Student Spotlight: dancer and choreographer Angie Lee ’17
The self taught dancer serves as director of Street Soul.
Street Soul performed at the Alpha Phi Alpha Green Key Step Show on Saturday.
While the performance aspect is often regaled as the climax and culmination of a dancer’s hard work, choreographer and dancer Angie Lee ’17 has a different perspective. Lee emphasizes that dance can be used to examine and explore oneself and that work takes place largely off-stage.
Lee’s journey as a dancer began years before her Dartmouth career. When she was in fifth grade, she saw a video on Youtube of a dancer popping. The street dance style, characterized by the relaxing and tensing of muscles, immediately intrigued her.
In middle and high school, Lee continued to learn to dance by watching Youtube videos and never attended any studio dance classes. Lee explained that because she was not studio-trained, her style is primarily freestyle.
“In studios, usually people will teach some choreography, and you have to pick up moves, whereas freestyle is more a stream of consciousness but applied to dance,” Lee said. “You do what you’re thinking in the moment, and you dance in the moment to whatever you hear.”
Now, Lee is less focused on popping and very much influenced by urban dance, a style that evolved on the West Coast and California in particular.
During her freshman fall, Lee knew she wanted to join a dance group but did not see herself fitting into any of the audition-based groups.
“What I envisioned was to find a more urban dance style group on campus, but there really wasn’t much of that,” Lee said.
Ultimately, Lee decided to join Street Soul, an open dance group that at the time consisted of mostly male upperclassmen who popped, Lee said.
“I think [Lee] changed the whole dance game her freshman year,” said Kathy Li ’17, a member of student dance group Sugarplum. “She didn’t even audition for the mainstream dance groups because she was so comfortable in her own style, and she was really good at freestyle.”
Since her freshman year, Lee has been involved with Street Soul and has held the position of director since her sophomore summer. As director, Lee is responsible for many of the logistical and administrative tasks necessary for organizing and managing a dance group, including planning dance shows, structuring practices, teaching and making music mixes and costumes for the performances.
This past weekend, Lee and members of Street Soul performed at the Alpha Phi Alpha Green Key Step Show. Its set included a medley of hip-hop and pop songs, such as Bastille’s “Pompeii.” Having choreographed and taught a number of dances, Lee explained that her style is set apart because of her popping background and preference to choreograph to “slower, more cathartic” songs.
“She likes sharp movements,” said Dan Kang ’15, a member of Street Soul. “Also, she loves freestyle as much as she likes choreography. She always tries to try out interest stuff when she sees interesting things online.”
Street Soul gives each member the opportunity to teach a dance to the rest of the group, and Lee shares her style and her passion for dance with other members of Street Soul when she takes on the role of choreographer and teacher.
“Creating choreography for me is kind of an outlet,” Lee said. “It’s the ultimate self-expression. It’s like communicating with your body and telling a story through movement, so it’s very artistic.”
Huwon Kim ’19, a member of the student dance group Sheba, commented on the personal relationship Lee has with dance, which she said stands in contrast to a lot of the dance seen on campus.
“At Dartmouth, a lot of dance is solely about the performance, so it’s really about the presentation of self to the rest of the community, whereas I think [Lee] really does this for herself,” Kim said. “So it’s a very personal experience for her, and it’s really for her own development and her own expression.”
Because Street Soul has an open membership policy, many of the members are new to dance. Lee reflected on some of the intricacies with teaching movement and expression of movement to beginners, as well as teaching them to be more comfortable with their bodies.
“You really have to be critical that these are beginners, and so you have to teach at a really slow pace, make sure that everyone is very comfortable with what you’re teaching, and that they understand what it is that you’re doing,” Lee said.
The lack of an audition process for Street Soul in terms of joining the group and participating in choreographed dances is also representative of Lee’s values and beliefs regarding the inclusivity of dance.
“I think that really reflects how it’s less of a competition,” Kim said. “It’s really up to the individual dancers themselves to devote their time to whatever dance they feel inclined to perform. I think in that sense it really reflects [Lee’s] desire to keep dance open for everyone.”
In addition to her involvement with Street Soul, Lee has also made it a priority to try to foster a sense of community between the dance groups on campus.
“How she interacts with people and how she values dance really pushes her to root for a dance community that supports each other,” Kim noted. “In her mind, I think the ideal situation is that all the other groups show support for each other and are not just self involved within their own group.”
Li added that Lee’s decision not to join an audition-based dance group was a statement in itself because it defied the expectation of what a “good dancer” was supposed to do at Dartmouth. However, Lee would like to join an audition-based team after graduation as a way to keep dancing.
“She has paved this path for dancers to create a space for themselves, to have their own choreography or to create a group around their style,” Li said.