Amy Milka slips on her dancing shoes and boogies with some University dance societies
University dance has received mixed publicity recently. The cliquey image associated with performing arts in general is hard to shake off. But, as the build-up to the extravaganza that is Fusion continues, I find out what’s going on and how to get involved.
Lucy Davies and Emma Meigh, the Dance Society chairs, are keen to dispel the old myths. “We’re not in the least bit exclusive! The society caters for all levels and abilities. We aim to offer something for everyone, from people who began dancing at a young age to complete beginners.” The variety of classes that the society offers reflects this diversity – jazz classes, break dance, jive, tap, beginners and improvers salsa and street dancing are all on the menu, plus specialist workshops every term which range from advanced classes, to belly dancing, to afro-cuban body movement.
The society currently boasts over 700 members, making it one of the largest on campus, and it’s still growing. Secretary Nat Carter explains, “we’re a successful, self-sufficient society, and over the last few years we’ve grown dramatically. The increased interest means we are constantly expanding our capabilities and adding new classes.” It’s not all hard graft though, and with classes comes a varied social scene, from fancy dress to salsa social nights where students can try out the moves they’ve learnt. “We’re keen to see new faces at our socials, and it’s a great way to get to know your committee”, they tell me. “We’re having a dance film night in Week 6 and we hope plenty of people will come along.”
Classes aside, this is a very active society. Auditions give all members a chance of strutting their stuff on stage, be it at a charity event such as Stop AIDS or Make Poverty History, or a well-known campus event like Woodstock or the infamous Fusion. “This year’s Dance Society scene at Fusion is a really special one”, says Lucy, “as this time many classes are taking part.” In addition to on-campus performances, a group from the society will be representing York at this year’s inter-university competition in Loughborough. “We’re entering the hip-hop category, but in the future there’s the potential for students to represent us in other categories, too”, Lucy explains.
The committee will be holding elections in Week 9 for all positions, including two reps for each class, a secretary and the chairs. Anyone can run for a place, no experience required. “We’re a friendly bunch and want everyone to enjoy our classes. You don’t have to go with a friend, just turn up and meet some new people!” Ben Dove, salsa rep, says. “And it’s definitely not just for girls”, he adds. “Salsa is fun and sociable, and I get to meet lots of new people every week.” The girls agree, “girls love a guy who can dance! That’s our motto – making you look good on the dance floor”.
Although the Dance Society provides the widest range of lessons, other societies are also flying the flag for dance in York. Jenny Frankish, chair of Ballet Soc, explains what’s going on this term: “We are currently preparing for a competition in Edinburgh against other university dance societies in the UK. Everyone who went last year had loads of fun and can’t wait to go again. It’s nice to have the opportunity to perform, as well as practise in classes.” Members benefit from a Royal Academy of Dance trained teacher and, of course, plenty of socials. The societies are also succeeding in improving the dance facilities at the University; the last year has seen the transformation of the minor sports hall into a dance studio with mirrors and barres for the ballet dancers.