Uncommon Dances Bring Veterans and Amateurs to Their Feet

Jeremy S. Singer-vine

Despite its commitment to ethnic diversity, Harvard’s annual “Cultural Rhythms” dance festival has always excluded one group: those who can’t dance, won’t dance, or have always been too scared to try.

Last Saturday, those who had previously been restricted to watching foreign dance-styles from the sidelines were given the unique opportunity to actually participate in them. For the first annual “International Dance Workshop,” organized by the Chinese Students Association (CSA), student representatives from five cultural dance groups gathered to present aspects of their dance styles to interested undergraduates in Winthrop JCR.

According to organizers, the event was intended to foster an intercultural exchange between various cultural dance groups on campus and interested newcomers. Featured groups included the Harvard Bulgarian Club, Candela Salsa, the Harvard Breakers, the Asian American Dance Troupe, and Harvard Ballet Folklorico de Aztlan. In addition, Rohini Rau-Murthy ’08 did a presentation on Bharata Natyam, a classical form of Indian dance.

Representatives from the Bulgarian Club, donning vibrant traditional outfits, opened the event with a lively lesson about their dance, the Danube Horo. Although volunteers who joined the dancers exhibited varying levels of grace and coordination, the circular dance quickly took shape.

Next, Candela Salsa presenter Nicole M. Gandia ’09 urged attendees to “loosen up and let go” as she dazzled them with Los Angeles-style salsa, which several students seemed to pick up quickly. According to Jean S. Arias ’09, who led the lesson along with Gandia, the “good thing about the workshop is that it shows that it is not so hard.”

“Once you know the basics you can do it and then get more involved,” she said. Several particularly interested participants mentioned considerations of trying out for Candela.

Breakdancing lessons involved comparisons to hopscotch and rolling on the floor. Although no volunteers seemed ready to do any street performing, instructor Kunle O. Oladehin ’07 noted that “people picked up really quickly and wished that there was more time.” The presenters ended by encouraging people to come to their rehearsal and to continue to practice the steps on their own.

Exhausted attendees consumed refreshments before learning about traditional Indian dance and leaping across the room.

Afterwards, representatives from Ballet Folklórico made everyone partner up for traditional Mexican dance. The Asian American Dance Troupe (AADT) closed the event with a Han Ribbon Dance, led by Eva M. Luo ’08, the current co-president of CSA, former captain of AADT, and one of the main sources of inspiration for the event.

According to Luo, her interest in organizing such a workshop began with her participation in “Cultural Rhythms,” which she said demonstrated that “there is so much to learn through dance about other cultures, and it is a great way to bring [the] campus together.”