‘Encounter Culture’ brings the party to the stage

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Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

The best party held on campus Saturday night was at Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Student dance show EnCounter Culture (ECC), hosted every winter quarter by hip hop team DV8, featured performances by 13 groups. According to DV8 dancer Brianna Freeman ’25, the show sold out in four minutes after tickets went on sale last week. 

The show was an explosion of movement, talent and fun. Well-known acts like Alliance and Basmati Raas impressed as always, but some of the newcomers made the biggest splash.

Freestyle dance club FreeFlow, which formed last year, performed for the first time Saturday. They lived up to their name with a relaxed, expressive act composed of individual performances in different dance styles. The result was captivating and fresh, bringing a personal, improvisational energy to their act. 

“We’re not trying to look like everybody else,” said FreeFlow dancer Sharon Wambu ’24. 

And it shows — this club will certainly be one to watch.

Heels group Sirens, founded last year by a former DV8 dancer, performed a crowd-favorite routine. Their choreography to Beyoncé’s “Freakum Dress” was particularly strong, with formation changes and levels making good use of its 13-person team — one of the smaller groups of the night. 

Rounding out the newcomers, Echo proved that less is more with a one-song contemporary fusion performance to Labrinth and Zendaya’s “All for Us.” The group’s emotive, fluid choreography showed off the dancers’ grace and flexibility. 

Traction Modern Dance Company also delivered a one-song hit, theirs to the mellow melodies of Bon Iver’s “For Emma.” Dressed in blue, dancers flowed like water, employing inventive shapes and floor work. Their thought-provoking use of bodies in motion left me wanting to see more.

Later, Innovative Styles impressed in olive green. Most memorable was their surprising interpretation of ROSALÍA’s “DIABLO.” The dynamic, futuristic fusion song was equally matched by fittingly innovative choreography, including a high-flying partner acro move.

The night’s host, DV8, performed two long sets to end the first and second acts. Their theme was “DVM8KEUP BR8KUP,” loosely conveyed through their song choice and stellar custom wardrobe pieces. DV8’s playful, bouncy choreography and captivating performance quality won over the crowd. 

Legacy’s performance also made use of a theme. Dancing in white pajamas, their exhilarating performance featured a surprising transition from Son Lux’s moody “Dream State” to the joyful “Dreams” by The Cranberries. 

Basmati Raas easily won the award for highest production value of the night, bringing in props and large set pieces for their dojo-themed routine. The group provided the clearest narrative of the night, using video projection, narration and acting to tell the story of a student’s fight to earn their black belt. The energy never dipped during the group’s long performance as the dancers’ energized movements and facial expressions provided constant entertainment. 

Mua Lac Hong (MLH) and Kayumanggi similarly incorporated props into their performances. MLH, a Vietnamese dance group, danced in an enchanting collaboration with hats and colorful fans. Kayumanggi, a Pilipinx performance group, performed an exciting Tinikling routine accompanied by bamboo poles. 

Alliance had the best mix of the night with its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it routine. The car-themed soundtrack, including hits “Vroom Vroom” and “Tokyo Drift,” created fast-moving vignettes of the highest quality. Entertaining group choreography, combined with eye-catching individual moments, made for a winning number. 

Non-audition teams Common Origins and XTRM also gave fun and upbeat performances. Common Origins opened the show with several fan favorite songs — “Diva” was their best routine, with sharp, confident movements. XTRM, a K-pop dance group, had non-stop energy and cute, eclectic outfits in black and pink.

Excellent lighting design by Dinkelspiel’s Samantha Schroeter added an extra touch of professionalism, while emcee Kheshawn Wynn ’23, a DV8 alum, commanded the show with assured charisma. 

“I’m just glad that they wanted me to be a part of this,” Wynn said. “It still feels like family.”

According to a few of the night’s dancers, the love was also felt backstage. Many dancers performed with more than one group, including Freeman, who dances for both DV8 and Innovative Styles, a jazz group. There’s “great camaraderie” between groups, said Freeman, with the teams “all hyping each other up on stage.”

Wambu, who performed with FreeFlow and Legacy, said she “always look[s] forward to DV8’s performances.”

“To see a lot of Black women shine in that way is awesome,” Wambu said.

Those who missed out on ECC aren’t out of luck; the show was livestreamed on YouTube, and Stanford’s dance teams will take the stage again at Alliance’s annual show Hipnotized in spring quarter.

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