Dance Production may be over, but that does not stop students from showing off their moves. At 8:15 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Wednesday nights, students gather in the dance studio adjacent to the Alumni Fitness Center with upbeat music playing overhead to workout and learn a fun hip-hop combination in a casual and relaxed environment. PULSE, Occidental’s free hip-hop dance club, provides two student-taught and choreographed hour-long classes for dancers of all experience levels. E-board member Flynn Aldrich (junior) explains that the point of PULSE is for the choreography to be simple, so anyone can join and have fun in a judgment-free space.
PULSE has been a part of the Occidental dance community for the past seven years. Unlike the more structured dance clubs on campus, Hyper Xpressions, Dance Team and Dance Production, PULSE allows students to express themselves and learn without the pressure of performing or committing several hours a week to the club. Members are not required to attend every week or even every semester. According to the PULSE Facebook page, PULSE is optional and the people who attend love being there. Student choreographers come prepared with a short hip-hop combination, a fun beat and an enthusiasm to teach. Classes are primarily hip-hop based, but sometimes the club hosts cultural dances or contemporary pieces. E-Board member Maya Crawford (sophomore) encourages those with no dance experience, but a desire to learn to join them Wednesday nights.
“Even if you’ve never danced before, it’s easy to go along with it and explore it without having to commit to anything serious and find what works for you,” Crawford said.
Many members attend PULSE for a cardio dance workout. E-board member Michelle Levitt (sophomore) considers dance to be a sport and notes the endurance required to repeat a dance sequence multiple times in a row. Levitt, who has been dancing seriously for the past seven years, dances six to seven hours a week, comparable to the time that a college athlete might spend at practices. Natalia Guerra (first year) explains how dance combines athleticism with art.
“People sometimes look down on dance because it is an art form as well [as a sport], but it’s both; that’s where we have the upper hand,” Guerra said. “It’s a creative way to express yourself and get a good workout in. You have to have a lot of endurance and you work muscles you didn’t know you could work.”
Each choreographer at PULSE has a different approach to creating choreography. Guerra, who has a background in ballet and classical dance, describes her style as a mix of contemporary and hip-hop with sharp movements and moments to breathe. She taught a piece she choreographed to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” for the March 29 class. Crawford has a gymnastics background and looks for songs that are upbeat to choreograph to. Aldrich’s thematic style of choreographing can be seen in his Dance Pro piece “Chopped.”
“I start with a theme or story and that’s where the artistry comes in with the athleticism,” Aldrich said. “I never have moves to a song; it’s definitely all coming from the same feeling or idea and based on that idea, I’ll say that ‘oh, this move makes sense.’”
With PULSE, Levitt hopes to dispel the misconception that dance is an exclusive community. Aldrich added that dance is often associated with expensive studio training and leisure time to dedicate, but PULSE’s free classes give everyone a chance to join the inclusive community. To be a dancer, according to Aldrich, all you need to do is move your body to music.
For Guerra, dance is all about community building and that people bond through dance. She says that dancing alongside Levitt in her Dance Pro piece “’33’ God” formed their friendship. Levitt describes dance as a unifying experience that everyone can participate in no matter their skill level.
“Dance is not an exclusive community at all, it’s an amazing community in that there’s a place for everyone. There’s the misconception that I can’t dance. That’s not true. That’s not our mantra here. Our mantra is anyone can dance, and everyone should dance,” Levitt said.
PULSE can be reached at their Facebook page where they post the choreographers for each session and sometimes videos of their classes.