Mocha Show ’22: Mo’Mixtape by Ankita D. '23
creating and performing a dance showcase, from start to finish
i’m on the hip-hop dance team Mocha Moves. every February, we put on a show that’s composed of dances choreographed and performed solely by us. the show has 14 dances, 12 of which are created in the few weeks between the end of the semester and the start of IAP. we use the entire month of January to prepare for the show, dancing from 6-11 every weekday and from 12-6 on the weekends. a dance is assigned to each hour slot, so depending on how many dances you elect to do, you have between 1 and 6 hours of practice each day. it’s a lot!
Mocha Show in 2020 was one of my last incredible memories of “normal” campus life. my parents and a lot of my friends came to the show to cheer me on, and i was absolutely ecstatic to show them the results of how hard i’d worked over IAP. we weren’t able to have Mocha Show in 2021, however, so i was intent on contributing to the show as much as i could this time around.
in the first week of December, the team held Mocha Formal and met to discuss ideas for the show. people had submitted ideas via a Google Form, and we went through them one by one and talked about our visions. we explained to the rest of the group what the general set idea was, how many dancers we thought we’d need, a tentative name, and the songs we’d use. i tossed out a few ideas and two were accepted: a groovy set and a heels set.
sets can be any length, but usually include 3-4 songs. completing a set entails choreographing the songs and transitions between them, making a cut that blends the songs smoothly, making formations and giving different groups different moves to make the choreography seem more interesting , and making sure the moves look standardized on everyone . it’s a lot of work, but so satisfying to do.
after Formal, the captains deliberated on which ideas we would do for the show and chose 12 final pieces:
MoLadies – a set choreographed and danced by the ladies of Mocha
MoHeels – a heels set, potentially with dark, gritty, vengeance vibes
What’s good – a dance with a lot of moving parts and complexity to the song What’s Good by Tyler the Creator
MoJazz – high energy jazz piece with a pom section
MoGroovy – musicality-driven, groovy mocha vibes
MoTough – a badass set with Tyler the Creator and Mac Miller songs
Arknights – a collection of themes from arknights (a dystopian video game)
MoToxic – a set with all the toxic energies (fuckboy, simp etc)
MoCrew – lit dance crew energy
MoContemp – dramatic, spoken-word contemporary piece
MoMoney – just a lot of songs about money
i had proposed MoGroovy and MoHeels, so i was designated as a choreographer for both sets. i also signed up for MoToxic, which was to be taught by an alum who was on the team with me my freshman year, MoCrew, and MoLadies. i later added on MoTough, which made for six dances.
there are three additional dances that every team member is in: our World of Dance set, which we typically perform at the Boston show in Fall. this year, we couldn't due to the pandemic , Ring the Alarm, our set for the Boston-wide dance showcase we host every November. and the RTA set from two years prior. this year. we did the set from three years ago since we never got to do it last year, with Mocha Show being canceled and all. thankfully, our presidents were on the team at the time and so they're able to teach the choreography. WOD is typically very clean since we perform it so often during the fall semester, but RTA and Classic are a mess since they’re so last minute. both are some of the most fun sets, though.
as soon as i went home for the holidays, i started choreographing for the Groovy and Heels sets. i started with heels since i figured it would be easier to make. i wasn’t solid on the songs i had initially proposed for the set, so i spent a good amount of time looking for more; i ended up deciding on the songs OTW by Jhené Aiko and Need to Know by Doja Cat. i also asked another team member to help me choreograph, and we settled on choreographing one song individually and collaborating on the closing song. choreographing everything took only a couple of days, so within a week, the base choreography of the heels set was already done.
at the end of December, choreographers received an email with expectations, as well as the rosters for each of their dances. the email included a timeline, which is as follows:
Wednesday, Jan 5:
normally, we have four weeks to prepare for the show, but due to the COVID quiet period, where students had to isolate until they received two negative tests, we had no in-person practice for the first week of IAP
Sunday, Jan 9: In-person practice starts
Sunday, Jan 23: showcase (dress rehearsal)
Sunday, Feb 6-10: production week, where we set up the stage and hold all practices in the theater
Friday & Saturday, Feb 11 & 12: mocha show
Sunday, Feb 13: where we take everything down and clear out the theater
for the rest of December, i worked on my piece for the Groovy set, filmed tutorials for all the choreography i made, and started making formations for Heels.
in the first week of IAP, we had people learn our tutorials and send in videos of them doing the choreo. on January 9, practice began in full swing. here’s an example of what a practice schedule looks like:
this schedule includes the dance, its location and time, and the people who can’t make practice (in red). as you can see, there’s a lot of running from studio to studio. i have to have the schedule up at all times so i can stay on top of things.
on January 12th, we hosted auditions. we accepted four new members (we call them babies) and sent them descriptions of all the dances so they could join the ones they were interested in. here’s what they got:
MoContemp – Spoken word piece; serious vibes.
MoToxic – Sexy toxic frat boy; songs: Crossfaded – Don Toliver, No Love – SZA, Still Your Best – Giveon, cocoa – Baby Keem
MoLadies – Showcasing a range of styles and vibes choreographed and performed by the MoLadies
MoGroovy – A variety of fun grooves that are musicality driven with styles ranging from sharp to bouncy. Though the songs are chill, the dances are energetic.
MoJazz – Have fun with high energy and some pom poms to Tyrant by Kali Uchis, Get Right by Jennifer Lopez, and Watch n’ Learn by Rihanna
MoCrew – Fun squad vibes
MoMoney – Momove$ & mogroove$ to $ong$ about momoney! $ong$ include monopoly, whole lotta money, big bank, $paceship$, & new freezer
Arknights – Almost 6-minute set with music from a dystopian video game, featuring four songs: Renegade, Radiant, Boiling Blood, and End Like This. Variety of styles including swaggy and hard-hitting, lyrical fusion, and more!
What’s good – A piece focused on isolations & intense movements, inspired by Carlo Duraang and Tyler the Creator
so, as you can see, some of the set descriptions and songs changed a bit in the weeks between Mocha Formal and auditions.
in the first two in-person weeks of Mocha Month, we focused on teaching choreography. in the third week, we started staging, which means placing dancers on the stage in various formations and adding dynamics. we continued staging and started cleaning in the next week, which was the final week of IAP.
our captains announced the show theme a few weeks into Mocha Month: Mo’Mixtape. the show theme is usually some play on our group name—my freshman year, it was Cirque du Moleil, which featured circus-themed set names and decorations. on the Sunday of the final week, we had our photoshoot, and were instructed to wear jean jackets and white shirts to follow the “mixtape” theme. the final product looked like this…
we also filmed a trailer, which featured Mocha members dancing/walking around the Infinite Corridor while jamming to the song Fly As Me by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak.
set leads told all their dancers what their costumes would be by the third week. costumes are usually a silhouette/style of clothes or a color palette, and we either use Mocha funds to obtain them, or source them on our own. we then had to bring in our costumes to confirm them with choreographers.
once classes started, we started realizing how little time we had left. a few sections hadn’t been taught, barely any transitions had been choreographed, and some pieces hadn’t been staged yet!! it felt ridiculous to be publicizing the show to all my friends when i was so unsure about a lot of the sets, but i knew that everything would come together in the end.
my classes would finish around 4 pm, and then i’d have some time to eat dinner before going to the gym and then practice. i had three hours of practice each weekday, with practice ending at 10 pm. i had six hours straight of practice on Saturday, which i had each week of IAP, but was still disarming since it was during the semester…
our Facebook event was published late on the 2nd and tickets went on sale on the 4th! we photo blasted alongside the release of tickets, which basically means we posted pictures from the photoshoot all at once to publicize the event.
at long last, on Sunday the 6th, prod week began! we started off strong with four hours of put in, which was followed by six hours of practice. put in entails putting up decorations, helping stage managers with lights and setup, rolling out the marley, which is a vinyl dance floor that is VERY you have to make sure the rolls don't overlap and that there are no air bubbles or dancers could injure themselves/ruin the marley while they dance , and hanging up posters across campus.
practicing on stage is hard because there are no mirrors to see all the dancers anymore! prod week practices have to be at the theater, though, because dancers have to familiarize themselves with where they are on stage.
on Monday, i had only two hours of practice, but from Tuesday and Wednesday, i had four hours straight. dress rehearsals were on Thursday, with the team running the show top to bottom in our costumes, giving comments, and then repeating the process. it was grueling, to say the least. dancing full-out multiple times in a row is almost impossible unless you figure out where and when you can breathe. it was also difficult to figure out how to eat enough to have energy for the night, but not so much that you’d feel weighed down and nauseous. i did okay on the food front, but other team members were really ill after the rehearsal.
by Thursday, the show was finally finalized. we had found our MC’s—Friday’s were the two co-presidents from my freshman year, Saturday’s were three pre-2019 alumni who are practical gods in the MIT dance community. we thought of prompts for the MC’s and games that the audience could play between sets to give us time to change. some examples are an alumni dance off, couples yoga, and musical chairs.
we also had finalized our show program. the Show Coordinator Izzi W. ’23, who is a goddess of design, made each set look like a Spotify Playlist:
each of these included a “vibe photo,” a title and description, the songs included in the set/who choreographed them, and all the dancers. kind of genius!
call time was 5 pm, which meant i had to head to the auditorium practically as soon as my classes ended. we had about two hours of practice, and then the ’24s were off to ring premiere, while the other classes had two hours to chill and prepare for the show. i had to do my makeup, organize my costumes so i’d be ready for quick changes, and get some food in my stomach. at 8:30, we were briefed on what our jobs were; they ranged from hanging out programs and telling people to keep their masks on to scanning Tim Tickets and making sure no one sneaked into the auditorium. around 9:30, doors closed, and i started stretching with the team.
given that we were so close to the culmination of a hundred hours of dance, i was pretty jittery, but really excited since a few dozen of my friends were at the show. as soon as we started performing, time went really fast, and the two hours elapsed so quickly i was left wishing the show was longer in spite of how tired i was.
performing was so much fun! my friends started chanting my name, which was great except when they were heckling me as i was trying to maintain an intimidating face. most of the friends that came volunteered for the games in-between sets, which was very entertaining.
i slept in until 12 pm on Saturday and then ate a TON of pizza to prepare for the final show. call time was later, which meant i had time to go buy flowers for all the seniors and captains. the bag to hold the flowers split open on my way to the auditorium, so i stuffed them all into my backpack. i looked pretty funny biking down Mass Ave…
the Saturday show had about a dozen Mocha alumni, who all had reserved seats in the front row. collectively, they were louder than the entire audience had been on Friday night. performing for them was way more stressful, but also super fun since they would call me out by name whenever i was in the front.
during the thank you’s at the end of the show, i got very emotional since i realized it was my last Mocha Show with the seniors i’d been on the team with since i was a freshman. it was bittersweet, but the afterparty went so hard that it wiped all the sad thoughts from my head :’)
both shows were a huge success! on Sunday, we completed our months of Mocha Show-related prep by cleaning up the auditorium. we’ll spend the next week resting and will resume practice later. i already feel Mocha withdrawal, but am grateful for the sheer amount of free time that i have again. Mocha has consumed my every night since January 1st, so it’s nice to be able to chill.
i can’t wait for next year’s show! i love Mocha with all my heart and am endlessly grateful for this wonderful team.
- back to text ↑
- making sure the moves look standardized on everyone back to text ↑
- our World of Dance set, which we typically perform at the Boston show in Fall. this year, we couldn't due to the pandemic back to text ↑
- Ring the Alarm, our set for the Boston-wide dance showcase we host every November. back to text ↑
- the RTA set from two years prior. this year. we did the set from three years ago since we never got to do it last year, with Mocha Show being canceled and all. thankfully, our presidents were on the team at the time and so they're able to teach the choreography. back to text ↑
- normally, we have four weeks to prepare for the show, but due to the COVID quiet period, where students had to isolate until they received two negative tests, we had no in-person practice for the first week of IAP back to text ↑
- production week, where we set up the stage and hold all practices in the theater back to text ↑
- where we take everything down and clear out the theater back to text ↑
- you have to make sure the rolls don't overlap and that there are no air bubbles or dancers could injure themselves/ruin the marley while they dance back to text ↑