Now it seems like it’s an odd time for a dance club to experience a rebirth. However, the Dartmouth Classical Ballet Theater, a group of students dedicated to providing free and inclusive dance lessons, came out of this unusual year leaping higher than ever. After having extended its reach to the entire student population (with a good port de bras), DCBT is starting this year in a rush.
Prior to this fall, DCBT kept a relatively low profile on campus. Although it has been around for a few years, the group consisted of only a small number of students. Rachel Hsu ’23 assumed the presidency as one of the only active members of the club, but she quickly became determined to make DCBT’s presence known to the student body.
“I noticed that other people did not show up for classes, not necessarily because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t know [DCBT]”Hsu said. “I want to make sure that when there are opportunities, people know where they are and how to find them.”
Hsu spent the summer rebuilding DCBT’s infrastructure, gaining recognition from the Council on Student Organizations, and recruiting members of the student dance community to teach open, drop-in Zoom classes.
When rebuilding DCBT, Hsu and his fellow officers envisioned the dance studio primarily as a learning space. Each week, DCBT offers ballet lessons for dancers with different levels of experience, with the hope of including both seasoned dancers and new ballet enthusiasts.
“[DCBT] is a great space that unites dancers, ”said Pam Pitakanonda ’22, a student ballet instructor. “There have always been people who love ballet and people who want to try it or who want to grow up in ballet, but there has never really been a place for it on campus.”
Hsu’s drive to promote DCBT to the larger Dartmouth dance community stems from his belief in the importance of consistent technical training, which is essential to avoiding dance-related injuries. Between rapidly changing academic times and busy performance schedules, Dartmouth dancers often find that they lack the time to focus on developing and maintaining their technical skills. After being without constant conditioning for several months during his freshman year at Dartmouth, Hsu suffered a major dance-related injury for the first time in his life last winter.
“It really drew my attention to the importance of consistent training and conditioning,” Hsu said of his injury. “I wanted to do something about it.”
Hsu acknowledged that as President of DCBT, she was in a unique position to provide the Dartmouth dance community with a dedicated training studio. Because DCBT does not hold public performances, opting instead for a completely instruction-based approach, Hsu saw the potential of the club to complement student dance groups, providing space for students to come together and practice the dance. technique and packaging together.
DCBT is different from most dance groups on campus in that dancers are not required to audition or engage regularly.
“There’s a lot of pressure to be part of an audition-based band that performs three times a quarter, but that’s not what everyone wants,” said Emily Hester ’23, who teaches ballet lessons for beginners, intermediates and advanced. “DCBT extends the community to people who want to keep dancing, but don’t want to spend a lot of hours preparing for performances. “
The flexible, walk-in nature of the classes also provides an outlet for students with no dance experience to learn ballet. By offering free lessons that dancers can follow at their own pace, DCBT seeks to break down prohibitive socio-economic barriers to dance and to help students gain a fair experience in ballet.
“One of the most important things we try to get out about DCBT is that literally anyone can come,” said Samantha Brant ’23, social media manager. “It doesn’t matter that you’ve never done ballet in your life; we have courses for beginners. We also have higher level courses for people who have been training for 15 years.
DCBT classes are taught on Zoom this term, and while Dartmouth Dorms may not be ideal dance spaces, Brant hopes the distance format will help create a comfortable, non-judgmental environment for novice dancers to try ballet. . After all, it’s easier to dance like no one is watching you when you’re in your own space.
“When something’s done Zoom and I’m not sure if I’m going to be good or not, I can always end the call,” Brant said. “I want to know that it makes it easier for people to come. “
As well as making the studio less intimidating for new dancers, the virtual lessons allowed Dartmouth students to explore the world of dance beyond Hanover. In collaboration with Wild Things Dance Workshops, an open-style walk-in class series also run by Hsu, dancers at DCBT had the opportunity to learn from instructors around the world. Because travel costs are no longer prohibitive expenses for dance groups, classes this term are taught by instructors everywhere from New York to Australia to Taiwan.
Despite the challenges virtual learning poses to the arts, DCBT seized the opportunity, expanding Dartmouth’s dance community to encompass new corners of the globe and campus. At a time when rehearsals and normal performances are impossible, DCBT offers dancers a productive and engaging way to practice their craft. At a time when feelings of isolation are all the more present, DCBT opens a community to old and new artists.
Each week, DCBT sends out a Zoom Walk-in Class Schedule to the Campus Events mailing list, open to anyone interested in ballet.
“When we say everyone is welcome, we really mean it,” Hsu said. Whether you enjoy performing with student groups or prefer to perform alone in your dorm room, the Dartmouth Classical Ballet Theater aims to make room for every member of the college community.