Cultural Dance Club Spotlight

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The Cultural Dance Club was founded by senior Jessica Chen based on this philosophy: “I wanted to have a welcoming atmosphere while incorporating all kinds of dance.” She wanted to expose students to many unique forms of dance. Since Traditional Chinese dance was not offered in any dance clubs on campus, Chen decided that it would be a great experience for students with or without prior experience to be able to participate in various forms of dance. There are many forms of dance that are associated with the club: Bollywood, Swing, Jamaican Basket Dance, Israeli Dance, and Traditional Chinese. The club prides itself in being very dedicated to their forms of dance, while being open and accepting of all students interested in learning.

Jessica Chen is the choreographer for the Traditional Chinese dance routines. She began dancing when she was five years old, and when she came to St. Mary’s (SMCM), she knew she wanted to experience new forms of dance. Chen loves all kinds of dance, including hip-hop, which she learned by herself only with the help from online videos. She thought that not many students would have had too much experience with props, so she decided to incorporate ribbons into her choreography. When she graciously allowed me to sit and observe one of her classes (in the Dance Studio Room in Upper Montgomery Hall), I could see her dedication through her dancing, as well as the dancers participating in the class.

The class began with warm-ups and stretches, a necessary thing to do before every class. The class then proceeded to practice their routine that they will be performing on November 15 in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC). It was an exciting practice to attend. I could see how well the final routine was coming along, and I personally cannot wait to see them in full costume in their upcoming performance! There was such a friendly atmosphere during rehearsal – the dancers were constantly helping each other whenever someone was having trouble with the steps in the routine.

This family-feeling throughout the entire club allows the dancers to be open with one another if they need help understanding a step or simply want someone to warm-up with. Everyone was always quick to offer words of encouragement or advice to any of the other dancers. They were all having so much fun while learning the beautiful routine; they gracefully danced across the studio room to the relaxing sound of traditional Chinese music, all while looking like they were performing the steps effortlessly.

Chen’s main focus when she created the successful club was to give students at SMCM more opportunities and variety of dance to experience. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a totally new experience,” she told me when I asked what she thought of the club she created. Senior Lisa Williams, one of the dancers in the Traditional Chinese dance class (which meets on Monday night from 9-10 p.m. in the Montgomery Hall Dance Studio) said that she enjoys dancing, “[I] enjoy learning different styles. It’s a nice way to continue dancing as well.” Williams had previously taken Swing dance lessons for three years, as well as danced at the World Carnival. Her favorite part about the club is that it is one “big family.” She explained that “it’s nice to know others who enjoy meeting people and who like different kinds of dance.” Even though she had previous dance experience, anyone can join whether they have ever danced before or not. “There is no pressure for beginners,” she added. Senior Heather Pribut, the cartoonist for The Point News, also partakes in the Traditional Chinese dance classes. She had no prior experience in this form of dance before college, and now she is the club’s secretary. “It is another outlet for people to dance, and it’s a fun way to meet people. You don’t necessarily have to be technically experienced to have fun!” she said. Her favorite aspect of the club is the fact that you have the opportunity to be involved in all different types of dance, even those you never expected you would like to learn.

For those who are interested in learning more about the club and the many unique forms of dance it offers, contact Jessica Chen at jwchen@smcm.edu. Auditions usually take place at the beginning of the semester, but the auditions are only for interested students to see a preview of the different styles of dance and to decide which they would like to join. There is not really an “audition” process, but it is simply a good way for the dancers to see the choreographers demonstrate the dance. The Cultural Dance Club emphasizes having fun, and it was a delight to watch. Please support the new club on November 15 in the ARC and watch their beautiful performance!

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