Colgate Dancefest at its Best

Each semester, Memorial Chapel fills to capacity as students gather for one of the artistic highlights of the year, Dancefest. This year’s performance will be held tomorrow night at 7 p.m. And don’t expect a typical dance recital. Dancefest features 15 dances by groups performing in a variety of genres. From ballet to hip-hop to belly dancing, the variety is as plentiful as the talent of Colgate’s growing dance community.

Although the dances themselves are each only several minutes long, the preparation time involves hours. As sophomore Sophie Gerde, a member of dance groups “Groove” and “Kuumba,” explained, “we meet a minimum of four hours a week per group. The groups are all student lead and very time-consuming, but we have so much fun preparing for Dancefest.”

Especially in the final days before the show, dancers devote considerable amounts of time to preparation. For some groups, these practices are not entirely devoted to dancing, as there is an element of acting and performance involved that must also be perfected.

“The last week or so leading up to Dancefest is always crucial because we move past the point of learning the moves and on to concentrating on the performance,” Gerde said. “For example, we must appear sexy in some dances and then switch to our mean faces a few minutes later…it is always a challenge for most of us.”

In addition to physical preparation, there is an element of leadership involved, as Dancefest is a student-run production. This year’s coordinator is senior Rachelle Dennis.

“I’m definitely sad that this is my last Dancefest,” Dennis said. “Next to classes, Dancefest has been my top priority while a student at Colgate, and I am so proud to be a part of it. In my four years here, I have definitely witnessed and experienced first-hand how much dance at Colgate has grown in popularity and in quality.”

First-year Stephanie McClellan also plays a leadership role in Dancefest, not only as a dancer but as a choreographer. She choreographed a dance for last fall’s performance and continued this semester with the choreography of the closing number, a jazz dance called “Beautiful People.” As a first year student with such a large role in the dance program, McClellan has found her niche at Colgate, as well as discovering a strong community of fellow dancers.

“The girls that I dance with have become my family, and we laugh probably more than we dance,” McClellan said. “I try to keep things interesting so I have a joke of the week and 80’s themed practices.”

Preceding McClellan’s final number, which Dennis describes as “intense and impressive,” are 14 pieces performed by Colgate’s various dance groups. These include the Colgate Ballet Company, Groove, Kuumba, Caribbean Student Association, Latin American Dance, Belly Dancing Club, South Asian Cultural Club (SACC) and Total Praise, as well as several unofficial dance groups, one of which is a jazz dance to an Evanescence song led by James DeVita of the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement.

Members of the Colgate Ballet Company are especially excited about its performance this semester, a less traditional dance performed to Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” Senior Emily Colahan, co-president of the Colgate Ballet Company, looked forward to the performance while also wishing it wasn’t her last.

“I feel both excited and sad that this is my last Dancefest,” Colahan said. “I feel like just last semester I was a freshman totally intimidated about the whole Dancefest process.”

Members of the SACC will also be performing a dance of particular interest, the “SACC Masala,” which is a medley of three songs.

“This is the longest dance SACC has ever attempted and perhaps the largest,” senior Krissy Williams said. “It’s a really interesting mix of music…it goes from pretty standard Indian music to a song in Hindi that has a Latin beat mixed in, so we get to mix a little different type of dance in.” “SACC Masala” was choreographed by Aichida Ul-Aflaha ’05 and includes 18 dancers, paired in nine couples, in the medley-style piece.

Groove and Kuumba are Colgate’s hip-hop and reggae dance groups. This semester, Groove will be dancing to a medley of Amerie songs, as well as a Missy Elliot song.

“I’m extremely excited, especially since one of the dances is the opening number,” first year Groove member Dara-Ann Bauman said. “Coming in as a freshman I never thought I would get as involved in dance as I am right now, but I’m so glad I did and I look forward to trying new dance groups next year.”

Gerde assures us that “although there is nothing as outrageous [as last semester’s corsets worn by Pulse], everyone will be in for one of the most amazing shows yet. It’ll be hot.” Gerde also dances in Kuumba, which will be performing two dances this semester to both hip-hop and reggae music.

In order for these performances to be a success, the crowd, which generally packs the Chapel, is asked to bring energy and enthusiasm about Colgate dance to the show.

“[In the fall], I was so nervous for UT Stop because I had to yell to start the next step,” McClellan said. “The atmosphere was really supportive though and it was really cool hearing your name being yelled from the audience. My roommates made me a sign that said, ‘We Love Our Canadian.’ That was awesome.”

Gerde agreed that the enthusiasm of the audience makes for a great performance.

“Audience interaction is vital to the quality of our performance…if you give us energy, we’ll throw it right back,” she said. “It’s always exciting to see the audience turn-out at Dancefest, and I think this is what motivates us to work so hard.”

Although the audience is guaranteed an amazing show, however, it is the performers who get the true thrill from sharing their talent and being a part of Dancefest.

“Many [students] are committed to dancing at Colgate for its artistic and physical qualities, its ability to entertain our friends at Dancefest, and also to find connections with other people you may not have become close with outside of the dance studio,” Dennis said. “My Colgate experience would have been entirely different if I hadn’t become involved in the dance community.”

Stephanie McClellan sums it up well.

“All in all, the dance community at Colgate consists of the most amazing people and I am so happy to be a part of it.”

Dennis, McClellan and the entire Colgate dance community encourage all students to attend Dancefest tomorrow evening in the Chapel beginning at 7 p.m.