Tufts dance community seeks greater institutional support

Renata Celichowska, director of dance in the Department of Drama and Dance, estimates that over 700 students at Tufts participate in some form of dance activity on campus. Despite this substantial number, most students may not be aware that more than 15 student dance groups exist on campus. While larger groups like Tufts Dance Collective (TDC), Sarabande and Spirit of Color (SoC) are fairly well-known, Tufts boasts many smaller outlets for dance, as well.

According to Celichowska, the dance community lacks a broader institution that binds individual groups together. She said that she would like to see the various troupes become more unified.

“In the way that [Pen, Paint, & Pretzels (3Ps)] acts as an umbrella organization for the drama groups on campus — there doesn’t seem to be that for dance,” Celichowska said. “And that’s a pity because … [the drama department] really form[s] such a huge support network for a lot of community engagement [and] socialization. But I understand the need for autonomy from all the other commitments on campus, [and] for [dance] students to just really have their own thing.”

Flora Cardoni, a member of Sarabande, agreed that an extensive, close-knit community for dance groups does not exist on campus. However, Cardoni described Sarabande’s efforts to connect to other dance groups through performances.

“I think that some groups are closer than others,” Cardoni, a sophomre, said. “Sarabande gets to know groups a little bit better because we invite a lot of guest groups into our shows — between each of our dances is a guest group. That’s cool because it’s not only a performance opportunity for them, but it also makes our show more encompassing of what Tufts has to offer.”

Hayley Grossman, a sophomore in SoC, also discussed the effort to create a sense of community by forming stronger connections between groups like SoC and Sarabande.

“There’s definitely camaraderie, especially because half of Sarabande is on SoC — there’s a really big overlap,” Grossman said. “I know I make a point to know all the Sarabande people, and we both perform in each other’s shows.”

Madhuri Khanna, a member of Tamasha, a Bollywood-South Asian fusion group, described a similar sense of unity between the different Indian dance groups on campus, which she attributes to their mutual relationship as part of Tufts Association of South Asians . Additionally, their relationships extend to other aspects, like sharing resources.

“Sometimes there’s a little bit of rivalry … but … I think that, with time, we’ve all become way more supportive of each other,” Khanna, a senior, said. “When I first came in, the teams were a bit broken in the sense that they didn’t really interact much, but over the past few years we now [help] record each other when we need to send in audition tapes.”

Despite a lack of institutional support for the many student-run dance groups, the Department of Drama and Dance provides opportunities for student involvement, offering about 12 classes a semester that range from “The Art of Salsa” to “Advanced Ballet.”

The Department of Drama and Dance, with no academic major, offers a minor that graduates approximately four to eight students in any given year. That number, however, is growing, along with the number of students who have been consistently involved in the department without receiving a minor, according to Celichowska.

While there is no official affiliation between the department and student groups, Celichowska explained that there is potential to develop a stronger connection.

“I think in terms of the partnership between the dance program and the dance groups, I would love to continue to build that support because I feel like it’s really nice when it flows,” Celichowska said. “I have the directors of the dance groups come in, and we chat, and it’s an exchange of ideas, and it gets beyond the logistics.”

The Department of Drama and Dance puts on a program concert each semester, which is a combination of class performances where students can share what they have learned throughout their respective courses. In addition to these performances, there are shows put on by student groups that give dancers a chance to see their peers from other groups perform — from SoC and Sarabande shows that include guest acts to Parade of Nations, Tufts Best Dance Crew and culture shows. Some groups, like Tamasha, have even taken their dancing to competitions and exhibitions.12