Opinion: A love letter to dance

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ballerina
Emma Lord/The Occidental

“Please, allow me to show you something…”

The song “Drunk Dialing…LODT” by Summer Walker became an anchor for me this past year; her words helped me fill in what I couldn’t always express on my own. The song seemed to capture everything I was feeling and it (quite literally) moved me so much that it became a vessel of expression. Dancing helps me communicate when words fail, so I put two and two together and performed to that song in front of about 800 people.

Drunk Dialing. Maybe not the classiest name for a dance piece that opens a show some people have been waiting three years to see in person, but I didn’t see how I had any other choice: it was only fitting that a song that provided me with so much clarity during the pandemic would result in such a meaningful performance. I’ve been a choreographer for Oxy’s Dance Production Club (Dance Pro) every year of my college career, but it wasn’t until this year, as a junior, that I finally got to perform in person for the first time. Believe me when I tell you that it was surreal.

I remember being particularly devastated about two things when we received the March 2020 email about the dorms shutting down: not getting to see the guy I had a crush on for a while, and more importantly, not getting to perform in Dance Pro. Knowing that we were only one week away from completing a year’s worth of hard work honestly crushed me — but it also made me even more determined to eventually showcase something I was proud of.

The following school year our classes were still remote, meaning extracurriculars were too. Dance Pro 2021 was virtual and consisted of a year of rehearsing on Zoom, culminating in a livestream of edited videos that dancers had recorded at home. A neat idea — and a special shoutout to my dad, who helped me edit my piece — but it wasn’t the real thing. Fast forward to the Fall 2021 semester when I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and decided to audition to be a choreographer again. Next thing I know, I’m back to teaching dance online; only this time, I knew I would have an in-person show waiting for me when I got home.

In my first two years of choreographing, I had my music mixed way ahead of time, and was mostly just dancing to songs I thought the crowd would like. But this year I found my mindset shifting.

Why am I dancing? Who am I doing this for? What do I want it to mean? These questions brought me not only to the other two songs featured in my piece (Essence” by WizKid and “SadGirlzLuvMoney” by Amaarae), but to the narrative I wanted to convey. Quarantine taught me that when I physically move my way through things I can process them better, and that’s what this piece did for me. It allowed me to simultaneously express and release frustration — and I will never forget how that felt on stage.

I confess that I totally choreographed specific parts of the piece knowing I’d be in the front — there was one moment where I popped out from behind two of my dancers and did this insane reveal. It was the perfect moment when the moves go from fast to slow — I’m quickly stepping forward one second, then my body is rolling like I’m stuck in molasses the next. I swear, the roar of cheers that went up during the Friday night performance when I hit that moment made the two years of waiting worth it. It turned my nerves into pure joy, which propelled me through until the final pose. I could barely hold still because I was vibrating with energy. I don’t think I’ve fully processed that moment yet, and truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to match the atmosphere of emotions that my piece created that night.

Of course, none of my experience would be possible without my incredible dancers. I owe them every ounce of gratitude for enduring a semester of online instruction while I was abroad in the fall and our chaotic in-person rehearsals leading up to the show — but they truly made the piece what it was. There’s a certain force that comes with performing alongside so many people: your energy is magnified and projected across the audience, like you’re dancing through a megaphone. Their energy and passion, especially in our final pyramid formation, took the performance to the next level.

Thank you also to everyone who watched our performance. Your support was what inspired me to dance my best, and without you I wouldn’t have been able to share what I needed to share. Thank you to the other choreographers who also bravely bared their souls on stage alongside me. And a quick shoutout to myself for being so vulnerable; I know it wasn’t easy, and I know it felt a little silly dancing about boys who had made me upset, but I am so grateful I got to do it. For those looking for a new way to express themselves, I strongly encourage you to join Dance Pro next year either as a choreographer or a dancer. Whether you’ve danced your whole life or have never set foot in a studio, it’s a truly grounding experience that I want to share with everyone. Also, you get to look hot on stage in front of your friends, and what’s better than that?!