Community found in performance groups

by Anthony Robles | 8/13/17 11:45pm

This article was featured in the 2017 Freshman Issue.

After the outdoor adventures of first-year trips and the presentations of orientation week, many freshmen put themselves on the spot by auditioning for one of the College’s many performance groups. These groups encompass everything from a cappella ensembles to improvisational comedy troupes and dance companies, and can become an integral part of a student’s life at the College.

Daniel Shlien ’18, a member of the co-ed a cappella group, the Dodecaphonics or “the Dodecs,” said that it would be hard to imagine Dartmouth without having been a member of the organization.

“They’re like my main group of people,” he said. “When I was a freshman, they were the first people that I would reach out to, whether it was about classes, rush or basically anything ... They’re still there for me now.”

Founded in 1984, the College’s oldest co-ed a cappella group has performed at presidential debates and at the Lincoln Center, Shlien said. The Dodecaphonics primarily perform modern music, but their repertoire encompasses pieces from many genres from “smatterings of country” to more traditional a cappella pieces, he added.

The group’s president Tara Joshi ’18 said that the College quickly became her home away from home after she joined the Dodecaphonics her freshman fall.

“I was a wide-eyed freshman and I had no idea how to navigate so many different things,” Joshi said. “I think I was really unprepared to begin with.”

She added that she had not thought about “what classes I wanted to take, what I wanted my major to be [or] what kind of social life I wanted” and upperclassmen from the group helped guide her.

Citing a love for rhythm and blues music, Joshi said her favorite pieces to perform with the group are “What Goes Around ... Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake and “Bills, Bills, Bills” by Destiny’s Child.

Member and co-director of Sheba, a hip-hop dance troupe, Emily Smid ’18 said that she joined the group her freshman fall because she sought a tight-knit dance community of people to share the art with her.

“[Dance] was always a part of me as an artistic outlet and my favorite type of exercise so I wanted to continue dancing at Dartmouth and I wanted to grow as a dancer,” she said. “I hadn’t done much hip-hop and I was looking to push myself outside of my comfort zone stylistically.”

While the group, which was founded in 1995, is primarily known for its hip-hop routines, Smid said their focus has extended into urban dance styles.

Smid added that being a member of the dance troupe has changed her experience at the College by challenging her as a dancer and allowing her to dance with people who have had different backgrounds and mastered different styles. She also said that joining Sheba has given her access to some of the “best people on campus.”

“I think people at Dartmouth tend to limit themselves socially,” Smid said. “Being on Sheba has allowed me to meet different people outside of the Greek system, in the arts and across class lines, which I think is really important.”

Sheba member and co-director Olivia Deng ’18 wrote in an email that one of the highlights of her time in the group is the annual senior brunch. Deng mentioned that it reminds them of what they’ve learned from each other and how they’ve leaned on one another.

“Even though practice can be tough and claws sometimes come out, it is amazing to see how a love of dance can bring together so many amazing individuals doing so many different things with their lives,” Deng wrote.

Member of the long-form improvisational comedy troupe, the Dog Day Players, Brooke Bazarian ’20, said that being a member of the group has been her favorite thing at the College thus far. Bazarian said the troupe, which is the College’s oldest long-form improvisational comedy group, first formed under the name “Said and Done” in the 1980s and counted comedian Rachel Dratch ’88 among its earliest members. The group changed its name to the Dog Day Players in the 1990s.

The troupe went on tour in Florida this past spring break, performing at other colleges and visiting the Universal Orlando Resort and the Bahamas, which Bazarian deemed one of the best weeks of her life.

“When you get a bunch of improv people in the same group in one place, it’s a pretty fun time,” Bazarian said.

Member of the Dog Day Players Walker Schneider ’19 recalled that he auditioned for the troupe on a whim after the first lacrosse tryout of the season. As he was walking past the doors of Carson Hall, Schneider saw a sign that indicated that tryouts were being held inside. The group welcomed him in and he eventually ended up as a member of the group.

“I think these opportunities come around less and less as you go in your Dartmouth career,” he said. “You have to go for it freshman year or that opportunity probably won’t come up again. Take your freshman fall as an opportunity to really go for everything — spread yourself as wide as you can.”