Dance is integral to Occidental’s culture. The annual Dance Production show is one of the most hyped events of the year, melding all sorts of styles and piquing the interest of even the most casual performance-goer — selling 1400 tickets last year alone. While the annual performance is certainly a highlight of the year, the performances of the Dance Team, Hyper Xpressions and PULSE also draw a dedicated following on campus.
Dance on campus is mainly seen in the context of performances, but one group remains as competitive as any other sport. The Occidental Dance Team is the only group that goes to intercollegiate competitions and is the only dance group listed as a club sport on the Occidental website. Last year, the team earned third place in the Universal Dance Association’s National Dance Team Championship.
Despite the team’s impressive competitive achievements, Jessica Lee (sophomore) and Mia Smutny (sophomore), this year’s co-captains, said that these events are not well attended by Occidental students. They added that the low attendance is probably because the competitions are usually held an hour away. Both spoke positively about the support for Dance Team’s halftime performances at other school sporting events.
“There are people who come [to games] just to see Dance Team or just to see Hyper Xpressions,” Smutny said.
Eloise Wukmir (sophomore), co-artistic director of Hyper Xpressions, is similarly pleased with the support Hyper Xpressions’ receives and added that the thrill of performing is not necessarily influenced by fandom.
Onye Nwabueze (senior), a three-time choreographer for Dance Production, emphasized the time and physical effort that go into dance. She estimated that between practices, choreographing and attending PULSE’s weekly hip-hop classes, she spends 10 hours a week dancing. She is also on the school track team, which she found to be a comparable time commitment.
Wukmir also said she dedicates eight to 10 hours a week to dancing.
“Our practices can get pretty intense and tiring,” Wukmir said. “I think people often perceive that it’s a lot less work than it actually is.”
Many Dance Production participants appreciate the attention that the show draws. Their show in the spring spanning two days frequently sells out.
“It’s really nice to see that people will take the time out and pay to watch what you’ve worked on for so long,” Nwabueze said.
The familial bonds that are created within groups of dancers are often as impactful to the dancers as the performances themselves. Lee and Smutny said they spend almost all of their time together thanks to dancing. Wukmir and Nwabueze agreed that this time together builds friendships and makes for a rollicking atmosphere.
“We’re used to being embarrassed around each other, so it’s more of that kind of joking around and being silly together,” Nwabueze said.
Despite this relaxed atmosphere, each group of dancers stressed the high level of focus and talent required to succeed in one of Occidental’s lesser known athletic environments.
“Anyone who says differently has never danced,” Lee said.