Deputy Arts Editor Avery Baumel writes about the magic of dancing in and watching the Colab Performing Arts Collective’s Colab x Molab spring showcase.

This was my second Colab show and it remains just as difficult to describe the energy of it. Colab is a performing arts collective that leans into the joy of movement, hosting jam sessions and semesterly dance showcases. Barnard’s Movement Lab is an intimate space in the basement of Milstein that cultivates experimental, creative art at the intersection of technology and movement. They joined forces this weekend for Colab’s spring showcase, and the result was captivating.

Everyone knows everyone, and if you don’t, you’re quickly introduced, because you’re a friend of a friend, or simply because everyone in the room loves dance. It is a giant dance party. It is a showcase that combines seriously technical work with freely experimental creativity, often within a single piece. It is art at its purest, where the goal is simple: share something cool. Colab very much achieved that goal.

This showcase was particularly fun to see and to write about because I was in one of the pieces, “Institution Dance,” created by Milly Hopkins (CC ‘25). As all things Colab are, the filming sessions were full of love and creativity; so was the showcase, which I saw on both Friday and Saturday night. I hadn’t planned to see both shows, but after Friday’s pure magic, I had to come back. 

Akil’s “We’re Heated From Within And It’s All Coming Out,” the program’s opener, featured three dancers (Hanna Askarpour (BC ‘25), Anya Trumbach (SEAS ‘25), and Lynn Wilcox (BC ‘27)) in loose business attire, falling into each other and onto the floor. The piece was interested in setting up moments of complete control and then letting gravity take over, and it was captivating to watch. Dancers ran across the length of the stage and then collapsed in an instant. A few minutes in, Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” saw the dancers finding new, expansive reaches within the piece’s vocabulary before jazzy music created a final section with the three together, weight sharing, breaking apart, leaning on each other, a head to a spine, rolling across each others’ backs. It was a brilliant way to start the evening, with its technical, precise style and its simultaneous reminder that no one here takes themselves too seriously: it’s just dance, after all, and for Colab, dance is very fun.

Adara Allen’s (BC ‘26) “Northern Lights,” danced by Allen and Mary Zawalick (BC ‘27) to a stunning backdrop image of the Northern Lights, was beautiful and slow, a lyrical, balletic duet. Allen and Zawalick both had a kind of stretchiness to their movement, even in moments of stillness. I had the sense that they were beyond themselves somehow. Allen’s choreography played with weight-sharing and partner work in beautiful ways, as the dancers leaned on each other and then floated apart. The piece’s memory exists in my mind as a mix of technical turns, soft hands, and a comforting lean against each other.

The first of several solos, Lucy Kudlinski’s (BC ‘24) “Pocket Atlas,” featured Kudlinski in all white dancing to the softly gorgeous “Mando” by Will Paquin. Lit in yellows and reds, the dance reminded me of a sunrise, or maybe a butterfly. Kudlinski is a sweetly present dancer, very much in the room with her audience and in herself. She lifted her head with a hand and rippled her fingertips over her forehead, aimless yet intentional. She bounced, leapt, glided: she was everywhere, sunlit, happy.

The first screen dance of the night, “Quietus,” created by Miska Lewis (BC ‘24), Madison Hu (GS ‘24), and Avery Reed (BC ‘24), and choreographed and danced by Thaleia Dasberg (BC ‘24), was gorgeous. The creators placed two parts of the film on two walls of the Movement Lab, sometimes the same shot, often not. The film featured a woman reading in a kind of performance of comprehensibility, at first just shy of legible, then devolving into overlapping voices, all with the aura of stress and school. “Word count… Recommendation letters… Hamlet is a succession play…,” I overheard, as if eavesdropping. Dasberg looked out the window, ran down a sandy slope, pulled a canoe over the sand and into the water, and began to row. A heartbeat overlapped with the chatter. Then Dasberg came physically into the Molab, saw us, then herself, looked terrified, pressed up against the wall, and stood, still. The off-screen and on-screen Dasbergs repeated a slow contraction before the real-life Dasberg left and her virtual counterpart broke into loose, but defined, dancing. It was awesome, playful, full of shaking shoulders, jumping back and forth, and wiggles. “Quietus” felt like a sister to “Institution Dance.” Both seemed deeply interested in the moments of life that break into movement and in the emotions and freedom that can only be found through dance. To a room full of dancers, nothing could be more fun, or true, to watch.

Georgia Ehrlich’s (BC ‘27) “Skirmish of Words” was set to Sumak Trio’s “Teffer-Ein Sof,” a repetitive, intense instrumental piece. Ehrlich moved in a way that drew attention to the smallest details: the fifth vertebra in her spine rippled out to pull her back; in another moment, her core collapsed to release her body onto her knees; at the end, she looked intensely at her fist, forming, before it slowly reached the floor. As the strings plucked in the score, she seemed to pluck her muscles and bones out of her body and into new spaces. She was perfectly controlled in every single millisecond.

Marisol Ramirez-Buckles’ (BC ‘26) “Quitter” was set to a beautiful, haunting song (also “Quitter”) composed and sung live by the talented Maybelle Keyser-Butson (BC ‘26). Dancers Maddy Doty (BC ‘26) and Chantel Hope (BC ‘27) were dressed in loose, flowy clothing with belled sleeves and gauzy skirts, and their movement was similarly free and gauzy. It was a wonderful pairing: Doty and Hope both have a quiet self-assuredness that gives their movement a lyrical, enchanting quality. They melted into each other, guided each other’s arms, fought against that control, and then leaned into it again. The piece was a narrative of a fraught relationship, and in the final moment, Doty left, leaving Hope looking longingly, wistfully offstage. It gave me chills.

The first act closed with Lily Selthofner (CC ‘24) and Julia Haynes’ (CC ‘24) “9th & 10th Dimensions,” danced by Selthofner, visually designed by Haynes, and featuring spoken word and song by both. The vocals felt incredibly appropriate for the entire show: “What could art be? What should art be?” a voice mused. “Nothing, everything… Is it in the name of love?” Here, at least, it felt like it was. Selthofner’s dancing was searching, almost haunted, as her hands framed unseen objects, sculpted the surrounding air, and pulled into her body. Selthofner’s moments of incredible, impressive dancing were stunning: in a high attitude, they melted in a slow one-legged plié to the floor, and the audience let out a gasp of appreciation. 

The second act opened with the brilliant “The Eve of My Lobotomy,” created by Thy-Lan Alcalay (BC ‘25) and Georgia Bryan (CC ‘26) and danced by Bryan. Set in an office, complete with a desk, chair,a yoga mat, and projected computer screen, the piece traced the morning routine of Georgia (the character). The attention to detail was perfect and hilarious: Georgia’s Google Calendar had not a single moment free and had overlapping events, and a sticky note featured a daily routine with highlights including a breast exam, a gratitude list, Noom, and pelvic floor physical therapy. On her yoga mat, Bryan began moving, first traditional yoga, then contortions, as she voice-typed her gratitude list, which quickly turned into to-dos and reminders. “Remember to breathe,” she said, then began breathing deeply while in a chest stand, chest to the floor, back over her head, feet by her ears. “Accept my feelings,” she added as she moved ritualistically through backbends and handstands, “such as confusion, self-doubt, and burning rage.” Through her texts and discussion, it became clear that she was in a less-than-loving marriage, a less-than-exciting job, a less-than-fulfilling routine. “Re-evaluate gratitude,” she concluded. “Seriously, fuck this.” Her movement, and the music, became wild, kicking the ice bowl off the stool to tuck her foot under her chin while standing, pushing her face into a smile, then a frown, then a smile again. Her physical ability was as impressive as her commitment to the character. The piece explored boredom, frustration, and the impossibility of the mundane: the audience’s reactions were, deservedly, big.

Carmen Allison’s (BC ‘24) “Terrarium,” another solo, was expansive and billowing. She felt like lava, flowing, intense, contracting and letting go, over and over. Her piece took movements and let them grow slowly, seeing how far they could take her, letting the furthest reaches of the repetition pull her to the next place. It was beautiful in its ripples, and like the rest of the pieces on the program, wasn’t afraid to play both with moments of fierce stillness and with very physical, impressive moments.

The next solo was originally intended to be Effy Jo (BC ‘24), out sick, a high-energy, strong, joyful performer who I’ve seen in several pieces this year and who I was sad to miss. Luckily, the replacement was just as amazing. “Effy’s sick tonight, so… I’m here,” Sophia Sowinski (BC ‘24) said as she walked out, almost shyly. Then she started dancing. Sowinski moved more fluidly than anyone I’ve seen, almost distorting her body as she flowed from one movement to the next and blurring the lines of herself. Exploring different joints, poses, and shapes, she looked utterly comfortable in what was, at least partially, improvised on short notice. It was stunning.

In Hopkins’ “Institution Dance,” dancers (Moksha Akil (BC ‘26), me (CC ‘26), Doty, Trumbach, Parker Whitehead-Bust (BC ‘24), and Hannah Wineinger (GS ‘24)) studied, read or sat in a classroom or in different parts of Butler Library. In each scene, subsets of dancers looked at each other before breaking out into movement, some exploring the rigid technicality of Cunningham, some in a more free, joyful style à la beloved Barnard Dance instructor Jodi Melnick. People actually studying in Butler looked up at us with a hint of annoyance in one shot, hilariously. The final few shots showed Akil and Wineinger running out onto the lawns, joyfully pushing and pulling and improvising. Hopkins has a magical touch to her camerawork, curving shots or cutting to new ones at the perfect time to give even simple shots a touch of whimsy and a sense of sly humor. Her film exactly captured the feeling of release possible through movement.

After Hopkins’ “Institution Dance” came the most fun solo of the night, Eliza Voorheis’ (BC ‘25)  “Rite of Meow,” danced by Pimprenelle Behaeghel (BC ‘24). I was very excited to see what this would be. It did not disappoint. The name, “Rite of Meow,” is seemingly a reference to the famous “Rite of Spring,” a Stravinsky piece and a 1913 Nijinsky ballet that was supposedly so different, violent, and shocking that it caused a riot when it first premiered. “Rite of Meow” was just as historically and culturally significant. Behaeghel stared the audience down, mouth open, dialing her hand along with the dial tones in the song (“Fact 2” by Poison Girl Friend). In a full Colab merch outfit, shirt and shorts, with their hair down, they were effortlessly cool. As the name of the piece might suggest, the movement leaned into the feline and sexy side of dance, including claws to the audience, dramatic kicks, hands mimicking cat ears, licking a hand to clean an ear, and more. The piece was truly indescribable and truly incredible. I wished it was longer.

Nina Kulkarni’s (BC ‘27) “There Was No ‘Before’” returned to the softer, slower, technical side of the Colab repertoire with another beautiful solo. The dance felt like a conversation with a past self, as Kulkarni interlaced her fingers and held them up in a kind of prayer, rolled her neck, and calmly, quietly moved across the space. She tapped her foot around herself, lightly touching the floor to the notes of her music, then reached to the sky. It was dreamy and hopeful and almost felt like flying.

The evening ended with another piece that fully embraced joy and light, Romane Lavandier’s (BC ‘24) “Love My Way,” danced by Kira Ferdyn (BC ‘26), Miranda Karger (BC ‘24), Isabel McFarland (BC ‘26), and Mei Protzel (BC ‘26) on Friday, and Ferdyn, Lavandier, McFarland, and Protzel on Saturday. This was another piece that I was highly anticipating, since Lavandier’s choreography for Orchesis this semester was stunning. This was a groovy piece, set in front of a slightly fuzzy image of a sunlit, grassy landscape. The dancing was free and joyful, full of moments of sliding hands and bouncing around. The dancers spun in place, then let the momentum of their legs throw them around again, then lunged playfully. To end a show with this kind of celebration of movement was a perfect reflection of the joy and light that is Colab.

The Movement Lab and its staff deserve a note of appreciation. I wished some of the artists had played more with lighting, sound, and projection, because those who did enhanced their pieces in really spectacular ways. I especially loved the lighting in Ehrlich, Akil, and Voorheis’ pieces, which all felt like miniature worlds, and the projections that Alcalay, Hopkins, and the “Quietus” team used. I look forward to seeing more experimentation with the lab.

A shoutout, of course, must also go to the board (Katie Sponenburg (BC ‘24), Voorheis, Idea Reid (BC ‘25), Ty Nagvajara (CC ‘25), Hopkins, Olivia Theard (BC ‘26), Katie Pflieger (BC ‘26), Doty, Mia Generoso (CC ‘25), and Alice Lander (BC ‘25)) for putting together such a lovely show. Their attention to detail was lovely (the program was a work of art) and board members masterfully ran tech during the performances. As the dancers bowed (to “Purr” by Slayyter, of course) and then (as a Saturday night special) broke out into a dance that combined the Cotton Eyed Joe, vogue, and “Rite of Meow”’s cat ears, it was hard not to feel the love of the environment they’ve created, where movement is joy and friendship and fun.

“Say that we inspired you…” Voorheis told me wryly when she happened upon me in Milstein writing this review, “think about that.” From the moment the show began, I was already thinking about that. This was a show that made me wish dance wasn’t so ephemeral, so that the magic of dancing in these spaces and of watching these incredibly cool people create and move could be preserved forever. Over the span of less than two hours, Colab presented a whirlwind of dance, across styles, visions, and energy levels, all centered around a joyful, visceral love of movement. Art is whatever it wants to be for Colab. Nothing could be more inspiring than that.

Dancers in “We’re Heated From Within And It’s All Coming Out” via Moksha Akil