Planning Dancefest: The Student Team Behind The Scenes

Dancefest is one of the most iconic events at Colgate, and after two semesters of virtual renditions due to COVID-19, the chapel was once again packed with students eager to see their peers perform. As people filed into the chapel buzzing with excitement, spectators had to overflow the pews to make room. 

Planning this event doesn’t happen overnight. Students have played a much larger role in the planning process after a Dancefest Committee was formed in the fall of 2021. The leaders of any dance group participating in the event are able to join and assist in making decisions about logistics and advertising. 

While administration still plays a large role in the planning process, Tess Hargarten, a senior concentrating in political science and part of the leadership of Groove Dance Troupe, said that the board was involved in planning nearly every aspect of the event. 

“We choose the MCs, we made the program, the order of the dances, we helped decide on the t-shirts and the posters. … We also ran auditions for non-SGA recognized groups and people to be in Dancefest. … We go through everyone’s music submissions and see which songs are explicit to mark them and make sure all the music and lighting is ready for the day and we communicate with the tech people … so yeah, really everything.”

Hargarten gives credit to others involved as well.

“Leigh-Ann [Wenzel] [of the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI)] also does a lot of behind the scenes stuff and her office does a lot of stuff as well, so [we] can’t take full credit,” she says.

Audrey Ponder, a senior concentrating in molecular biology and sociology and a member of Groove Dance Troupe leadership, said that planning Dancefest is a big commitment, but that the committee has been working consistently throughout the semester to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

“I was already sending emails to the CLSI advisor during winter break. We had our first meeting like the second week this semester started, so we start early, but then … closer to Dancefest it becomes a lot more busy.”

Hargarten said that Dancefest is rewarding and worth the stress of planning. 

“Planning is definitely stressful, but it’s really exciting to see everything come together and everyone having fun and so many of our friends coming to support us and stuff that’s really amazing … it is super rewarding seeing all of our work throughout the semester come together at an event that I hope that the whole student body and everyone who comes really enjoys.” 

While COVID-19 luckily didn’t need to be factored into this year’s planning, Richard Baker, a junior concentrating in psychology and neuroscience and part of the leadership of DDT and Wolfpack, said that several semesters of strict COVID-19 guidelines have had an impact on dance groups. 

“Some groups really suffered under [COVID-19 guidelines] from personal experience. So it was really suffering because they didn’t get to do auditions for like pretty much a whole year. So a lot of the seniors and upperclassmen pretty much graduated. And then that pretty much left a lot of groups with nobody to run them.” 

Baker explained the differences among the past few years.

“So you’ll notice if you watch Dancefest, 2020, 2019, versus, like, 2021, this year, or 2020 there’s gonna be a lot less groups that are dancing. That’s just because a lot of [the leaders] graduated [and] didn’t have anyone to pick up the mantle.” 

Hargarten has been involved with Dancefest every semester since coming to Colgate and agreed that COVID-19 has had a lasting impact on the event. 

“It’s pretty back to normal. It’s been great to be able to have it again. I think the only thing would be like, we can’t really always remember what we used to do. And we’re like, ‘How has this been done in the past?’ and no one can really remember. … So we don’t really have as much of a frame of reference.”

Ponder joined Groove Dance Troupe her sophomore year, and the Fall 2020 semester was her first time being involved in the planning process for Dancefest. COVID-19 put a damper on this experience. In her words, “the vibes were not there.” Luckily, this semester’s event has been particularly special. 

“I’m so glad because it’s like a senior send off, we get to do it in person all together, and I’m just super excited because we have some fun stuff planned,” Ponder said.

Baker said that this year’s seniors were the focus of the event. 

“This semester was more for the seniors than anything else. A lot of them got their opportunity to shine and that wasn’t possible for last year’s graduating class. It’s bittersweet to see them graduate, but it was a great send off.”

The organizers of Dancefest spoke highly of their involvement with dance groups at Colgate, and Baker encourages students to join regardless of their experience levels. Baker said he started dancing relatively late, during his second year of high school.

“There’s a lot of people that come to me and they’re like, ‘We really want to dance but like, we just can’t’ … I think people are afraid to do it. It’s really fun. I think especially if you have no experience and you just kind of doing it for fun. It’s not a lot of pressure. There are plenty of groups that are beginner friendly. So I think it’s always good to spread the word on that.” 

Hargarten spoke about the relationships and community that dance groups build on campus. 

“I’ve only been involved in Groove but I’ve really, really enjoyed my experience with it. And it was nice like freshman, sophomore year to have older students to be friends with and look up to.” 

Ponder reiterated this profound appreciation. 

“[Dance is] something very close to my heart and I’m sure a ton of other people’s on campus, even if they found it later in their college career. Like you don’t have to be dancing your whole life to fall in love with it, basically. And it is bonding, I feel like no matter what group you’re in … you get close to those people you’re spending time with.”