Next Wednesday, the dance group Terpsichore will have its first Lang Performing Arts Center mainstage show at 6:30 p.m. The show will feature nine dance pieces of varied styles, with influences ranging from Japan to Ghana to American music videos.
Terpsichore, named for the Greek muse of dance, was founded two years ago by five Swarthmore students. Emmy Talian ’14, one of the founders and the current president of the group, explained their mission: to create an open group “that would allow more students to choreograph, perform and teach other students about the various styles that we know.”
The aim of establishing an open dance group was to encourage students of different levels of experience to explore dance and to meet like-minded people. The diverse background of the dancers brought in a broad range of experience and an unexpected chemistry between different dancers. “It was nice in the first semester, because of the broad range of experience in the group. There were a lot of people who hadn’t danced before coming to Swat and they found out about dancing through Terp,” said Talian.
Teaching dance was one of the fundamental aims when the group was first founded. A wide range of styles have been taught in open classes, by both group members and choreographers from outside the school. “We taught a ballet class, a modern class and a jazz class. We brought in a professional choreographer to come to teach ballet and modern class and teach choreography that we later performed,” said Talian.
Most classes are student-led, with a few taught by professional dancers. For example, Sedinam Worlanyo ’17 once taught Ghanaian dance. Also, the group teaches dance styles that the school does not offer. For example, Hannah Grunwald ’14 choreographed a Japanese dance piece. Terpsichore also collaborates with the social dance classes on campus. They have worked with the swing dance club and also invited members from the Scottish dance club to conduct Scottish dance classes with Terpsichore.
“The idea is just to expand the types of dance that are available, and give students a chance to have a greater range of experience. There is also a chance to explore different types of dance and choreographies,” explained Talian.
Terpsichore has expanded greatly since its start. In their first semester, it was the guest group in Rhythm n Motion’s 2012 fall show, with only eight dancers. In Spring 2013, it had its first in-studio showing, where it put on four pieces. Last semester, they did a studio showing, with all the curtains in the space and full lighting. Talian was excited to share the expansion of the group, saying, “We had a really packed audience. It was good. We put on six pieces.”
Next week, Terpsichore will have their largest show, with nine dance pieces. One performance will be an installation piece choreographed by Bryan Chen ’15. In this piece, Chen is exploring Asian stereotypes and how we can begin to break them down.
The piece “Rainy Day,” choreographed by Indigo Sage ‘16, depicts the feeling of being warm inside as heavy rain pounds on the windows. There will also be pieces in contemporary, modern, and improvised styles. Another piece, titled the “Awkward Piece,” is an interesting exploration of mental wellbeing. The choreographer, Deborah Krieger ’16, wants to convey the message that personality is not what it seems to be.
“Terpsichore is a place where I can express my dance identity and share what I love to do with other people who also love to do it. It is a place where I can share that part of my personality and identity with people who are just getting started in dancing,” says Talian.
Dancer and public relations representative Adriana Obiols Roca ’16 also emphasized the interpersonal value of dancing in Terpsichore. “The group lets you connect to people who are not necessarily in dance department classes, so that you won’t necessarily meet them in that context of dance. So it is pretty great to create a community of dancers within Swarthmore in general. It is great to meet people who share a love of dance,” she says.
Terpsichore is clearly rising as one of the most important dance groups in the Tri-Co, transforming novice dancers into skilled performers. The show is sure to be a powerful and diverse representation of the talent in the group.