By Kellie Finch
Congratulations to all of our 2023 Independent World class finalists! Review their productions below in order of Finals placement.
A desire to escape into the untrapped world – a place of freedom and opportunity, a place to run, and a place “Where The Streets Have No Name” – is the story that Pulse Percussion told in their UD Arena finals performance. Street sign props were attached to members of the battery using ribbons as they played, a sense of angst and desire evident in their performance. The pit portrayed the hope and opportunity this new life would bring, while expressive choreography allowed the performers to share every emotion possible. At the end of the show, the street signs turned white, signifying that this free life was found, as lights were shown both on the trees at the back of the floor and on every performer’s face.
Welcome “Home” to UD Arena, RCC! A beautifully complex performance of a seemingly simple theme housed a delicate violin soloist on top of a staircase as the battery began the show behind an array of closed doors. Dancers utilized stools in their choreography before using them to create another staircase for the violinist to perform down. Performers threw sticks from the top of the doors, drummed on stools, and danced complex choreography to expand upon the theme at hand. At the end of the performance, the entire ensemble came together for a joyful finale, as they snapped a picture together with their new violinist friend.
Rhythm X proved that they didn’t need words to be powerful with their production, entitled “THE UNSPOKEN.” Performers began the show with hoods on and masks covering the bottom halves of their faces. An orange flyover covered the entire ensemble before revealing what was underneath. The battery and pit both expressed themselves through their performance when words could not be found. Throughout the show, performers would scream, but no sound was heard, as dancers matching the tarp scurried around the performers. A jazzy guitar began closing out the show as the dancers pulled the tarp over itself, turning from orange to grey, before returning to the show’s original covered state, this time with a singular dancer left perched on one of the pit’s instruments.
Broken City explored a beautifully intimate discussion of self-reflection with their production, entitled “Self.” A simple tarp and uniforms allowed the music to speak for itself, as an ethereal vocal sample played, backed by a tambourine player and a gentle snare roll. Bass drum players held their instruments above their heads, lowering them slowly and offering a gap of silence to allow the previous music to resonate. Slow, pretty walking around the floor was filled by the pit, while the battery drummed with their hands rather than sticks at times to produce a gentler sound. Vocal snippets shared words like “misunderstood” and “God help me, God help us all” furthered the deeper meaning of the performance, though largely leaving it up to audience interpretation.
Infinity taught the UD Arena audience the beauty of performing solo, with their production, entitled “For Myself.” Performers realized that even if nobody was watching, or even if nobody heard them, they should do it for themselves. Simple uniforms and props proved that extensive effects weren’t needed to have a clean and exciting performance. Dancers took ash on their hands and drew what appeared to be abstract lines and shapes on the panels at the back of the floor, which was later revealed to be an infinity sign as the props shifted around, a nice testament to the organization’s name. The ensemble removed parts of their uniform to reveal black underneath, performing detailed choreography and utilizing the props extremely well. By the end of the performance, everything worked nicely together to prove that art is beautiful in any form, so long as it’s done for yourself.
Music City Mystique
An abstract masterpiece came to life when Music City Mystique took the floor, performing their production, entitled “Melt Me, Make Me.” Colorful shapes and lines covered everything from the floor to the props and uniforms, even the battery’s drums. Triangle props at the back of the floor lit up different colors, the excitement portrayed through the battery’s circling drill and quick rhythms. Multiple times, the battery almost “melted” into the floor, sticking true to the theme of the show. The phrase, “Copies and more copies” was overlayed over the intensity of the ensemble’s performance, sharing the predictability of some aspects of life – but ending the show by noting that some things simply can’t be copied.
United Percussion brought the electricity to UD Arena with their production, entitled “The Powers That Be.” Charging ports and mirrors surrounded the back edge of the tarp, as the pit showed off chargers in their hands, clasping them together to wear as necklaces. The charging ports turned green to indicate a fully charged performer, as certain members of the ensemble died down, needing a reboot. At one point, the charge was transported into the performers, turning them green to match the ports. Chargers glowed and mirrors were used to reflect color onto the tarp, as performers fed off of the recharged energy to produce a truly “power”ful ending.
Monarch Independent explored one of Mother Nature’s most powerful and gentle forces through their production, entitled “…Like The Wind.” Giant wind chimes scattered the back of the floor as performers swayed in the breeze. A delicate flute soloist mimicked the windy theme through her melodies, as yellow ribbons were tossed around and danced with by the cymbal line. The battery projected the intensity of what wind can be, while the pit incorporated the beauty of a gentle breeze into their playing. Small kites were flown around the floor as the flute soloist returned, leaving the show to end its time in UD Arena, floating away in the breeze.
Matrix reminded the UD Arena audience to choose love in their production, entitled “Love Light A Way. Performers’ uniforms each had half of a heart on the front, while electronic screens at the front of the floor projected clips of love as the show went on – parents and children embracing one another and holding hands, among many other impactful moments. The emotional connection of the performers was on a different level, as hugs between members of the ensemble looked authentic and well-needed. Yoga and tumbling, marimbas being played on their sides with dancers swinging on the bottoms, and performers being lifted added to the excitement of the show, ending the performance by reminding the audience to love one another because of their differences. Genuine joy was clear on the floor as performers embraced and held hands, showcasing their true love for one another.
George Mason University
George Mason University’s finals run-through in UD Arena deserves to be preserved in a “Capsule,” to be enjoyed time and time again. Performers began the show dressed very rugged, with ripped clothing and dirt on their faces. Stomps and claps added to the rhythms of the battery, as a soloist spun a stick around. A rock with an orb on it glowed green, as the soloist carried a capsule to one corner of the floor. Three separate capsules were opened at various points in the performance, introducing the ensemble to new genres of music, including excerpts of “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky, and “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem. The ensemble returned back to the rock post-dance break, trading in their groove for classic technique and ending the show with a bang.
POW Percussion took on a delicate theme of mental health awareness with their production, entitled “Asylum.” As the show began, one featured performer repeated the phrases, “I don’t belong here” and “I’m not crazy.” The entire performance housed lots of running and organized chaos, as the featured performer was shoved into a chair by the asylum workers. The battery and pit acted as a simple soundtrack to move the story along, rather than taking focus away from the performer. The walls began closing in, mimicking the feelings in the patient’s mind, and came to a close as he realized the fear was all in his mind – with a worker reassuring him that they were there to listen, and that “crazy” was not a word in their vocabulary.
In Atlanta Quest’s production, entitled “Bring Me A Dream,” audience members may have expected a peaceful lullaby, followed by a happy childlike dreamscape. However, that was not the case – as the featured performer, dressed like a little girl, quickly saw her dream become a nightmare. Featuring excerpts from “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes and “bury a friend” by Billie Eilish, the little girl was found by the monster behind her bed and quickly became one of them. As she became one of the monsters of the ensemble, her costume changed from pink pajamas to a matching uniform as the “Mr. Sandman” theme returned – complete with a few of the performers throwing sand into the air to reflect the continuing nightmare.
ConneXus took the UD Arena audience on a colorful, triangular journey through their production, entitled “This Sacred Geometry.” As the introduction echoed through the stadium, one member of the ensemble did a headstand on a drum at the center of the floor, bending his legs into a triangle to continue the geometric theme. This whimsy and light-hearted fun continued throughout the remainder of the show, as headstands became a prominent source of choreography for many performers. Drumsticks were turned into triangles, the battery danced around the floor, and even an electric guitar.
Cap City Percussion
Cap City Percussion explored the mental tug-of-war that comes with religion with their production, entitled “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” Throughout the show, performers grappled with the unknowns of life after death and the creation of the universe. Excerpts from “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. and “Take Me To Church” by Hozier acted as a soundtrack for members of the ensemble to make crosses with their arms and hold Bibles up to the sky. Moments of stark silence allowed the show to settle, contrasted by heavy hits by the battery that moved the performance along, though by the end, it appeared no questions had been answered – as the unknown persisted.
Vigilantes Indoor Percussion
Vigilantes Indoor Percussion created a jazzy color explosion in UD Arena during their production, entitled “Kaleidescape.” Starting the show off with a white tarp, uniforms, and props, the show quickly became more adventurous – as the panels changed color according to the different parts of the ensemble being featured. Snares were backed by blue and quads by green, but the real treat came when the entire battery was on the floor, experiencing a flashing rainbow to match the intensity of the music on top of it. Contrasting whimsy and fun shapes being formed on the floor produced a thrill for performers and audience alike, ending the show with rainbows once more, this time reflected on the battery’s drums – lighting up their performance, and UD Arena.