Students seize artistic opportunities

by Maya Poddar | 9/8/15 7:38pm

While the arts at Dartmouth can take many forms, one of the most accessible is student performing groups. From a Shakespeare troupe to multiple a cappella, improv comedy and dance groups, there is almost always an opportunity to watch a performance. All the groups may have different focuses, but they are all the same in one respect — all have dedicated seniors who have put years of hard work and love into them.

Many seniors currently involved in arts and performance groups around campus got their start as freshmen, such as Dartmouth Aires business manager David Clossey ’16.

“I tried out for the a cappella groups at the beginning of my freshmen fall, and I got into the Aires, and I’ve been in the Aires ever since,” he said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”

Some students come to Dartmouth intending to continue arts training and involvement from prior years. Sugarplum co-director Katie Schultz ’16 said that her past experience in dance played a role in her decision to join the group.

“I grew up dancing competitively, and so I knew dance was something I wanted to continue when I got to Dartmouth. Four of the big dance groups — Sugarplum, Fusion, Ujima and Sheba — have joint auditions every fall, and so I kind of showed up to that and said let’s see what kind of dance Dartmouth has to offer,” she said.

Others, like SHEBA president Carina Conti ’16, decide to apply their previous training and go in a slightly different direction.

“I grew up doing ballet and contemporary. I’d never really done hip-hop before, but when I got to college I’d seen SHEBA a couple times during the Orientation showcase and during Dimensions and it just looked like so much fun, and it looked like something that I’d never done before but that I could maybe pick up,” she said. “I wanted to try something new and I wanted to challenge myself.”

Some students who join on-campus groups come from non-arts or theater backgrounds. Carolina Alvarez-Correa ’16, a member of the Rockapelllas, said that she was more of a math and science person in high school and that the only theater class she has taken at the College was to fulfill a distribution requirement

For many of the seniors involved in the arts at the College, groups have provided a strong social support network.

“To be honest, I think that Sugarplum is probably my biggest family on campus,” Schultz said. “It was my first opportunity to really meet upperclassmen and I think that has continued through my three years there.”

Students from other organizations found a similar sense of community within their arts groups. Conti described SHEBA as a family that “goes beyond the rehearsal space.”

“[SHEBA is] a source of support and advice,” she said. “It’s a form of mentorship — both through dance but also as people in general. It has been a source of comfort and consistency, even when classes change and friends change because of the D-plan, I’ve always had SHEBA as a family that I know will be there.”

Nate Grice ’16, a member of the student-run Shakespeare group the Rude Mechanicals, said that the organization was the first tightly-knit group he got involved with on campus as a freshman.

Participating in on-campus arts groups provides many students with the opportunity to engage with upperclassmen and to mentor younger students.

“I think being part of the Aires gave me a network of people that I could rely on from day one,” Clossey said. “It gave me a group of upperclassmen I could ask questions, and it gave me a group of friends that I could really feel close to.”

Students involved in student groups are often involved in multiple artistic endeavors and organizations on campus, such as Aires’ president Nikhil Arora ’16, who is also a member of the Glee Club, the college’s classical chorus.

Jimmy Ragan ’16, a member of the Dartmouth Dodecaphonics a cappella group, said the group challenged him as a music major to push his skills beyond the classroom and think more creatively about musical arrangements. At the same time, the social aspect of the group shaped his freshman year from the start, giving him a closeknit group of mentors and friends.

“You’re surrounded by a caring group of upperclassmen who can show you the ins and outs of Dartmouth and who are really looking out for you. You get very very close to a couple of your classmates who you might not have met otherwise,” Ragan said. “It’s just another way of connection on a really deep level.”

Members of arts groups find multiple aspects of their experiences to have been important or rewarding. For some the most rewarding moments are traditions that are carried on through new members. Alvarez-Correa said that she enjoys bequests, where graduating members pass on items to the younger members, because of the emotions it brings. For others, such as Sugarplum co-director Veronica Burt ’16, individual shows and moments stand out.

“Every spring Sugarplum does a big showcase in the Moore [Auditorium], and we normally don’t get to perform on a big stage like that, but that’s a great tradition that we keep up every spring,” Burt said.

In the fall orientation showcase, campus groups perform ahead of auditions and give incoming students an idea of the breadth of arts opportunities available on campus.