Dance Crews And bOp! Unite For A Roaring Arts Festival Finale

The Main Tent on O’Neill Plaza was packed to capacity on Saturday night, as scores of student dancers, a team of professional choreographers, and Boston College’s premiere jazz ensemble ensured that Arts Festival ended with a bang—or at least a bop.

Returning for the umpteenth time this year, Dancing with bOp! remained one of the top attractions at Arts Festival, bringing together a slew of diverse musical and dance talents for a performance that comfortably bounced between genres. Sebastian Bonaiuto, director of bands, was on hand to direct the performance. With the added contributions of four professional choreographers, this year’s iteration of Dancing with bOp! had even more talent to offer than usual.

One of the most impressive qualities about BC bOp! is the group’s adaptability, which was on full display Saturday night as the band constantly switched gears to adapt to new genres, or adapted modern pop hits to its own big band style. The show kicked off with the old standard “Smack Dab in the Middle,” a tune which found the jazz ensemble confidently in its comfort zone, but the band also stretched by including newer hits in their set, including two Meghan Trainor songs. Who would have thought that the bubblegum pop of “Dear Future Husband” and “All About That Bass” could feel at home with a big band arrangement? On Saturday, BC bOp! proved that it could, and cleverly incorporated a prominent upright bass part for the latter song.

Two of the evening’s musical highlights came in the latter half of the show, with performances of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” that showed off the ensemble’s versatility. “Moondance” is exactly the kind of jazzy song that is in the group’s wheelhouse, but Saturday’s arrangement didn’t simply mimic Morrison’s original. Instead, the band played with the tempo, starting off with an accelerated pace and then slowing it down for a series of solos, including saxophone and vibraphones parts. For Ed Sheeran’s angry, fast-paced single “Don’t,” bOp! added a full horns section to the chorus, which instantly transformed the song and ratcheted up the energy level for the dancers up front. (And kudos to the vocalist (CHECK) who kept up with Sheeran’s mile-a-minute lyrics.)

On the dance front, the show was as stylistically diverse as its music. Fuego del Corazon brought the heat with an impressive Latin couples dance, while Full Swing delivered a crowd-pleasing swing routine to “Classic” and BC Irish Dance turned its click-clacking heels to “Uptown Funk.” Some groups cleverly incorporated mini-narratives into their performance. The South Asian dance group MASTI, for instance, performed a dance routine about courtship, complete with lip-synced dialogue interludes. Dance Organization of Boston College had a cleverly choreographed number to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” as the group’s only male dancer, Andrew Troum, A&S ’16, passed around a bouquet of flowers to the eight female dancers.

A notable addition to this year’s version of Dancing with bOp! was the presence of four elite, professional choreographers. Tara McCrystal and Tony Tucker of Boston and Eileen Kielty and Sharlane Conner of New York were called on to shake things up, crafting original choreography for several numbers and uniting dancers from different campus groups to work together. Dancers who participated in these pieces only had three hours to learn the choreography, but it didn’t show. The professional numbers were ably handled by a cross-section of BC’s finest dancers, who stretched themselves as they tried on new dance styles with unfamiliar partners.

Ultimately, though, Dancing with bOp! was a celebration of BC tradition, repeating the winning formula that has made it an audience hit for so many years. As the show concluded, BC bOp! returned to its old-time swing roots with “That Cat Is High,” inviting student dancers and crowd members up to the stage to dance, and sending the rest of us into the night swinging.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Staff