Performance groups provide opportunities for student growth

by Lily Johnson | 9/10/18 9:00am

As fall term approaches, new and returning students begin to search for new opportunities to showcase their talents and become involved in the Dartmouth community. One of these opportunities is through the multitude of student-run performance groups active on campus.

Most performance groups on campus fall under dance, a cappella and improv comedy. These performance groups operate outside the supervision and control of academic departments or the productions at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Students can also create their own performance groups, as the bands “Fake Nudes” and “Read Receipts” have done recently. Many performance groups hold auditions at the beginning of the fall term that are open to all students.

There are a variety of dance groups on campus that focus on a wide range of styles. Fusion, for instance, showcases jazz, contemporary and hip-hop routines. Other dance groups include Sugarplum, which specializes in contemporary music; Sheba, a hip-hop group; and D-Step, Dartmouth’s step dancing group. Dance groups choreograph routines, mix and arrange their own music and coordinate costumes every year. They also perform at fraternities, at Collis Student Center shows and in conjunction with fundraising efforts.

Sabyne Pierre ’20, a member of D-Step, said that D-Step also collaborates to perform for themes they support. For Black History Month, D-Step worked with black affinity groups on campus to prepare a showcase and even performed before the College’s showing of Black Panther. Additionally, D-Step partnered with other female-led performance groups for a sexual violence awareness showcase. Similarly, the a cappella group the Rockapellas perform freedom songs and songs that deal with social issues in all of their performances.

Teaghan Callaway ’21 said that being involved in Fusion has also connected her to upperclasswomen who she now considers mentors on campus. She added that she felt a part of the group as a first-year member, as other dancers encouraged her to choreograph her own routines and collaborate with them in making decisions for the group.

Isabel Wallace ’21 said she also feels a similar connection to her a capella group, The Sing Dynasty, that Pierre and Callaway feel to their dance groups. The Sings, a co-ed a cappella group, holds reunions with past members to sing together and meet the current members, Wallace said. This year, the group had its 10 year anniversary, and Wallace was able to connect with Sings from years past.

Dartmouth has a wide variety of a cappella groups, with co-ed groups like The Sings and the Dodecaphonics, all-female groups like the Decibelles and all-male groups like the Brovertones.

In addition to performing at Dartmouth, performance groups have the opportunity to travel around the country on tours during school breaks. For example, The Sings have performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and at the live studio audience of “Conan” and sang the national anthem at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game on their tours.

Wallace said that her involvement with her performance group helped her with personal growth.

“A cappella is not only a creative outlet for me, but also a way to build my confidence and leadership skills,” Wallace said.

Michael Kellman ’20, the current president of Casual Thursday, Dartmouth’s short-form improv comedy group, echoed Wallace’s sentiment. Casual Thursday is one of the two improv groups on campus, along with the long-form Dog Day Players.

“I’ve noticed that since I have started improv I really am much quicker on my feet in real life,” Kellman said. “Interviews, presentations and most importantly just regular conversations — I’m just better at communicating.”

Most of all, performance groups provide students with an outlet to be themselves and forget the stress of life as a student. Sam Seifert ’20, a member of Casual Thursday, said that through improv he found a space for laughter on campus.

“Every once and a while a realization hits me: improv is an opportunity where I get to make jokes with my friends and laugh,” Seifert said. “What’s crazy is that we do it in front of others sometimes. I’m so grateful to have that in my life and bring joy to others.”

Seifert’s advice for freshmen considering joining performance groups is to not let the stress of auditions get to you, since everyone in a group auditioned at some point — just go for it.

Seifert is a former member of The Dartmouth.