Courtesy of Alyssa Arre / Photo Editor

Elegant. Toxic. Powerful. A storm blew Strong Auditorium last Friday when the University’s Ballet Performance Group (BPG) held its annual performance, titled “Can’t Hold Us.”

The dances started with a few classical pieces, or what is seen as traditional ballet by the general public. They wore bird-like costumes as they effortlessly flew across the stage in a simple version of “Polka.” They were sophisticated and refined, but the classical pieces were merely an appetizer of what was to come.

As they finished gliding around in their crystal-white costumes, the stage went dark. Two dancers emerged wearing nothing but black. The piece, called “Quantum Truths,” was a manifestation of human strife and struggle. They were not dancing — they were fighting. It was difficult watching the dancers slide across the floor and interacting with each other with such passion, but the experience was primal. This was not the type of ballet I expected. This was something else. It was raw emotion. It was the fall of our race followed by a rising triumph. I didn’t just see it; I felt it as well.

What followed was a series of short narrative performances backed by contemporary music. Standouts included a fiery collaboration with the Indulgence Dance Crew in “Fine China,” a mellifluous performance of Sarah Bareilles’ “Bluebird” with freshmen Emily Landau and Lauren Rubin, and senior Christina Graham’s heart-wrenching performance of “She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert, popularized by the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit, “Same Love.”

The eponymous performance of “Can’t Hold Us” was noteworthy for its unique form of tap dance. The dancers were in perfect sync with the Macklemore/Ryan Lewis track. It was an interesting rendition to say the least, but it was nothing compared to what was easily the best two performances of the night.

“Medicine” was painful to watch for its message about the complexities that children with behavioral problems face when growing up, while “No Light, No Light” by Florence and the Machine encouraged us to accept and challenge the concept of change. Both were large group performances accompanied by true passion for the message they were trying to portray. The expressions on their faces and the syndication in dance were both absolutely phenomenal. You could feel the chills as each performance ended to thunderous applause. The group was good in all of its performances, but the dancers were especially awesome when they brought deep, personal emotion to the stage.

The audience was intoxicated by BPG’s great performance as well as a post-intermission ballet dance by irresistibly cute toddlers from the Rochester community. It’s not “Black Swan” — it’s nostalgic beauty.

Usmani is a member of the class of 2017.

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