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February 20, 2014

SUNY Cobleskill cultural arts series kicks off with dance and percussion troupe

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — College students and community members will have the opportunity to stomp away the winter blues tonight at SUNY Cobleskill’s first event in its Spring 2014 Cultural Arts Series.

Renowned dance and percussion troupe Industrial Rhythm, from New York City, will perform tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Bouck Theater on SUNY Cobleskill’s campus, organizers said. The event is free, with donations welcomed.

The performance is part of the college’s 3-event Cultural Arts Series, which is put on every fall and spring, according to Brian Kaiser, director of the university’s Center for Community Engagement. Kaiser said the Cultural Arts Series is funded with student activity fees, but is open to the public, as well.

Kaiser, who was in charge of booking Industrial Rhythm, said the dance group performed at SUNY Cobleskill once before, in the Fall of 2011. Because there was such a great turnout, Kaiser said, he decided to bring them back.

“We want to fill a void in our community. It’s rare that this level of entertainment is going to be available in this area at this cost,” Kaiser said. “Generally, a person would have to travel to a metropolitan area to see this quality of entertainment.”

Kaiser said he is looking forward to the performance, which he described as “high-energy” and “clever.” The dancers perform a style of hip-hop similar to the one made popular by the off-Broadway show “Stomp,” Kaiser said, and use everyday items as musical instruments.

Zoilo Ruiz, president and owner of Industrial Rhythm and one of the group’s performers, said the energetic drum and dance show uses objects like trash cans to create a beat, to which the performers dance and perform acrobatics. 

Ruiz said from Manhattan on Wednesday that he was looking forward to coming upstate and performing at the college again. He said Industrial Rhythm performs mostly at corporate events, but is perfect for a college setting as well because of the nature of the show.

“We don’t say, ‘Be quiet, the show’s about to start!’” Ruiz said. “We encourage people to get loud. It’s energizing … something different and exciting.”

The troupe, made up of four dancers and two drummers, has performed for corporations such as Adidas, Nike and Pepsi and is made up of a diverse group of young performers, Ruiz said. The 30 to 40-minute show is packed with opportunities for audience interaction, he said.

Ruiz, who used to work for the Radio City Rockettes and is featured as a virtual drummer in the video game Rock Band 2, said he started Industrial Rhythm in 2001 after performing as a cast member in “Stomp.”

“‘Stomp’ is more focused on the drumming, so I wanted to add the element of dance, too,” Ruiz said.

Out of this concept came Industrial Rhythm. According to the troupe’s website, everything from pill bottles to computer keyboards to Tic Tac containers become musical instruments during the performances. The group also uses drumsticks and plays on items found in the audience, the website said.

The acrobatics and gymnastics performed by Industrial Rhythm are reminiscent of Cirque Du Soleil and include silk aerialists, jumping-boot air men and contortionists, the website stated. Ruiz said there is also a new glow-in-the-dark section of the show, featuring LED lights and drumsticks.

Kaiser said the performance will be particularly amusing for college students because the performers are close to them in age, creating a peer-like relationship. He said the show has been embraced by both students and faculty members, some of whom have created class-related incentives to encourage their students to attend.

Tonight’s performance is just one of the events in the Cultural Arts Series, Kaiser said. On March 25, there will be a showcase of short films based on poetry from the London-based group ‘onedotzero’ and on April 17, Leo Milman, a well-known violinist, will appear with a band of guest artists to present “Serenading Strings: A Kaleidoscope of Music.” The group of classically-trained musicians perform music from around the world, Kaiser said, and provide a musical experience unlike any other.

Kaiser said the college, which regularly provides students with free activities such as movies, laser tag and comedian performances, is in for a treat at tonight’s performance.

“They do a great job,” Kaiser said, of Industrial Rhythm. “We expect a great turnout.”