This past Friday, Rhythm n’ Motion dance company hosted the annual Diva Party in Paces. “Diva” colloquially refers to a number of female artists that have produced music with feminist undertones, including Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Fergie, Missy Elliot, and many more. At the party, RnM members played songs by these divas and more. For many individuals, this music and the artists who create it have a very special place in their hearts.
“A lot of those female artists — just the way they carry themselves is very powerful,” said Brandon Torres ’18. “Fergie’s album, “The Dutchess”, was also the first album I bought with my own money when I was a kid.”
For most attendees, Diva Party is all about the music played, so RnM members hosting the party were careful and deliberate about the songs they chose to play.
“We wanted to make sure we played music that is not always heard [at parties], but by divas,” said Frank Wu ’16, co-director of RnM and one of the hosts of Diva Party. “So we made sure not to put any other top hits that we know were super popular.”
The event was organized by individual students in past years, but those students have since graduated. Wanting to keep the tradition of Diva Party alive, RnM stepped up to host it this year. Wu remembers these parties fondly as some of the most famous at Paces.
“Some of the upperclassmen — from RnM, from Swarthmore — were thinking about the party scene at Swarthmore,” said Wu. “We wanted to create another space for a party just because we haven’t had a Paces party in a long time… There used to be Paces parties all the time. So we were like, ‘Ok, you know what? We’re going to do it!’ What other group could possibly be better to host a Diva Party than RnM?”
RnM was founded in 2002 by a group of students who felt that there weren’t many opportunities for them to learn and perform African dance styles. RnM has its roots in performing dance styles of the African diaspora, but has since expanded to include other underrepresented styles depending on the members of the group. Occasionally, members also choreograph more popular songs, like the hits played at Diva Party.
“We knew exactly what we were going to put on the playlist,” said Wu. “It literally took us like fifteen minutes to put like a hundred songs on it.”
Some students, however, wished that more divas had been played throughout the night.
“I thought it was really fun,” said Torres. “My only complaint was I wish there was more Lady Gaga.”
“I would have liked to have seen more Latin American representation,” said Kelly Hernandez ’18. “There are some bomb Latin American divas.”
Ultimately, though, students enjoyed Diva Party, and RnM succeeded in creating a fun, empowering space to dance.
“I personally felt like it was just about dancing there,” commented Torres. “I also think a lot of [the divas] remind me of middle school. I feel like in middle school, I wasn’t comfortable enough with my sexuality to just dance and have fun. So being able to hear those songs from middle school and just dance and have fun however I wanted to — I’m really appreciative of that.”
It remains unclear whether RnM will take up the reigns on the Diva Party again next year, but it’s possible. Either way, the reception of the Diva Party in both the upperclassmen who knew the Swarthmore before the party scene died down and the underclassmen who know nothing else shows that the tradition needs to be kept.