Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Rhythm and Motion’s performance last weekend, one of the group’s two yearly shows, was as epic as ever – with one addition. This year, Swarthmore’s newest performance-focused student dance group, Terpsichore, shared the stage with RnM. This integration of the two groups’ performances was a direct result of the new Swarthmore Dance Alliance, a recently-formed board of representatives from every student dance organization on campus, ranging from swing to tango. So far, six different groups have been represented at Alliance meetings. The Alliance hopes to form a better link to the administration in order to procure needed resources for Swarthmore’s expanding dance scene.
Griffin Dowdy ’13, the Alliance’s leader and RnM co-leader, helped to answer a call for more communication between dance groups and between these groups and the administration. “We were looking at how big dance is at Swarthmore and how many people are involved in the community,” he said. There are around ten styles that one can pursue outside of the dance department, he explained. All of these groups are in need of increased resources, from rehearsal space to costumes, shoes, and makeup.
It was “clear we needed to form a more united front,” he said, and to present these requests to the administration in a collective rather than piecemeal fashion. “Our big interest right now is to organize a way that the dance alliance as a whole can receive large blocks of time in rehearsal spaces,” he said. The rehearsal time would then be allocated to different groups. In terms of the main stage, which has traditionally been devoted mainly to RnM performances, Dowdy thinks that the Alliance has set a new goal of “consistent access […] for a diverse range of dance groups.”
Terpsichore’s President Sophia Gabriel ’15 and Vice President Emmy Talian ’15 see the group’s involvement last weekend as a valuable opportunity for Terpsichore to not only demonstrate their hard work but also introduce themselves to the Swarthmore community, which wouldn’t have been possible without the new Dance Alliance.
Brian Lee ’14, co-leader of RnM with Dowdy, explained that RnM was interested in opening up the main stage to other interested groups. Last year, “we were becoming cognizant that other groups were looking to become performance groups,” he said. “RnM really wants to be encouraging of other dance groups on campus,” he added.
“The stage is open for people,” Dowdy agreed, explaining that any dance group on campus is welcome to apply for space on the main stage. “Other dance groups on campus don’t get the opportunity to showcase their work,” Lee said. He and Dowdy wanted to offer Terpsichore “a chance to be seen […] and provide that performance outlet.” They had both been aware of Terpsichore’s remarkable rise as a group, from recent inception to a current stable and thriving membership. “A group with so much talent in it, I’m sure they were dying to have some original work to be showcased,” Lee said. RnM does have a history of guest performances, including the inclusion of a Sharples staff member one year, Dowdy said.
Terpsichore’s involvement this year, however, represents a completely different kind of inclusion, as Terpsichore is both self-sustaining and student-engineered. Their inclusion in the RnM show is a significant step toward diversifying Swarthmore’s dance performance scene as a whole. “RnM was […] very active in giving us the chance to perform and letting us represent ourselves,” said Aileen Eisenberg ’15, Terpsichore’s public relations coordinator and representative at Dance Alliance meetings. RnM has been more than welcoming to Terpsichore overall, she said.
RnM’s new attitude has already yielded positive results. At last Saturday’s performance, Terpsichore brought a “different sense of creative spirit” and its “own flavor, own ideas about choreography and connection with the audience,” Lee said. The group’s involvement “only benefits the dance community because more dancers are involved,” he added. “We’re all here on this campus as dancers […] it’s really important that we try to keep as many venues open as possible,” he said. RnM and Terpsichore leaders all seem optimistic about future collaboration. Talian notes the strong relations between the two groups and says Terpischore would certainly be open to discussion about more cooperative projects.
“It was really nerve-wracking but really exciting,” Talian said of performing in front of LPAC’s packed auditorium. The group performed a piece to “Treat Me Like Your Mother” by Deadweather, choreographed by crossover RnM and Terpischore member Daniel “Gray Daniels” Niati ’13. Their performance was a good introduction to the Swarthmore community, she said. The choreography for “Treat Me Like Your Mother” was intricate and emotional. The dancers evoked anger with their pushing movements and slack necks against an intense red background.
For their part, RnM showcased a mélange of different dance styles, all executed with confidence, passion, and an unseemly amount of energy. From creative costuming (dancers marked with tags of WAR, LIES, KILL, and HATE) to brief, comedic videos of RnM antics (Gangnam style, anyone?), the night provided entertainment at every moment.
Many of the songs and dances revolved around relationships, often tortuous or complicated. Highlights included “I Got the Feelin’” by James Brown, choreographed by Dowdy and “Man Mohini” by Ismail Dabar, choreographed by Arya Palakurthi ’14 and Niati. The latter was described in the program as combining “African dance, Bollywood folk, and tradition Bharatanatyan in a fusion that is the first of its kind in RnM history.” RnM members rehearsed for about 15 hours a week for just under eight weeks to put together the show, which is a huge amount of time proportional to the show itself. “We can’t help but feel it was worth it,” Lee said.
Photos by Ellen Sanchez-Huerta/The Daily Gazette.