Colgate Students Get Down and Dirty at Dancefest

Deb Charney

Tonight, Memorial Chapel will fill to capacity as students eagerly await the appearance of their friends and classmates in the semi-annual production of Dancefest. Dancefest isn’t a “dance recital” in the traditional sense. Don’t expect to see dance after dance performed toclassical musicby students in pink leotards and ballet slippers. The 15 numbers range from hip-hop and cultural dances to ballet and reggae, andthis year’s Dancefest is sure to be memorable.

Dancefest is fortunate to have two experienced dancers at the helm of this semester’s production. Senior Rachelle Dennis and junior Grace Buckley, the co-captains of Colgate’s Groove, are serving as the student coordinators and producers. “All the groups have been preparing for this night since the beginning of the semester and have put in an enormous amount of time,” Dennis said. “We are hoping to get as big a crowd as we usually do – standing room only in the Chapel!” Dennis is also a member of the dance groups Pulse and Kuumba.

Perhaps the most traditional number in Dancefest each year is put on by the Colgate Ballet Company. They will be dancing the Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, which will serve as a preview to their upcoming performance of The Nutcracker to be held on December 10 and 11.

One of Colgate’s hip-hop dance groups, Pulse, is another group whose performance is always highly anticipated. “Pulse is a blast! And our dance is going to be off the hook,” Sophomore Meghan Meehan, a dancer new to Pulse this semester said. “Very hip-hop, jazzy and sexy all combined. We have worked really hard to make it as good as possible, and I know it will be a great show.”

Any student who attended World Expo earlier this semester knows that the South Asian Cultural Club (SACC) always provides an interesting and culturally dynamic performance. There are approximately 25 members of SACC, and this year their dance will include 16 performers. Their performance will be to the Hindi song “Kajra Re,” from the Bollywood film Bunty Aur Bubli. The dancers will be paired into eight couples. Throughout the dance the women will perform primarily in a classical Indian style, while modern dance moves are expected from the men. For costumes, SACC has obtained traditional female ensembles directly from India to give the performance a feeling of authenticity. “The girls dance in such an alluring fashion. That’s always a plus,” Sophomore Kashif Ahmed, a male dancer in SACC stated.

Similarly to the Colgate Ballet Company, SACC’s dance will serve as a preview to an upcoming performance. SACC will be hosting a banquet on February 3, at which the dancers will perform two dances with a wedding theme.

One group that is gaining in popularity each year is the Colgate Cloggers. This year there are five performers dancing with the cloggers in Dancefest. Clogging is a style of dance that developed in the Appalachians. Despite its name, clogging is not done in wooden shoes. Cloggers wear footwear similar to tap shoes, and their dancing has a distinctly country flavor. Clogging, which just received SGA approval this year, serves as a good option for dancers with previous tap experience but no outlet for that talent here at Colgate.

Sophomore Erin Brown, who is new to Dancefest this year, commented, “I took tap dancing for 12 years and there is no tap club, so clogging is pretty similar and I decided to give it a try. And I didn’t do any dancing last year, so I kind of missed it.” For Dancefest, the Colgate Cloggers will be performing a routine to the Counting Crows’ “Accidentally In Love.”

“What I love the most is when I can tell that the audience is really having fun, too. The main point of Dancefest, after all, is to share our dances with everyone else at Colgate and get them excited about dance,” President and main choreographer junior Jen Simester said.

For most dancers participating in Dancefest, it is a combination of the work that they put into the event and the large turnout each year that make their efforts worthwhile. “I love performing in Dancefest every semester because the whole campus comes,” sophomore Caitlin McKenna said. “We love dancing with such a great audience.”

“Being in Dancefest is great because getting a huge ovation from the crowd in the packed Chapel really pumps you up,” Ahmed said. “In turn, you are looser when performing and that makes the dance that much better.”

Along with intense dedication, the dancers also experience stomach butterflies. For even the most experienced Dancefest performers, dancing in front of peers can be a challenge. Simester describes the process as “the whole experience that happens every time: the hours of preparation – and believe me, it does take dozens of hours – the anticipation and nervousness as we’re waiting to go onstage, and then, of course, the actual performance.”

Fortunately, the large audience can help to ease the anxiety of the dancers. “We as dancers try to transmit our enthusiasm and energy to the audience, and I think we dance even better when the audience shows their energy to us as well,” Simester said.

Dancefest will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. All are invited to attend.