GW – Formations seemed very simple, and this gave me the impression that the choreo was simpler than it was. I like that GW has an iconic step that it uses each year – it gives the experienced audience something to look for. However, that’s probably a reason that the iconic move doesn’t need to played out to its entirety; an allusion to the iconography is probably adequate to get the same hype reaction without spending 22 beats essentially not moving feet. In general, it felt like this set did not make use of half/quarter beats, and that made the performance feel like it lagged behind the music. The trade off, though, was that cleanliness was pretty much there at competitive level ready to go. I’m excited to see a theme matched to your choreo, and I hope to see you next semester!
GatoRaas – I was a fan of the choreo throughout your performance, but for me the dropped dandiya and inconsistent execution put you all behind from the beginning because of how it affected formations and overall impression. When you twirl your dandiyo, spin straight out and let it snap against your wrist as an extension of yourself to complete the move – anything less leaves a variety of angles, which becomes especially noticeable when you do as many box- and line-based formations as your brought to the stage. Fix this by lining up in front of mirrors and matching angles while doing short segments (4-24 beats) I am usually entirely against voiceovers, but I did appreciate the girls’ solo transition into boys’ solo – it was good theme incorporation in a set when I otherwise thought you could have done a bit more (props?). On that note, the fire truck looked good, but the flashing red lights washed it out on every other flash. Shout out to Umbar for helping the boys set the energy standard for the night! By the tran tali, though, sync had real issues across the stage. I generally felt that almost all the songs in the second half had 2 or 3 different people do something sufficiently different that they stood out, and that gave me an overall impression that there was execution refinement that will happen for future comps which will boost your performance to even higher levels! Girls in particular had an issue with snapping arms to 180 and keeping them straight. The ending was fairly underwhelming for me because I don’t like staggered choreo that leaves more than half the team not dancing for more than 2 beats (in this case, 12 dancers were only doing glides in a box for 8 beats), and the the barrel roll wasn’t fully executed by your girl/guy in the front of stage, and your two towers occurred without any distracting choreo, so I had to wait for the dancers to adjust themselves. While this is personal preference, I do think that the last song leaves the audience waiting at too many points for the big explosive move to happen for an ending that is watching four people land a tower. Finishing a performance-ready set by November puts you in a great place though – clean up dandiyo snaps, sync execution, and theme incorporation, and you’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with next semester!
RAGA – at the end of your performance, I recognized how well executed everything was (especially that marshmallow moment!) but I just had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. It didn’t occur to me until later that it was that so much of your dance felt very familiar. Real talk, I didn’t think I would be as hyped for camping at the intro video as I was by the end, but you did a very good job presenting a well-rounded performance, and I thought you had some of the best theme incorporation of the night. On that note, the marshmallow moment was super cute, but it was just a tad too long a moment without formational movement and it felt like a way to take a quick breather which made its lack of movement a little too noticeable. There was a tall(er) boy, back row (stage)left for the second song who had general sync issues throughout the whole set, being slightly ahead or slightly behind. Tran tali partner interactions were very well executed, which was indicative of how your partners performed in general. For a quick second I thought you might have been paddling with baseball bats for how the boys’ piece resembled last year’s – you have the time to add a layer or make it standout for next semester. From the upper area, I had zero idea what the girls’ song prop was. Maybe pots to ward off bears? Be sure to maintain mirrored spacing when the boys reenter because of how exposed they are with a fast front of stage entrance. Loved the marshmallow moment’s cuteness, and I liked that the dandiya were the sticks for toasting marshmallows. Dandiya drops were less noticeable, but there were at least 4 or 5, and they were conspicuous on the ground. I’m not sure why fire was brought out at the end, but it was a decent ending to a good performance. I didn’t find a better place to put this, but you all do verticals/markers really well, especially for Chaos – it looks very good. I’m sure you’ll continue to succeed with this routine, congratulations and I wish you the best of luck next semester!
UCSD – I almost wish you all had been started the show because your first 10 seconds were my favorite of the night. My overall impression is that you had one of the most prepared routines of the show. The choreo was a bit on the simple side for my taste, but the sync and general execution was spot on for balancing that. I loved that you all didn’t drop any dandiya. That was really good. However, I noticed that a guy for the last song was missing a dandiyo, and that made me realize there was some sleight of hand where four guys exited stage right and 4 guys “returned” stage left in a 7 by 7 formation. I suppose I should have anticipated this as you danced 8 boys for the solo, but I am not sure how I feel about having them switch out in the set. I thought you mix was great (personal preference), and that it probably sounds better on the practice speakers you use for regular runs. However, 9 out of 10 stage speakers will hyper amplify the bass, so make sure to enhance the vocals more so that the audience can here the lyrics of the songs or you’ll lose points on mix/traditionality. I think the flips performed throughout the piece were casually done in a manner that really marked the style/gimmick as your own and it flowed better than many other teams that take an awkward amount of time to prepare body flips. As far as production goes, I like that you have the hype of those front stage markers, and I think the backdrop was small, but elegant. However, production should enhance a theme, and without your intro video, I would have had no idea whatsoever that your theme was wedding/shaadi. You were probably hurt on the rubric for traditionality, complexity, and theme. Your execution was great, though, and I was especially impressed that all the dancers appeared to have the same technique to performing any individual moves (often not the case), including facials and heads! A natural extension of execution, I thought you probably had the best cascade moves of the night. Overall, though, I thought you were a very polished team and had a much higher standard of performance in November than I would expect from many teams even in the spring.
VCU – Breakout year returning to the circuit last season and this season you showed everyone you were here to stay. Very impressed with this routine and the performance. Choreo was a big step up from last year, and while it cost you a bit on execution, that’s exactly the right choice to make with 2 months to clean before your next competition. I thought your theme choice was interesting enough, but your front stage markers confused me. Are they hieroglyphs? Why aren’t they symmetrical? Small details. The pyramid was okay, but I’m sure you’ll step it up. However, the pillars/obelisks definitely need better lighting. There appeared to be writing on them, but I couldn’t really see anything on them until later in the performance – certainly not your intro. Strong fast entrance – great way to say you’re going to take the stage and keep it. There were one or two guys in the back (including a girl/guy?) who were not as high energy the first two songs and it stuck out. It also looked like you had 3 girl guys, but 1. I’m not one to talk and 2. They obviously killed it, so go you! Especially in the girls’ solo, I liked that cute moments created in the choreo weren’t overdeveloped; a Jodi pair would spin and then continue on into the next step with fluidity. Watch your lines, though (noticeable right before going into the girls’ garba circle). It’s fine to offer your staffs to the queen, just make sure it’s synched! By jai jai, I saw that your arms were getting tired and snaps had mostly gone away – this is an easy(ish) thing to fix during run throughs, so be mindful of pushing yourselves while maintaining good habits. The ending was fine, except for the girl who pointed in a totally different direction than the pyramid. That was very noticeable when the rest was so put together. I think it’s safe to say you all will be dancing in April, so I hope to see more of this complex choreo. Very well done, and congratulations!
Drexel – I loved how upbeat the mix was, and I certainly got the impression that you make full use of the stage. Something was always happening and that kept me very engaged as an audience member. I do think, though, that lighting did nto generally help you. The blue andp purple/violet lighting looked best because they made your dancers pop out, but a lot of time (over 2 minutes!) was committed to green lighting, which made your dancers work twice as hard to stand out with energy. Your execution at times was sloppy, as were your lines. Lines! Probably the easiest single thing to clean up/fix. Rushi killed this performance – good job! The team did not have many dandiyo drops, but the drops you did have occurred within the central 20% of the stage (I couldn’t quite figure out your markers from my angle). Also – don’t go for the dandiyo pickup/recover unless you are positive it will work and/or sure it will not be seen. Very conspicuous failed recover attempt at the beginning. Theme incorporation was lacking, and I think that’s another fix you can prepare for next semester’s competitions. Guys’ song dandiyo toss was pretty tight, and the audience reacted accordingly, but the formation made the stage feel 100 feet wide with one person in the center. I did not understand the moment when the dancers turned their backs to “brush off” their dandiya at the girl being held up in the air. Was that a theme moment? A gimmick? Stunt? In general, I felt the choreo was not as complex as it could have been, and execution still felt a little behind, but overall the performance held to the Chaos standard and I thought you all did a great job.
UVA – Loved your theme. TBae was an inevitability on this circuit, but I think you all did it really well. Energy was outstanding – maybe the best of the night. I’m always down for a Latin music intro, and early interaction with the backdrop really made me feel like you were prepared as a team to perform this set – optics even just for props can really make an impact for how the audience interprets the performance. That was offset, though, by the 3 drops in the first 50 seconds. Even if it’s more accurate to have a black menu, it fades into the side curtains for a stage like Lisner (and most others). Maybe consider getting a light on it or switching to the purple Taco Bell menus? I was also really feeling your music selection, but there were moments (right before the tran tali) that some of you dancers were straight up doing different moves when they were clearly supposed to be together. Entrances are always exposed, so it’s worth spending the extra time to make sure that arm angles and speeds are equal (second half of the group returning for the tran tali circle). The in Paris “what she order” moment was probably my favorite theme-related gimmick of the show, but watch out for arm angles – tacos expose poor horizontals! Also make sure to throw tacos in the correct direction as they are hypervisible props. Maybe I’m just a sap for theme, but I liked that the straws were dandiya. By the last couple songs, though, there is a marked difference in how power steps are being performed and that shows a drop in energy/crispness (specifically leg energy). In the end, I think the lack of cleanliness was the biggest issue for an otherwise very enjoyable routine.
Emory – Cleanliness is a real problem from this performance. Held dandiyo angles aren’t matching, which includes missing snaps for your twirls. The taller guy dancer needs to snap more and be more in sync for moves – height (having it or lacking it) makes you stick out on stage, and so you have to be especially together because the judges’ eyes will naturally gravitate to your presence. There was a lot of shifting into formations on the ‘and’ beats which was more noticeable because lines were often not hit. You had some mirroring issues in the middle of the set (tran tali, I think?) where formational pairs/sets weren’t mirroring each other across stage, and so it was apparent that at least one of the Jodi pairs was not making their spot. Energy died on stage left by the garba piece except for Vivek who brought much joy to his performance. Sri did especially well when she was front and center. Girls’ song was very cute but not very synched. I really liked the exploding dynamite part that led to the explosive movement of the central formation across the front of stage – good theme incorporation into the choreo. Very happy to see Emory perform and I’d love to see you all next semester!
Penn – Best produced intro video of the night, no doubt. Hats off to the intro video and that it would seem to fit so smoothly into the routine – maybe for next semester make sure that you have the extra 10-15 seconds at the end of the video for stage prep that you could go directly into dancing from “the court is now in session” in the video without rehashing it in your mix? That’s tough but maybe worthwhile. I’m not really sure what that “step” move is in the first song, but I liked it. Big fan. I also thought you energy was good in the beginning, but it left something wanting for cleanliness. Sync up with mirrors to make sure you’re all hitting angles together. I thought the dandiyo handoff in pankhida was mad cute. Watch verticals in girls’ song – partners aren’t lining up on markers. It’s hard to fill a stage during a solo, but do try to utilize more of the space – I felt that the girls song only took up about the middle 40% of stage, when it could have been much, much more. On that note, you’re very exposed in a move that has two lines facing away from each other (final girls’ song V formation) – make sure to get your spacing correct! Suitcase part looked great! It’s really hard to synch large props, but it looks like you all put in the effort to make sure that the movements were synched really nicely. I was also feeling the light up briefcases – very nice, unexpected touch. This was a night of some really good tran tali (I feel like it’s 90% of what I’ve commented on for these critiques), but this absolutely set the partner interaction standard for the night. Very cute choreo, and I felt that you all had a lot of fun with this. The cleanliness can be worked on to bring it up to the level you want it, but absolutely keep this as it is. Guys’ solo gavels were not as synched as they could have been, but it looked passable. I get that the ending is supposed to leave the audience wondering whether the defendant is guilty or innocent, but themes should be more basic. I want to see evil defeated by the power of Raas, not contemplate the meaning of an outro – that lack of forced contemplation makes it easier for me to stand up and cheer for the victory of dance over everything/anything else instead of spending time figuring out what the last 4 beats signified. The mix overall felt very slow, and that hurt the impression of energy – maybe extend your shortest song to allow yourselves to speed up the mix or (probably better) add another song for the same effect. I like slow Garba especially, but syncing fast moves and communicating energy is easier for this beat-oriented circuit when your mix has the dynamic of a fast set. Prashant had great heads throughout – especially noticeable at the end when people normally tire. Niharika – you need to make sure that your energy (especially at the end) doesn’t turn into a frantic energy that loses its control. Tejas, be sure to keep arms fully extended, but otherwise very good execution. And this review (/review of Raas Chaos) would not be complete without a special shout out to Mayur, who showcased the power, grace, execution, and happiness we should all bring to Raas. Make sure that your powerful performance stays in sync with the dancers around you – having standouts in other dance forms can be more acceptable, but a Raas team should first and foremost look like a single unit.
I think that this was a great introduction into the 2015-2016 Raas season. All of the teams brought their own style and grace into their performances, and I expect a lot from them in the coming competitions. Remember, every single team that competed at Chaos last year went on to place! The value of early stage experience is hard to overstate, and your performances would have been competitive even in spring lineups. I would also like to take a quick second to point you in the direction of Raas Garba Bhangra TV, a Youtube Channel that will post performance videos from Chaos at the conclusion of the 14-15 season – find them at www.facebook.com/rgbtv.videos - and now, my personal rankings:
- VCU – everything was there in good balance, and while the execution still needed some brushing up, I think they very clearly had the most complete routine.
- UCSD – While I typically favor complex choreo and good theme integration, I think you all had the next most complete set. Everything else was there for you, and I would have expected a performance like this from a team ending its season, not beginning it.
- Rutgers – You were all very prepared, but you should absolutely work on diversifying your routine for next semester. Your team brings standard setting choreo to the circuit each season, and I would hope this year would continue that legacy.