For one night a year, Lerner Hall’s infamous glass ramps become a risky platform for Columbia’s most talented dance groups.
Glass House Rocks took center stage until midnight on Feb. 5, as colorful lights and impressive ensembles came together to form this year’s event, The Great Glassby. For weeks, and in some cases months, dance troupes have been practicing in Lerner in order to be able to showcase their moves at the extravagant one-night performance.
Raw Elementz, the high-profile hip-hop dance group on campus since 2001—known best for its show Rawcus—performed as the headliner for the show.
Raw Elementz choreographer Robert Boyle, CC ’19, voiced some of the difficulties of dancing on Lerner’s glass ramps.
“If you look at the ramps, some parts are flat and some parts are curved up. Based on where you are in the line, you could be turning uphill and so that kind of thing can throw you off, especially when we[’re] used to being with the mirrors and having everything else,” Boyle said. “Glass House is scary from a dance perspective, so you have to be prepared for everything.”
These sort of considerations are found not only in the performance but in the choreography itself. Boyle’s choreographed piece, performed to the song Rico by Meek Mill, was Raw Elementz’s second dance piece of the night. In order to perform his original composition cleanly, the troupe had to eliminate the double turn that would have come halfway in the piece.
“When I was teaching [the double turn] to everyone, they said there was no way we would be able to perform it on the ramps, so we changed it to a single turn and added a little wave,” said Boyle. “That kind of stuff is definitely in your head.”
With only a week and a half to learn the first three brand-new pieces, Boyle admits it was a challenge to pull off the set as well as they did.
Nicolas Acosta, SEAS ’21, member of SABOR, a troupe dedicated to Latino dance that won the King’s Crown Award in 2008, believes the event allows his troupe to showcase the cultural diversity at Columbia.
“As SABOR Latino Dance troupe, we really want to emphasize the Latino culture that is behind these dances,” said Acosta. “We have Afro influence, we have Cuban influence, Puerto Rican influence and all this comes together because we want to show that as a group the Hispanic race is very diverse.”
Diversity through dance is key for Acosta; the dance troupe’s amalgamation of so many various identities aims to mirror the diversity of Columbia’s undergraduate population.
In addition to showcasing the vibrant cultural diversity of the performers, Glass House Rocks as a whole also provided diversity in the genres of dance being presented from bellydancing to hip-hop.
While the dance groups performed, other Columbia student groups promoted their clubs and societies to the enthusiastic spectators.
Campus student groups gathered on the sloping ramp up to the Piano Lounge, giving away yellow carnival tickets in exchange for an inquisitive conversation about the club—collect five and bag yourself a free T-shirt. This advertising strategy cleverly attracted those less enthusiastic about salsa and more about free merchandise.
In addition, comedy and a capella groups, including Fruit Paunch and Columbia Kingsmen, performed in an arena called “The Black Box”—a converted Lerner 569. The compilation of dance, student groups, comedy, and a capella transformed the event into a rounded night with something to offer nearly everyone.
“There is so much more than just the performances,” Boyle agreed. “It’s like a festival in Lerner.”
Still, the administrative and organizational aspects of the event have room to grow, according to Erik Manuel Nunez-Cera, CC ’21 and a spectator of the show, and others.
Nunez-Cera was disappointed that the free T-shirts were not easy to locate and suggested that more orientation of the event, perhaps maps, may have helped.
Moreover, because organizers closed off the ramps for dance performance space, some spectators found themselves stuck on the wrong level at the wrong time.
Hopefully, as Glass House Rocks grows in the next few years, such minor organizational errors will fade away.
The event has potential, and as it grows, Glass House Rocks could become a main feature in the Columbia calendar.
Sarah Beckley contributed reporting.