Campus Dance Groups Create Community

The Susquehanna University Dance Corps, comprising dancers at every skill level, holds an annual Spring Showcase.

Having the ability to dance at college without being a dance major was very important to Melissa Hughes’ college choice. Fortunately, the junior political science and economics major found that Susquehanna offered several options for satisfying her passion for dance—SU Dance Corps, SU Belly Dance Circle and SU Swings!

Dance Corps holds weekly classes in hip hop, tap, ballet and contemporary styles. The student-run organization lets students take as many or as few classes as they’d like. Hughes, as its president, prefers this studio model to that of many other colleges, where dance classes and opportunities are scarce for those not majoring in the art.

The group, comprising dancers at every skill level, holds an annual Spring Showcase in conjunction with the Dance Team, a group of advanced, audition-selected dancers who perform at basketball games and community events.

Rebeka Torlay ’13, an earth and environmental sciences major, discovered the SU Belly Dance Circle at an activities fair her first year of college. She says she was intrigued by the “cool and different” club and its welcoming attitude toward those with no dance experience, such as herself.

Torlay is now co-captain of the circle, which performs belly dance routines at Charlie’s Coffeehouse and in showcases that benefit nonprofit organizations helping women. A subset of the group has performed in off-campus events, such as Columbia University’s “Middle Eastern Dance Conference” and the “Asian Extravaganza” at Shippensburg University.

“We provide a safe and fun environment to learn how to dance and to appreciate our bodies exactly as they are,” says Gabrielle Tompkins ’12, a Spanish major and last year’s belly dance captain.

As Susquehanna’s belly dancers shimmy to the hypnotic notes of Middle Eastern compositions, SU Swings! is jitterbugging. The group meets twice a week to learn and practice swing dance. Members also attend local dances and organize events, such as sock hops at the on-campus nightclub, TRAX, and dance workshops at Charlie’s Coffeehouse.

“Swing dancing is extremely easy to learn and a lot of fun to do,” says creative writing major and Swings! president Michelle Coles ’13. Coles believes that dancing with a partner increases the social benefits of the group. “Dancers are interacting with each other more … which makes it so easy for us to get to know each other,” Coles explains.

“I think people, myself included, gain a sense of community through swing dance,” says Aaron Jones ’12, a biochemistry major and former Swings! president. In fact, all three organizations create a sense of community—one that embraces longtime dancers like Hughes, who “can’t imagine not dancing,” and newcomers like Torlay, who are just beginning to find their groove.

Contributing writers to The ’Grove section are Karen Jones, assistant director of media relations; Megan McDermott ’14, a creative writing and religion major from Lewisberry, Pa.; Dalton Swett ‘13, a creative writing major from Effingham, N.H.; and Elise Tomaszewski, a creative writing and German major from Selinsgrove, Pa.

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