Editor’s Note season 2 episode 7: Student dance groups need more space

| Staff Reporter
A graphic with two large blue quotation marks in the center in front of an orange background. In the upper right hand corner, orange and green letters read "Editor's Note." In the lower left hand corner, purple and green letters read "Dance Groups Need More Space" and "The Student Life Podcast."

Graphic by Christine Watridge / Student Life

With student dance groups performing in person, they also have begun to rehearse in person again. However, they are facing obstacles as they try to find and reserve spaces to rehearse. Staff reporter freshman Victoria Hirsh spoke with Staff Reporter freshman Amanda Young about the struggles dance groups are going through in order to get around this issue. Theme music by Copy Chief JJ Coley.

You can also listen to this week’s episode of Editor’s Note on Spotify or Apple Music and you can read Amanda’s reporting here.

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

VICTORIA HIRSH (0:08-1:31): Student dance groups are back on campus and rehearsing in person. With the Diwali show this weekend and WashU Urban & Hip-Hop Union’s (WUHHU) annual show on November 20 and many more cultural programs coming up, the performance season is getting busier and busier, and students are facing obstacles in finding places to rehearse.

I’m Victoria Hirsh, and you’re listening to Editor’s Note, Student Life’s weekly podcast breaking down our biggest stories with the reporters and editors that covered them. 

The struggle to find rehearsal spaces for student dance groups has become more prominent since campus has started to open back up after the pandemic. It’s a combination of obstacles brought by COVID-19 safety precautions, a lack of facilities and confusion with the reservation process. The most popular rehearsal spaces for student groups are the Women’s Building’s Olin Dance Studios, Mudd Multipurpose Room, the Danforth University Center and the South 40 Dance Studio. However, students are still struggling to find places to meet. 

I sat down with Staff Reporter freshman Amanda Young, who reported on this issue. Young described how this problem seems to be hidden from the greater student population.

AMANDA YOUNG (1:32-1:52): Based off of my conversations with people, I only learned about this because I heard somebody who was in a dance group talking about it and when we started looking into it more and I started doing interviews there was a general consensus that the dance groups are all having problems with it, but I don’t know if like other students are super aware of these difficulties.

VH (1:53-2:04): In addition to the lack of awareness of the difficulty of finding rehearsal spaces, Young explained how a balancing act is made out of the space reservation process. 

AY (2:05-2:43): Well, there are three departments that the dance groups seem to be working with. That’s the Office of Recreation, Campus Life and the Performing Arts Department. And when I was interviewing the Performing Arts Department director, he was talking about the need to balance their department’s needs in terms of faculty directed shows, and student theses, and things like that, and then also wanting to open up their spaces to student dance groups. And then the Office of Recreation, they have an agreement now with Student Union that is new this year, so they won’t charge groups to use the South 40 Dance Studio anymore.

VH (2:44-2:51): While the process seems straightforward, students still face obstacles as they go through the University’s reservation system. 

AY (2:52-3:33): When I was doing my interviews there was also some confusion among groups with just a lack of communication, I think because some groups reported that they couldn’t use the South 40 dance studio because they had to pay. One group said that they had been using the South 40 dance studio, and so when I went to confirm that with the person who was in charge of the facility, she said that it’s a new policy that was presented to them over the summer by Student Union and so that’s why some of the groups might not know about it. And another thing that I heard was there’s some difficulties with the reservation process. Sometimes people would see online that a space was booked and then they would walk by the space and see that it was empty.

VH (3:34-3:56): While it is easy to chalk up the difficulty of finding rehearsal space as another product of the pandemic, this obstacle has been greatly exacerbated by the loss of the Gargoyle––a popular rehearsal and performance space on the lower level of Mallinckrodt Center. The space was converted into office space for campus services like the Writing Center in 2019. 

AY(3:57-4:53): It doesn’t seem like it’s a direct result of COVID. It seems to me that part of it is that a lot of groups are excited to be on campus doing in-person activities after COVID and so that is one of the reasons the demand is so high. But it seems like this is kind of been a problem since the Gargoyle space was converted in the 2019-2020 school year, and since then, from what I heard from my interviews, it’s been a little bit of struggle finding spaces that are big enough and that have mirrors that the dancers can use. Just from the interviews that I’ve done, it seems like they did have some difficulty in that 2019-2020 school year. But the thing is that at the end of that school year is when things shut down for the pandemic. And then last year, everything was shut down as well. And so now everything is kind of back. And that’s why this has kind of become a problem, I think.

VH (4:54-5:06): More than 1,400 people signed a petition to prevent the closure of the Gargoyle in the spring of 2019. Now, as student groups return to in-person performances, they say they’re feeling the effects of its absence. 

[Read about the Gargoyle’s closure and the petition to save the space]

AY (5:07-5:35): A lot of these groups are having performances coming up. I know that Diwali is this weekend. And WUHHU, the hip-hop group, is having their showcase on November 20. And so as these performances come up, the groups really need space to practice and refine everything. And so it’s been difficult for them to perfect everything without consistent access to space or not necessarily consistent access, but maybe not being able to practice in the same place every time.

VH (5:36-5:46): With the lack of rehearsal spaces, student dance group leaders have been forced to expand their creativity from choreography to adapting other campus spaces into rehearsal spaces. 

AY (5:47-6:10): I think that the common things that came up in my interviews were just that groups are having a hard time finding spaces where they can practice and so as a result they’re looking for small little niche places on campus. For example, one group said they sometimes practice in the basement of Mallinckrodt at night because they can use the windows as mirrors and see their reflections.

VH (6:11-6:19): Young mentioned that during her interviews, students thought simple changes to already existent rooms would be an easy solution to this problem. 

AY (6:20-6:43): From what I heard during interviews with the student group, dance group leaders, they just want to see more spaces available. And so some of them were talking about specific rooms that they knew of on campus that maybe could be converted to practice spaces by adding mirrors. I think that one person mentioned Lopata MPR [Multi-Purpose Room]. And then another person mentioned the basement of Rutledge. They just kind of want access to more mirrored spaces.

VH (6:50-6:57): Editor’s Note will be back next week to break down another developing story. For Student Life Media, I’m Victoria Hirsh.

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