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Spring Sing 2023: Icarus Contemporary finds freedom, reflects on empowerment in mirror-based routine

Icarus groups together in front of the Spring Sing stage. The dance group will perform at the annual talent competition Friday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

By Ruwani Jayasekara

May 19, 2023 1:22 a.m.

Icarus Contemporary is going the distance in its return to the Spring Sing stage.

Breaking away from its previous contemporary Spring Sing performances, the student-run dance team is opting for an upbeat, jazz-inspired routine to explore themes of self-expression and empowerment at this year’s event on Friday. Fourth-year dance and psychobiology student Lindsay Backer, who currently serves as president of Icarus Contemporary, said Spring Sing provides a creative outlet for student choreographers to explore artistic expression through one of UCLA’s oldest traditions.

“Everybody has a voice, whether literally or figuratively, … and I hope they’re (the audience) empowered to use their voice and whatever platform they may have for good,” Backer said.

Co-choreographer and third-year psychobiology student Isha Das said the choreography was inspired by self-reflection on stereotypes and societal standards of beauty. No stranger to using props on stage, Das said this year’s performance uses mirrors as dancers tell the story of reflecting on their internal beauty and finding validation within themselves.

[Related: Painted Ladies, Outspoken light up Spring Sing with Best Overall Performance Win]

Set to a medley of songs by Beyoncé, including some from her latest album, “RENAISSANCE,” the piece emphasizes a journey to finding freedom from external pressures, Das said. Influenced by the powerful nature of Beyoncé’s music, Das said the album symbolized a new revolution to her and was thus a fitting soundtrack for the piece’s message.

“We were really inspired by the idea of dance as an art as a whole and as the idea of how we express ourselves through movement,” Das said. “So our whole piece is focused on breaking that stereotypical validation that we get from our external beauty, and breaking that superficial boundary and using our inner beauty and finding the uniqueness in each of us.”

After participating in Icarus Contemporary’s Spring Sing performance last year, Das said she knew she wanted to help choreograph this year. Das said the process began by creating different mixes of songs and coming up with short, eight-count ideas. Highlighting the unique qualities of the dancers on the team, the choreography implements tricks and skills of individual dancers that may not have been featured in past years, Das said.

Members of Icarus sit together on the floor of the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The group's performance at this year's Spring Sing will be set to a medley of songs by Beyoncé. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)
Members of Icarus sit together on the floor of the Los Angeles Tennis Center. The group's performance at this year's Spring Sing will be set to a medley of songs by Beyoncé. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

Rehearsals for Spring Sing began as early as fall quarter, Backer said, as the upcoming production is one of Icarus Contemporary’s largest performances of the year. Second-year physiological science student Cate Kelly, who is dancing in this year’s performance, said the choreographers greatly emphasized not only the specific movements, but also how to convey the performance’s story of breaking beauty standards through facial expressions and emotions. Kelly added that the fact that the dance is entirely produced by students brings their community closer together, as every dancer is equally committed to bringing the piece to life.

“Icarus is inspiring especially because we don’t have a coach. We’re completely student run, so us showing up to practice, making sure we know our moves, and our overall heavy participation in Icarus is all self-motivated,” Kelly said. “This piece means so much to us instead of something that an outside choreographer or someone else has taught us. It comes from our friends and therefore our family, so it really means a lot to us.”

Icarus Contemporary has become a second family for the team, and Spring Sing has been influential in bringing the dancers closer together, Das said. Spending hours together in a studio every week, Das said the team has become another home for her and allowed her to find a space where dancers can connect over a shared love for their craft.

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Cirque de ‘LA safely soars on aerial silks, debuts duet despite obstacles]

In addition to their collective passion for dance, Kelly said the dancers also share a connection to the message of the piece in more ways than one. Being a team composed entirely of women this year, the performance has the added symbolism of female empowerment and breaking through society’s beauty standards for women specifically, Kelly said.

“This is breaking free from the mold of what dancers should be, of what a woman should be, of what an artist should be,” Kelly said. “Even if they (the audience) don’t know that story explicitly, they can still feel a sense of empowerment and they can tell that we love what we do.”

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Ruwani Jayasekara
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