Mahogany and Strikers wow crowd

Lights dim in the packed Lee Hall Auditorium and the curtain raises to display a cross emblazoned on the back curtain. A solitary dancer slowly walks across stage and the first strains of a gospel song drift over the now quieted theatre. Mahogany Dance Theatre’s season premiere show, “Motivation,” is in full swing and the students of FAMU are out in full force to see the svelte dancers do their thing.

Each semester, Mahogany and the FAMU Strikers, an all-male dance troupe known for their hip-hop and lascivious moves, put on a joint show. And every semester the crowds swarm Lee Hall to get a glimpse of Mahogany dancers’ beautiful leaps, turns and lengthy extensions coupled with the fierce pelvic thrusts Strikers have made famous.

Wednesday night’s show was no different. With “Motivation’s” 8 p.m. show time still a little under an hour away, the doors to Lee Hall were mobbed by students, waving their tickets in the air to be let in.

And after gaining entrance, the hubbub still did not subside. Fraternities, sororities and other dance groups gathered in sections reserved just for them only to continue calling to one another and dancing in the aisles.

A steady stream of new hip-hop and R&B singles pouring out of the auditorium’s speakers kept the antsy crowd pumped until the theatre darkened, signaling the beginning of the much-anticipated performance.

From the opening liturgical piece to the show’s energetic Haitian-inspired ending, “Motivation” was a crowd-pleaser. As is Mahogany’s and Striker’s custom, they infused their dance pieces with the newest music and most popular moves.

The audience was treated to excellently executed choreography featuring the usual amount of high leaps and multiple turns, but with far more partnering than usual.

Though there was likely nothing left to be desired for a first-time viewer of a Mahogany/Striker show, those who have attended performances in the past may have recognized a few things. Along with recycled choreography in several pieces, costumes from past shows made an appearance and the Strikers only threw in one truly innovative piece amid their usual tongue-wagging fare.

However, the African-themed “Homage” piece was engaging, powerful and a welcome respite from extensive hip-hop moves. Mahogany followed it with “Procession to the Gate,” a jubilant piece that featured lyrical, modern and jazz choreography set to uplifting music and lit in a way that made the stage reminiscent of heaven.

Overall, “Motivation” was an enjoyable premiere for Mahogany Dance Theatre, filled with the color and energy the troupe usually displays. Certainly, the crowds will mob Lee Hall’s doors again next semester, fighting for a front-row seat at their spring performance.

Contact Tara-Lynne S. Pixley at