterfully executed and incredibly engaging, overall expressing the power of collaboration and the value it brings to our community.

“Amalgamate” opened with the piece “Apparition,” choreographed by Mount Holyoke Assistant Professor of Dance Professor Barbie Diewald. While exploring themes of human connection and how easy it is to move in and out of another’s life, the contemporary choreography alternated between expressing isolation and disconnectedness, with dancers moving independently from one another. Yet, they expressed kinship, embracing each other, lifting up one another, and moving gracefully and in sync. The music of this piece further reflected this contrast, as its mechanical rhythm coexisted with sounds of a human choir. At the end of this tender piece, one dancer faced the audience and stretched her hand backwards towards another dancer, who was trapped in the embrace of the rest of the performers near the back of the stage; both desperately tried to reach one another but ultimately disappeared again out of each other’s lives.

The next piece was “Popsicles can do so much,” choreographed by Amherst Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Jungeun Kim. The piece was inspired by a vivid dream Kim had last spring wherein two popsicles hung from above while bodies moved gently underneath them. This dance certainly felt like watching a dream unfold. Moving among rows of popsicles strung from the ceiling, each performer largely danced independently according to their own style, expressing a mix of fluid and sharp movements. Though the performance could have been interpreted as uncoordinated, there were distinct moments where all the dancers repeated the same motions in sync, from throwing their arms back to shaking as though they were trying to remove something from their bodies. The eerie, entrancing mood created through this choreography was aided by the score, which shifted from powerful drum beats to a groovy mechanical rhythm to a cacophony of animal squealing. The piece ended with the dancers laying on the ground and gently their hands reaching up towards the popsicles above them, clearly connecting the piece back to the theme of dreaming.

Shifting gears significantly, the next piece was “Take Back,” choreographed by Mount Holyoke Assistant Professor of Dance Shakia Barron. This energetic piece honored the history of hip-hop through the theme of “taking back” cultural traditions, reflecting the art form’s evolution from the 1980s hip-hop today. The stage teemed with enthusiasm and passion during this incredible piece, with the performers expressing mastery over the sharp, precise hip-hop movements, which were in synchronization with the fast-paced beats. This piece showcased a true sense of community, from the many moments where all 14 dancers danced perfectly in unity with one another to the audience’s fervent cheering throughout the entire dance. Each dancer wore jean shorts and a white top, reflecting the piece’s theme by displaying a casual timelessness while also recalling fashion trends during hip-hop’s emergence. In the program, performers Amanda Amoabeng ʼ25 from Mount Holyoke and Kylie Gregory ʼ26 from Smith, who are both Black, reflected on their experiences with the piece, explaining “We are taking back the stage. We are taking back the culture. We are taking back power.”

After a brief intermission, the concert resumed with “other astonishments,” choreographed by Amherst Visiting Instructor in Theater and Dance and Smith College Lecturer in Dance Ellie Goudie-Averill and her performers. This piece, inspired by the poems in Eilieen Myles’ “snowflake/different streets,” reflected both drama and simplicity through its graceful, emotionally charged choreography; the simple, yet brightly colored tops worn by the performers further demonstrated this duality. The dancers expressed the beauty of community and simple human connection as they held onto one another, lifted each other up, and executed ballet-inspired movements together. Accompanying the performers was a shifting score of orchestral and mechanical sounds, reminding the audience of the echo of harsh winds and further expressing the notion that drama exists even in our mundane-seeming daily lives.

The fifth piece, entitled “Movement Collage: Juxtapose Perspectives,” was choreographed by Amherst Visiting Instructor in Theater and Dance Jeff Jean-Phillipe. This dance poignantly explored racism in America, demonstrating that discourse and listening to differing perspectives are crucial for social progress. The piece began with energetic hip-hop choreography as dancers emerged from the audience to Kendrick Lamar’s “N95”; its lyrics, critiquing contemporary America, flashed on a screen at the back of the stage. Next, the music transitioned to “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child (Remixed by Jean-Phillipe), and the performers entranced the audience with fluid, confident movements. The piece suddenly adopted a dystopian tone, with dancers staggered onto the stage in anguish and wearing shock collars that had flashing red lights, seemingly constrained by external forces. This idea reappears in the final portion of the piece, in which four dancers performed to the lyrics of “I’m Not Racist” by Joyner Lucas, which expresses a dialogue between a white person expressing racist thought, yet still claiming not to be prejudiced, and a Black person’s response. This powerful moment expressed that cross-racial discourse is crucial to breaking down stereotypes and fostering true understanding across differences. At the end of the piece, one white dancer and one Black dancer attempt to embrace but are prevented from doing so by their shock collars, reflecting that social barriers keep us from truly understanding one another, perpetuating racism in this country.

The final piece of the concert was “The Aftermath of a Cosmic Collision: Our Hearts of Iron,” choreographed by Amherst Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Jenna Riegel. This piece explores the interconnectedness of all human beings to both each other and the cosmos. With stars projected on the walls of the auditorium, the dancers emerged on stage to an excerpt from Tom Chi’s TedTalk “Everything is Connected,” wherein he affirms that “at the heart of our hearts we all have a little iron atom” and therefore “everyone of our heartbeats is connected.” This notion was poignantly expressed through the choreography, where dancers frequently joined in a circle, embraced one another, and then expanded outwards to perform their own individual movements, only to come back to this formation a few moments later. Near the middle of the piece, dancers came onto the stage in pairs. While it seemed at the beginning of the piece that the dancers were wearing random mixtures of silver, black, and pink clothing, during this part it was made apparent that each person had one partner wearing the same outfit, contributing to the idea of being intimately connected to others even among the large scope of humanity. This beautiful, mesmerizing piece ended with all dancers sinking to the floor in pairs to the sound of a beating heart, reminding the audience of how our connections to each other are rooted in our biology. This piece was a fantastic ending to an impressive showcase of the incredible creative talent across the Five College Consortium.

“It was wonderful to get to know all these people from all the different colleges,” says Warren Wang ’27, who performed in Barron’s piece “Take Back.” “In our piece we have representation from all Five Colleges. It’s amazing to work with all of these people; some of them seniors, some of them graduates, some of them just starting out like me. I feel like my knowledge has expanded by getting to know other dance clubs outside of Amherst, and I love how all of these communities support each other.”