BLAST embraces superhero spirit with new spring show


Source: Jacob Stern

Members of BLAST rehearse for this year’s spring show, “BLAST Saves The Day.” The show incorporates a wide range of dancing styles, including Viennese waltz and samba.

Kimberly Go, Reporter


“Who’s a hero in your mind? Who’s made an impact in your life?”

These are the questions director Gordon Burkhart and producer and Weinberg senior Sherry Vernon asked the choreographers of the Ballroom Latin and Swing Team’s spring show when introducing this year’s theme, “BLAST Saves The Day.”

“(The show) is all about heroes,” said Burkhart, a Bienen sophomore. “What it means to be a hero, what it means to inspire and mentor and be there as a positive influence, but it also takes a look at the more human side of heroes.”

BLAST is Northwestern’s undergraduate partner dancing community. The organization’s annual spring show opens this Friday at Ryan Auditorium.

BLAST started preparing for the spring show about a week after last year’s spring show, “BLAST Has A Secret.” The incoming and outgoing directors and producers met to discuss possible themes and started publicizing auditions as early as Wildcat Welcome.

When deciding on a theme, Burkhart said he wanted to focus on something that meant a lot to him.

“Last year I had a lot of great mentors, going through high school, coming up through my freshman year of college,” he said. “I personally wanted to pay tribute to those people who made a difference in my life.”

This show will be a lot brighter with a lot more positive emotions than last year’s, Burkhart said. He said that reality isn’t “sunshine and rainbows all the time” and that the show will reflect that as well.

“We have a few darker pieces that really show what happens when a hero fails and when things don’t always come out all right,” he said.

Weinberg sophomore Shirley Zhang is one of the dancers in the show. Although this is her first time performing in the spring show, she is no stranger to dance. Zhang started as a ballerina when she was seven and danced professionally until she was 13, when she switched to Latin ballroom dancing.

Zhang, who was a part of BLAST’s competition team last year, said the show will incorporate a wide range of dancing styles.

“We see everything from your traditional waltz, Viennese waltz and ballroom to some competition dances like the samba,” she said. “And then you have your social dances, you’ve got a blues piece, salsa pieces, just everything around the board.”

Burkhart said his favorite style of dancing is swing and blues.

“I love the style because it’s very grounded,” he said. “You’re always connected to the ground, your knees bend, feeling your energy really being shared between two people. … Both of those kinds of dance are very visceral, very vernacular. They feel very natural to do.”

For Michael Ryzhov, a performer in the show, dancing is “very new.” He had never danced before coming to NU, but got involved with BLAST after going out to a social blues dance in Chicago during Fall Quarter and enjoying it.

“Learning the choreography initially is just kind of hard,” the Weinberg freshman said. “My feet aren’t used to moving around in this manner, so you just have to get used to that.”

However, Ryzhov said the show tries to emphasize the story each piece tells not only through dance, but also through acting, facial expressions and character development.

Zhang echoed his sentiment and said the show is not so much about the technique of the dance, but rather what the audience is feeling when they watch it.

“If we see a superhero piece, we want them to feel like, ‘Oh my god, they saved the day!’ and be really excited,” she said. “If we see a heartfelt (dance), two people struggling through a life crisis … we want them to empathize with that. As dancers, we want to express the theme or the emotion of the piece so that the audience can connect with that.”

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