Issue Arts Next Next


Vibe goes up to cheers; foot-stomping grooves

Student choreographers show off eclectic mix of jazz, modern and tap

by Sara Foss and Susanna Henighan

There is something about Vibe that makes audience members and dancers alike want to yell and cheer. At Wednesday night's run-through dancers cheered each other on, upping the energy level with their enthusiasm.

Jose Marion-Landais, a first-year who has worked with Vibe for two semesters as both a lighting and sound technician, said Vibe's dancing is more entertaining and involving than other dancing he has seen.

"They are artistic, but the choreography involved is based more on just dancing," he said. He said that last semester when he ran lights from the balcony of Wilder Main the distance did not affect his ability to get into the show.

"I was up watching from the light board, but I was with them all the way," he said. Former Oberlin student Billy Wimsatt caught the end of the Wednesday night run-through. Wimsatt, who nodded his head and grinned along to the music, said, "They're great. Anyone who doesn't see them shouldn't graduate."

The audience at Vibe concerts plays a much more obvious and active role than audiences at other dance performances at Oberlin, a fact most of the dancers and choeorgraphers say is what really makes Vibe special.

A Vibe concert, junior Kathy Doggett, co-chair of Vibe, said, is interactive. "We like the audience to be involved," she said. "We think people get excited about it."

Vibe members said that they enjoy working together, and this comes across in the different pieces performed at the concert. The show concludes with a piece choreographed by first-year LaToyia Jackson titled Will You Be There?,  which is arranged to a version of Lean On Me  sung by Michael Jackson.

All members of Vibe, except those who are exclusively tap, appear in Will You Be There?,  which ends with all the dancers standing together in the middle of the floor, arms and faces upraised in a show of unity.

Jackson didn't expect to choreograph her piece for the entire group. "My piece has the most people, so that was challenging overall," Jackson said. But she is pleased with the final result. "That piece is a song I've always wanted to choreograph to," Jackson said. "It's a very inspirational, very dynamic song."

To Jackson, the song tells a story about friendship. During the piece sophomore dancers Arden Kaywin and Chwee Sze Foong walk across stage carrying other dancers, illustrating the theme of support that is important for Vibe members both on and off-stage.

"I think we come together through dance very well," said sophomore Caitlin Medlock, Vibe co-chair.

"I think everyone would like to emphasize the group cohesion that exists," said first-year Lauren Jacobs, who appears in the tap numbers. "Basically we all care about one another."

Other pieces also emphasize unity. The show opener   was choreographed experimentally; each dancer came up with a short piece which was slowly integrated with other dancers' movements. April Davis, sophomore and member of Vibe, said the piece was not meant to be as emotionally effective as others. "It was a choreographical experiement," she said.

"I'm amazed with what people came up with," Foong said. The piece is performed to songs by Sting and Folk Implosion played back-to-back. When the Folk Implosion song comes on, the movement of the dancers is sharper and more abrupt. As a consequence, the level of intensity increases, and the dancers perform and clap in synch. "We definitely wanted to end in unison after so much chaos," Foong said. "We definitely needed some sort of solid conclusion."

Endangered Species,  choreographed by Doggett and sophomore Vanessa Chaves, is danced to a song by Diane Reeves which contains the refrain, "I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim song. I am a woman, I am an artist ..." Throughout the piece, the dancer's bodies interlock. While some people dance on the periphery, others move together in the center.

The piece has a high energy level and potential to be one of the audience's favorites of the evening.

Vibe members emphasize that they are all individuals with different ideas who work together. "The pieces show off everyone's personality," Jackson said.

"It's hard to be as cohesive as we are," Medlock said, "because we're different people with different backgrounds, different styles."

Because Vibe is full of different styles, they don't like to label their brand of dance. Medlock and Doggett formed the group last year to provide a place for jazz and tap at Oberlin, since none existed. But all members of Vibe emphasize that the group performs different styles, and is constantly evolving.

Jackson said this semester's show is more eclectic than shows of the past. "It's sporadic in a way," Jackson said. "It's everyone's vision, seeing all the visions come together."

Jacobs said, "Yes, it's jazz and tap, but it's lyrical jazz, and modern jazz ... It's different styles within the forum."

Though much of the dance is more modern than jazz, Medlock said, "There's still a resonance of jazz in there. That's in our blood. It's not classical jazz the way people define it."

This semester has seen Vibe head in a new direction, Kaywin said. This show, she said, is more mellow, cerebral and experimental than shows of the past. The first Vibe show, Kaywin said, was performed to more popular and commercial music, while last semester saw Vibe become more multicultural and modern, Kaywin said.

Davis said she thinks this semester's dances are more emotionaly affecting than in past semesters. `The prominent pieces are all very powerfully moving," she said.

Doggett said, "This concert is not totally upbeat. People might not expect it."

Two of the less upbeat pieces are Medlock's A River's Equinox  and junior Sonja Krefting's Fifth Possession Brief Ballet for a Muzzled Maenad. 

Krefting's piece is a solo which she both choreographed and danced in. The dance is powerful and the music creates a haunting and intense atmosphere. As Krefting dances her long hair becomes a focus of attnention as it swings around her head.

A River's Equinox  is a traditional modern style dance. The dancers move somewhat individually; but there is also an overarching unity on stage.

There are also two different tap pieces, Jacob's Stone Cold  and Medlock's Impulses. 

Jacob performs solo to a spoken-word Ani diFranco selection.

"I don't think I can label mine," Jacobs said. "It's definitely me working from the music." The program contains a description Jacobs has provided of her piece "This piece reflects corporate America's siege on the natural elements of the earth and on the spirituality of mankind."

While Jacob's selection is urgent in tone, Medlock's is more of a joyous celebration of dance itself. Medlock and five other dancers tap in casual dress, grinning throughout the up-tempo piece.

"We get this groove going, and everybody gets into it," Medlock said. "We do feed off each other. When it sounds good, we take it to a new place."

Most of all, Vibe wants to put on a good, fun show. Jacobs said, "Our goal is to keep in mind the fun of dance."

Doggett said, "You never know what you're going to get when you go to a Vibe concert, but you know it's going to be good."

At the end of past Vibe shows, members of the audience have started dancing around Wilder Main. Will that happen this weekend? Doggett said she can't predict because it's a spontaneous thing. "If it happens it happens."

Vibe will be performing this Saturday at 8 p.m. in Wilder Main and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Wilder Main. For those interested in Vibe, there is a general meeting on May 2 at 430 in Wilder TBA.  

Halt!:Vibe dancers get on the groove (photo by Heidi Johnansen)


Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 22; April 25, 1997

Contact Review webmaster with suggestions or comments at
Contact Review editorial staff at