Summer dance groups give final shows, reflect on term

By Sasha Dudding, The Dartmouth Staff | 8/20/13 10:34am

After a term of leaping, twirling and gyrating across stages and fraternity floors alike, the summer’s dance groups have come to a close. Members of Splendaplum, Shebalite and Ujiheavy have dedicated dozens of hours to practices and performances, culminating in their final shows this week.

Ujima, despite being the College’s oldest student dance troupe, had its first summer version this year, Ujiheavy co-director Sandi Caalim ’14 said. Members wanted to create Ujiheavy after realizing they wanted to dance over the summer with Ujima instead of joining another group.

“It’s been nice to see people progress and become more comfortable with each other,” Caalim said. “We’ve really become like a family.”

Her favorite performance of the term was for Dartmouth Bound, a program for prospective students who might not otherwise consider Dartmouth. After the show, she said she received messages from students who said they were inspired to apply to the College and join Ujima.

Ujiheavy also performed at Jamboree for the Junction, and will have its first frat show this Wednesday at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity.

Shebalite co-director Sheya Jabouin ’15 said the group’s final show, held Monday night at Sigma Phi Epsilon, was fun but bittersweet. Decked out in matching Shebalite shirts and white shorts, the dancers performed choreography they had been practicing all term, as well as a gender-bending twist on an old number, in which boys and girls switched roles for the dance.

“The last show is always really nostalgic,” Jabouin said. “It goes by really fast and by the end you're like, ‘what happened? How did we get here?’”

Although she was initially nervous about directing a dance group, she enjoyed the opportunity to take leadership and to shape the group’s culture by ensuring that new members all “came out of their shells a bit.”

Splendaplum co-director Valerie Zhao ’15 said that the summer dance groups are meant to bring members closer together, and said Splendaplum focused on being low-key and fun rather than perfecting technique.

Zhao said her favorite experience of the term was the group’s first show, held before a screaming crowd at Chi Gam on July 10.

“For a lot of people, that’s the first time they’ve performed in front of a group of their peers at Dartmouth and maybe their first time performing, period,” Zhao said. Many Splendaplum members did not have prior dance experience, she said.

Many dancers were nervous after having learned six dances in just a week and a half, but the first show was a success, Splendaplum member Sutton Higgins ’15 said.

The summer group departed from the Sugarplum’s typical choreography, adding new songs including Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead,” which members performed during their final show last night at Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity.

For Splendaplum, the summer’s most challenging – and painful – moment occurred during the performance at Jamboree for the Junction, members agreed. Co-director Laura Vang ’15 said the black stage had heated up in the sun to the point where the skin burned off the bottom of her bare feet.

Though she called the stage a “hot potato,” Splendaplum member Katie McConnell ’15 said she enjoyed performing for families.

Summer dance groups have also faced difficulties with member retention, as many were not used to the five to 10 hours a week commitment that the groups require. Splendaplum lost four of its 24 members, Ujiheavy lost five out of 25 and Shebalite lost 13 out of 37.

“Especially towards the end of the term it became less and less of a priority, because work is a real thing over the summer and that’s sort of the surprise attack,” Vang said.

Former Shebalite member Tara Roudi ’15 decided to leave the group due to the time commitment, but said the practice schedule was necessary to ensure members knew the dances. She called the experience was a highlight of her term and said she was “bummed” that she had to quit to focus more on academics.

Shebalite member Joon Ho Baak ’15 said that, despite the intense practice schedule, his experience has been rewarding. By meeting new students with whom he shared a mutual passion for dance, he was able to make close, lasting bonds.

“I can say without hesitation that joining Shebalite has been the most defining experience of my sophomore summer,” he said.

Sasha Dudding, The Dartmouth Staff