Summer Fling: Sophomores explore passions

by Sarah Alpert | 7/26/19 2:05am

They say sophomore summer is different from all other terms — and it’s true. From June to August, Dartmouth students swim more, tan more, eat more farmer’s market kettle corn and in some cases, sing, dance and laugh a lot more than any other term.

Over the summer, student performance groups open spots for temporary members, and many sophomores take this opportunity to revive a forgotten talent or try something new. Joining summer performance groups has become a favorite sophomore summer tradition.

Amy Tsai ’21 said she recently became interested in dance, which is why she auditioned for Shebalite, the summer version of Dartmouth’s hip-hop dance troupe, at the start of the term. Although she arrived with no prior dance experience, Tsai said the year-long Sheba members have fostered a supportive and welcoming environment for new members.

“All the actual Sheba people are very helpful,” Tsai said. “They’re there, we have extra help sessions you can go to and then if you’re willing to put in the work, you can definitely get the dances down.”

So far, Tsai has had fun learning new moves and meeting new people. She is even considering joining Sheba for the full academic year.

Unlike Tsai, Nandita Kasireddy ’21 said she joined a summer dance group to pursue a long-term passion for dance. During the year, Kasireddy participates in Raaz, which focuses on South Asian dance. After practicing traditional Indian dance for most her life, however, Kasireddy decided to try a new style this summer with Ujimelt, summer-slang for Ujima, another Dartmouth dance group.

So far, Kasireddy has enjoyed the laid-back attitude of Ujimelt, which had no auditions and doesn’t strictly enforce attendance at rehearsals, according to Kasireddy. 

“It’s different from doing Raaz during the normal year, I think, because it’s just less intense and less pressure,” Kasireddy said.

While Ujimelt could be seen as a casual summer fling, Tsai noted that Shebalite can be “kind of stressful” because members have to audition for each dance. At the same time, Tsai said the people in Shebalite help dissipate performance anxiety, cheering performers on during intense moments. Tsai emphasized that participating in Shebalite demands a hefty time commitment, even when midterms and other responsibilities accumulate near the middle of the term.

After joining improv group Casual Thursday this summer, Rohan Chakravarty ’21 had the opposite reaction. Although he said he looked forward to improving his comedy skills, he finds that the group is more laid-back than he wanted.

“This is maybe just specific to me, but I prefer to really do a lot of comedy and really think about it more and get more intense into it, whereas they’re treating it as a diet version or a summer version,” Chakravarty said.

Chakravarty added that he thought Casual Thursday would be a significant time commitment, so he was surprised to find rehearsals scheduled only three hours a week. For those hours, however, Chakravarty has really enjoyed doing improv and hanging out with other members. 

“The people that Casual Thursday chose I think is a mixed bag of people that wouldn’t normally hang out: a mixture of affiliated and unaffiliated people that get along pretty well and vibe with the people who are in normal Casual Thursday,” Chakravarty said.

Chakravarty loves making people laugh. 

When asked why he decided to do summer improv, he quipped, “The joke answer I tell people for why I joined Casual Thursday is that I overslept the Dog Day audition, which is true.”

But on a deeper level, Chakravarty, Kasireddy and Tsai joined summer performance groups for a chance to venture outside of their ordinary routines. Chakravarty and Tsai both expressed a desire to meet new people and expand their circles on campus. For Kasireddy, the summer offered time to return to abandoned hobbies, as well as broaden her dance repertoire.

“I did theater and chorus in high school and middle school, but I stopped,” Kasireddy said. “I felt like during the normal year, I had to pick just one group because it’s more of a commitment.”

Kasireddy said she auditioned for Summer Sings, an a cappella group, before joining Ujimelt. After realizing that Ujimelt was relatively low-commitment, she decided she could juggle both singing and dancing (on top of participating in a play). She said she cherishes this chance to perform more over the summer than she has time for during the school year.

Even though she sang and danced before college, Kasireddy feels that both Summer Sings and Ujimelt push her outside of her comfort zone.

“For Summer Sings, I guess, I was unclear — I was like, ‘Can I still sing? Let’s find out.’”

Kasireddy wishes she could keep singing, but she says she would never abandon Raaz, and her schedule only allows time for one performance group. In the upcoming year, she looks forward to bringing what she learned at Ujimelt back to Raaz, even if she misses her summer experience.

“It’s nice that I get this chance during the summer to try out these different groups, but it also makes me sad because I can’t do it again. I’m attached,” Kasireddy said.

At Dartmouth, activities and friends can come and go as quickly as our 10-week terms. In many ways, sophomore summer offers a typical Dartmouth experience: see new faces in your classes, compare calendars to find time for that lunch date and fill out hasty club applications week one. But in other ways, sophomore summer is a unique time to expand your horizons, whether that means trying activities that scare you, bonding with members of your class or both.

As Chakravarty put it, “you do a cappella if you don’t know how to sing, or you make jokes if you’re not that funny. It’s just something you do.”

Kasireddy is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.