Swarthmore alumna Wendy Xu ’15 made a return to campus last Sunday, when she led a hip-hop choreography workshop in the Lang Performing Arts Center. The early afternoon workshop was sponsored by the college’s own Rhythm N Motion Dance Company. Xu, a four-year member of Rhythm N Motion, had previously led dance workshops at the college as a student. Rhythm N Motion sponsors independent dance workshops throughout the academic year, open to all students of the college.
About 20 students attended the workshop, which was held in the LPAC’s Troy Dance Lab. Students came from a range of different dance backgrounds — some with minimal experience, while others were members of Rhythm N Motion. During the workshop, Xu presented and taught a choreographed routine to Chris Brown and August Alsina’s “Been Around the World.” Additionally, Xu shared insight about her creative process and preferences as a choreographer.
“There’s no need to be self conscious here,” said Xu at the beginning, before demonstrating the first part of the routine.
Xu’s teaching style was characterized by her receptiveness and adaptability to dancers of all skill levels. Often, when presenting a move, she showed an advanced version followed by a more accessible version. When performing the choreography along with the dancers, she alternated between between versions. Xu also encouraged creativity and individuality in her trainee’s routines.
“I liked how she explained each way, and said how we could put our own personal thing into some parts of the routine,” stated workshop participant Pravadh Singh ’19.
Along with individuality, Xu also emphasized creativity and exploration as major parts of her choreographic process.
“I just freestyle to [the song], and over time, the more and more I freestyle to it, some moves just stick,” said Xu. She prefers choreographing to the lyrics of the song, rather than the count, as she stated near the beginning of the session. For her, the choice to choreograph to Alsina’s “Been Around the World” was an obvious one.
“I don’t really listen to the radio, I don’t know a lot of songs. But once in a while I just hear one, and then I can’t stop listening to it,” said Xu. She emphasized the smooth vocals and fast beats of Alsina’s 2015 release “This Thing Called Life” as factors that made it a simple choice to choreograph to.
“I thought the routine was pretty tough to pick up,” noted Singh. Xu agreed and said to the workshop at one point that the fast-paced choreography was not the easiest. She added that she was impressed at how well the dancers, who ranged widely in experience, handled it.
“It was pretty enjoyable once you practiced it,” added Singh. He went on to say that he would be interested in attending future events of a similar nature.
“I’m really happy that RnM has let me come back to do a workshop once in a while,” said Xu. She noted the lack of opportunities to lead workshops outside of the college, saying that these workshops helped maintain her drive to continue choreographing.