Formless’ dancers enchanted viewers at Memorial Union’s Play Circle. Two soloists and two troupes each moved to pieces that touted their creative might and spread messages of self-love, acceptance and confidence, interwoven between performances from singers and rappers.
Soloist Akiwele Burayidi performed a hauntingly beautiful lyrical piece to the track of opera singer Princess Vaulx’s rendition of “L’heure exquise” by Reynaldo Hahn.
Burayidi says she has danced since she was aged 4, and has never performed with a live singer. She was looking forward to the opportunity, but Vaulx’s illness on the day of the performance meant a change of plans.
“It’s always more interesting for me to work with other people rather than just doing something on my own,” Burayidi says.
The dancer instead performed to the pre-recorded track with choreography she had improvised, as she prefers to feel the music in the moment.
Another Formless soloist, Jackson Neal, sought to embrace duality in a dance that followed a spoken word poem on femininity, queerness and the Catholic Church.
“I felt like the movement kind of demonstrated both the curvature and the sharpness of my own physical form, which in a way feels like my masculine and feminine energies coming together,” they say.
The pieces were a combination of performances Neal had done previously at the Line Breaks Hip Hop Theatre Festival.
Naomi Bergena was a co-director of Formless and also performed in a group that danced to Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” and Tyler, the Creator’s “JUGGERNAUT.”
Bergena and her co-performers are in Hypnotiq, UW–Madison’s most prominent hip-hop dance group. They decided to break off and perform their own dance for Formless to flex their individual strengths.
“Everybody got to shine a little bit and we also wanted to elevate everyone having the spotlight,” Bergena says.
Bergena, a junior, performed with two freshmen and one sophomore whose experiences entering the world of dance at UW–Madison were impacted by the pandemic. She says they’re all still getting used to performing for larger live audiences.
“I think it was just a really fun experience,” says Jaiden Reaves, Bergena’s co-performer. “And it was fun to get to share the stage with these new friends that I found here.”
Terrianna Lyles performed in a trio to the songs “Got That Bomb” by Toni Romiti, “Rich MF” by Trippie Redd and “Cocky AF” by Megan Thee Stallion.
Lyles is also the co-founder of Elevation Dance Team at UW–Madison, a hip-hop and HBCU-style majorette group in its first semester on campus. Like Bergena, she finds extracurricular dance groups to be a stress reliever and a source of community on a big campus.
To Lyles, Formless was about embracing individuality, which is crucial for marginalized students who feel like they have to fit certain labels in order to fit in.
“You can authentically be yourself when it comes to dance and even any of the other acts,” Lyles says. “There’s no criteria that you have to try to fit yourself into to make yourself more palatable for a certain audience, especially being a Black person on campus.”