Occidental College’s Dance Production Club (Dance Pro), which was established in 1948 and is now the largest club on campus with over 120 members, performed their annual spring show at Thorne Hall March 18 and 19. Co-president Lucy Smith (senior) said the 2022 shows were a welcome return to Dance Pro’s live performances after three years, as the performance was canceled in 2020 and live-streamed in 2021 because of the pandemic. Hip-hop and fusion choreographer Katie Moore* (junior) said around 800 people attended at least one of the weekend’s three shows.
According to Moore, the spring show was a culmination of nine months of hard work by student participants who clock in an hour and a half of practice each week. With this year’s return to live performance, Moore said she has undergone a change in the way she has approached dancing since her start in 2019.
“I think when I started, I was just kind of like, ‘I just want to dance and have fun and have a good time’,” Moore said. “And I think now, there’s more intention and narrative behind my moves and what I’m trying to bring forward.”
The two-act show consisted of 12 performances with styles ranging from tap to hip-hop to Argentinian Ballet fusion.
“It’s so great to be able to see people not just do the moves but put themselves into it,” Moore said. “It makes you feel things.”
Jo Kim (junior) experienced her first live performance as a dancer and performed three pieces –– one Argentinian Ballet-Folklorico fusion and two lyrical contemporary dances. She said the positive energy from the crowd made the long hours of practice worth it.
“Just knowing that the people that I love most were in the audience and that my friends were able to watch me and see the entire production come together on stage was really rewarding as a dancer,” Kim said.
Co-president Mara Kristiansson (senior) said the return of Dance Pro’s performance on campus made her feel like things are getting back to the way they were pre-pandemic.
“I feel like I’m actually back at Oxy, even though I’ve been here for like a semester and a half,” Kristiansson said.
Smith’s parents Carol Henderson and Priscilla Smith, who flew in from New York City to attend the event, said seeing their daughter perform live again was emotional. Priscilla Smith said the collective support of students in the club, as well as in the audience, reflects Occidental’s unique campus culture.
“You know, the thing about [how in Dance Pro’s mission] everybody can participate, but also just everyone’s screaming for their friends,” Priscilla Smith said. “That’s [also] partly why we wanted to come back so we could be here for that live experience.”
Henderson said she loves the foundation of Dance Pro itself –– the idea that anyone from any or no dance background can participate. Henderson said this characteristic of the club does not take away from the show; rather, it adds more character, making the show more enjoyable to watch.
“We thought it was so great because you know, sometimes dance [can] be really prissy and really like, you have to be thin and perfect and all those terrible things, but this was so great and different because it was just anyone of any level,” Henderson said.
Kim, who grew up dancing competitively, said that the diverse mix of backgrounds among participants in Dance Pro helps her enjoy dancing even more and allows dance to be a therapy, rather than a competition.
“It’s been refreshing for me as someone who used to do competitive dancing, to be in such like a laid back and no pressure environment,” Kim said. “Now I feel a lot more comfortable in how I move my body and I just feel more free.”
As an audience member, Priscilla Smith also said she felt the energy of the dances was different than previous years.
“I feel like it was a little more liberating this year, everybody having gone through what they went through, and then this was a release,” Priscilla Smith said. “I don’t know if that felt that way to them, but it seemed that way.”
Smith and Kristiansson both said they are grateful for the participants this year, who had to practice and perform with masks on and endure the transition back to in-person instruction.
“We’re super extra grateful to our dancers this year, because it was such a weird, challenging thing,” Smith said. “I think a lot of people kind of took a chance on diving back into dance, like what it would be like to practice in masks and all this stuff so I think we’re just really grateful for the group that we are.”
Smith said this year’s show differed from previous ones because of the meaningful connections the club has made together during and after the pandemic. She said there has been an overall shift in gratitude and unity which has affected the performances.
“I personally feel like the sense of community has been greater because we are a little bit more bonded together by those experiences,” Smith said. “And I think we’re just all that more grateful to be able to come together.”
Kim said Dance Pro’s performances serve as a reminder of the power of dance and its place at Occidental.
“I know I’ve been enjoying dancing for a long time, but knowing that other people enjoyed performing as well, even if it was for the first time, I think that really changed how we approach things and just how we see movement and dance as a whole,” Kim said.
*Katie Moore is a sports editor for The Occidental.