Occidental dance team talks performing at halftime and building community

Occidental Dance Team performs at Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Audrey Rudolph/The Occidental

Occidental’s dance team performed for the first time this school year during halftime of the Occidental’s men’s soccer team match against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Sept. 21. Co-captain Amy Kang (junior) said the jazz performance to Little Mix’s “Bounce Back” was the culmination of weeks of work for the student-run group of 15.

“We started right away from the night of auditions [Sept. 5],” Kang said. “We had a former captain [Jessica Lee ’19] come in and teach us her choreography. Ever since then, we’ve just been running over the dance, reviewing it, setting formations, cleaning the choreography, making sure it looks good. We’ve dedicated probably four or five practices to this particular performance on Saturday.”

The team practices at least three times a week, but Kang said they often spend time together outside of dancing, which has forged a strong sense of community within the group.

“It’s really nice cause we not only dance but it honestly feels like a family,” Kang said. “We always talk about how we’re like our own little sorority.”

Co-captain Stephanie Oyulu (sophomore) said the community feel is what initially led her to join the team.

“When I first saw dance team tabling outside, I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to join or if it would be too much, but it’s a really close community and it’s just nice to have a group of people on campus that you can always go to,” Oyulu said.

Kayla Steinke (senior), now in her fourth year on the team, also said being on the team has significantly impacted her time at Occidental.

“I just love all the people on the team, and I didn’t think I would be dancing after high school, so finding girls that are really nice and supportive has been a real help at Oxy and finding my place here,” Steinke said.

Steinke said that while the group enjoys each other’s company, they understand the hard work they have to put in to perform at the level they want toAccording to Oyulu, late night practices after a long Monday are not without discomfort.

“It can be tough to have a long day and then you’re dancing till 10 p.m.,” Oyulu said. “It is a commitment, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, and I think in part that might be because it’s just fun being there.”

Kang said it would be nice if the team received a little more recognition for the work that goes into each performance.

“Even though we don’t have that standing as the other sports teams on campus, we still work really hard, we put in the time and effort, so just getting that recognition would be awesome from the student body,” Kang said.

Despite this, the team members each said they are happy with the current setup of the team and hope to preserve the current environment heading into the future.

“I don’t necessarily have a particular goal in mind for everyone — as long as everyone’s having fun, as long as it’s not too stressful for anyone, that will make me happy,” Kang said.

Steinke said she has a similar vision for the future of the team now that her time with the group is coming to an end.

“Since it’s my last year, I just want the team to carry on getting girls who are really invested in the team and love the team,” Steinke said.

Steinke also said she is appreciative of the people who have made her time as part of the team so special.

“Thanks to all the members of the team, past and present, for helping me be at Oxy,” Steinke said.

The group will continue to perform for the rest of the year and would love to continue being supported by the student body, as they rarely repeat the same dance more than twice at performances, Steinke said.

“It would be awesome if more people showed up to the games and stayed during halftime,” Kang said. “At least just for the first five minutes to watch us, cause we did work really hard.”