WU dance teams maintain community despite separation

Aruni Soni | Staff Writer

Among Washington University’s many groups of individuals who would usually find themselves huddled late at night in classes tucked away on campus or in mirrored multipurpose rooms in dormitories were our very own dance teams, ranging from hip hop to swing, engaged in butt-breaking practice. When they went home for spring break, they didn’t know that the drop of sweat that was crawling down their cheek from their final run of the night as they walked home from practice would be the last of the semester.

Although dance teams have strived for a level of normalcy through the “Oh-can-you-see-what-I’m-seeing-on-your-screen” Zoom call toggling, finding a way to grapple with the absence of their teams moving, pirouetting, jumping and screaming around them has been more difficult. But through this adversity, they have found ways to battle the sudden removal of one of their social fabrics.

Last week, sophomore Grace Philion from WashU Dance Collective (WUDC) told me, “We have a GroupMe, so we have kept in touch that way, and since this weekend [April 3-5] was supposed to be our performance, we are planning on doing a group Zoom.”

Zoom saves the day, but not only for WUDC.

“We’ve been trying to keep the morale up by doing Zoom practices,” says sophomore Neha Shyamani, a captain of the Bhangra team (WUBB). “One of our captains, Puneet [Sachdeva], is doing a great job at organizing them, and they are so fun. But it’s not the same.”

Morad Suliman | Student Life

Wash. U. Bhangra practices for Diwali this past fall. Although no longer all in St. Louis, Bhangra is still practicing over Zoom.

While these Zoom calls can keep us connected and updated on each other’s lives, what happens to the seniors who are unlikely to get a chance to say goodbye?

Shyamani spoke about the way their seniors took the news: “The closing was really rough on our team. Three days before our last competition. It was especially a blow to the seniors, because at the last competition we always did a tribute to them. It felt like there was no closure.”

Now, the seniors have officially completed their journey with WUBB and the executive board for next year has been voted upon and are ready to carry on into the next year.

“I think it felt really sad at first because we were all looking forward to performing and spending time with the seniors,” said Philion. “But I think it has taught us to reflect on how much we have accomplished as a group. WUDC is yearlong, and I’m so glad that we got to spend all year dancing together and suffering through long rehearsals even though we don’t get to perform.

What’s even more interesting are the creative projects that some have found during the sudden upheaval that the COVID-19 pandemic sparked. Grace shared her idea to string together small clips of a dance from each dancer into a video as a tribute to the team.

Senior Max Shteiman, president of WUSauce, said “For WUSauce, it’s tricky to come up with ways to share our routine in the current situation since salsa is a partner-based dance style. However, recently our team has been posting different rehearsal videos on our Instagram and YouTube pages to share what we were hoping to perform. Hopefully our passion for dance still translates to a digital format.”

It has become apparent that the communities fostered within the walls of the University are in no way tethered to them. These teams have brought together a diverse set of individuals and weaved a community from a single, shared passion: dance.

It is comforting to know that even without the dance that tied them together, Wash. U. dance teams have found a way to accomplish the same closeness during these hard times.

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