Student-run groups offer chance to perform for peers, community

by Annie Ma | 8/21/15 6:03pm

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The Dartmouth Aires are one of the College’s all-male a cappella groups, pictured here performing at Dartmouth Hall.
by REBECCA SCHANTZ and REBECCA SCHANTZ / The Dartmouth

From all-night a cappella auditions to open workshops for dance troupes, campus performance groups draw a large crowd of first-year students in the fall term tryouts. Arts groups on campus offer students a chance to try stand-up or improv comedy, hip-hop or classical dance. Ranging from student-run groups to professionally directed productions in the Hopkins Center, first-year students have many opportunities to experience the thrill of performing for their peers.

A Cappella

A Cappella groups make up the largest portion of student-run performance groups. With three all-female groups --— the Decibelles, the Rockapellas and the Subtleties; four all-male groups — the Aires, the Cords, the Brovertones and the Bartenders and three co-ed groups — the Dodecaphonics, Sing Dynasty and X.ado, Dartmouth’s a cappella scene represents a diversity of genres and abilities.

The Rockapellas, for instance, take pride in performing at social justice-oriented events, reflecting their ideological foundation.

Each group has roughly 15 members and takes four or five new members in the fall. Auditions are held during orientation week and are divided by gender. A cappella members said they expect around 200 students to audition. Though many who audition have previous experience singing or performing, all students are encouraged to audition.

Many groups travel during interim periods, performing at other colleges or alumni events, and students consider these tours a highlight of their experience as singers.

Dance

Dartmouth’s four main student-run dance troupes — SHEBA, Sugarplum, Ujima and Fusion — attract dancers of various genres and intermingle styles.Ujima, established in 1985, is the oldest and specializes in hip-hop dance. SHEBA, another hip-hop dance troupe, prides itself on diverse membership and difficult choreography. Sugarplum, established in 2010, mixes ballet with modern dance, while Fusion is a multi-genre dance ensemble.

While niche dance groups also exist on campus, the four main dance groups hold auditions together. In the first round, students must dance for all four groups, and will later choose which callbacks to attend.

The groups fluctuate in size according to their members’ D-Plans. Fusion is one of the smaller groups, while SHEBA has more than 20 members. Like tryouts for a capella groups, dance auditions are held in one day, with the process ending in the early morning hours.

Comedy and Theater

The College’s stand-up and theater groups range from improv to poetry to Shakespeare performances.

The Dog Day Players, a comedy group, specialize in long-form stand-up. Casual Thursday, a short-form stand-up comedy group, offers private workshops to student organizations. Each group takes about four new members each year.

Other performance groups include Soul Scribes, a slam-poetry group, and the Rude Mechanicals, a Shakespeare theater troupe. Often performing in outdoor venues like the Big Empty Meeting Area (BEMA), a green space behind the East Wheelock cluster, the Rude Mechanicals’ actors recreate the atmosphere of an original production without the sophistications of modern staging. The Dartmouth Displaced Theater Company also offers student-led performance opportunities, hosting a termly all-night playwriting festival titled WiRED.

Beyond these student-run groups, the College offers opportunities such as the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, the Dartmouth College Glee Club, the Dartmouth Gospel Choir and others.