Features & Entertainment

Holy Family University Dance Team Makes History Amid Pandemic

In the nature of a pandemic, the typical season for a college team or club sport is a series of unanswered questions. How can a team remain successful? Will a season even proceed this year? How can a team possibly be productive within the parameters of COVID-19? Luckily, the Holy Family University Dance Team has plenty of answers to all of these pending questions. Although the pandemic will ultimately change the way a “normal” season would proceed, many new projects and leadership opportunities provide the ability to take this team to the next level.

During the off-season, Holy Family required the dance team to update their outdated Team Constitution. This was a hefty task that required a significant amount of time and consideration, which I handled with care and diligence. As the Team President, I had many important decisions to make during the renewal process. In the beginning, this was a very overwhelming and large responsibility because this was my first real task as the newly elected president. Although this process was not easy, I needed to complete these sanctions for the betterment of my team.

I began this process by holding meetings with the Student Engagement Office and brainstorming the articles that should be included. I worked closely with the team advisor, Ruth Ann Roberts, who offered many resources, advice, guidance, and had the team’s best interest at heart; she was a valuable asset in making all of the new changes possible and capitalized on the concept of accountability. As I began rewriting new articles to be amended into the Team Constitution, I was sure to address holding team members accountable for their actions throughout the season. The remainder of the renewal process included my communication with the other members of the Executive Board and Coach, informing current members of important updates, and founding the team’s very first committee.

As I was finishing my draft of the Constitution with Ruth Ann Robert’s guidance, I decided to create a new committee and make leadership opportunities for returning members of the dance team; I established the team’s very first Choreography Committee, which made me the founder and Chair of Choreography. My constituents, Team Vice President, Vanessah Dominique, and Team Treasurer, Bukunmi Ayeni, are also both Contributing Choreographers of the committee as well as prominent leaders serving on the Executive Board alongside me. The biggest change of leadership is my incorporation of a Lead Choreographer as well as an additional Contributing Choreographer. I created this committee to take the HFU Dance Team to the next level. There is now greater collaboration, and we can create choreography and sets much more quickly. I can focus on creating dance projects, and all of the leaders of the team are working together as one dance team powerhouse. I have big things in store, and I am very pleased with where this is headed.

Once the entire team voted on the Constitution, it was officially amended, and the selection process for the very first Lead Choreographer began. The Executive Board and Coach held virtual auditions to select the best choice and most qualified applicant for the Lead Choreographer. Last weekend, the team made the historical video announcement of the newly established Choreography Committee via Instagram

The video includes original dances from each committee member and an interview with the entire committee. The HFU Dance Team’s very first Lead Choreographer is second-year dance team member Johanna Rea, which makes her a founding member of the Choreography Committee.

After speaking with Johanna, she told me, “I am honestly super excited to be the very first Lead Choreographer, I trained my whole life in both the dancer’s position and as a choreographer in New York City for roughly 16 years. I want to be able to share such experience with the team.” Johanna’s extensive resume attested to the strengths presented in her application; furthermore, New York is recognized as one of the most productive and credible states in the country for their craft and mastery in the dance industry. She shares, “As a choreographer, seeing other people bring your ideas to life is satisfying on its own, especially when dancers themselves add a sense of character to it. I honestly feel so honored to be given such an opportunity, it’s always an honor when given an opportunity to work/teach my craft of dance.” Johanna’s ideology of being a choreographer further proves her dedication and ability to lead the team with more advanced choreography than ever before.

In addition to establishing a new committee with new team leaders, more non-traditional practices are happening this season. At this point in time, dance practices are being held via Zoom. Practices will be virtual indefinitely, but that is not stopping the team from production.

Last season, the team had one practice a week and toyed with the idea of creating additional practice time to accomplish more goals. There are now two practice days a week to increase productivity and build better technique as an entire unit. Regardless of dance background and experience, all dancers are required to attend the typical rehearsal and technical class. The rehearsals, focusing on the teaching and learning of choreography, are held Sunday mornings, which was the only practice time last year. The team has officially started a Tuesday Night Tech held by the Lead Choreographer where she focuses on building technique and providing valuable critiques. All of the current dancers gave positive feedback after the very first tech class. The dancers unanimously agree that the tech classes are very valuable and helps them become even stronger dancers.

The team is also growing a bigger reputation on campus and recently completed their second round of tryouts for the season. The dance team is also utilizing social media to keep the team productive and interact more with the student body: the Instagram handle is @hfudanceteam

Another area of focus is starting projects and opportunities without typical school events and school sports teams. Normally, the team would perform at basketball games and school-wide events such as Homecoming and Christmas Rose. Since those performance opportunities are not guaranteed, I, along with the rest of the committee, are in the process of creating a series of dance projects. The first dance project we will be working on is the 2020 Homecoming Project where we will create a spirited and welcoming dance to raise school spirits from the cancellation of this year’s Homecoming. This project will also highlight the introduction of all current team members.

 The team is taking this time to function on their own and focus on the art of dance. Temple University’s Women’s Soccer Team has taken a similar approach by working on themselves and becoming a stronger team. According to Temple News, “Since the season was delayed, Bochette’s team has been able to hone their understanding of schemes, hoping to use the fall as a developmental period.” This is an approach taken by many different college teams and clubs during these restricting times. These goals align nicely with the goals of the Holy Family University Dance Team. Although they love supporting their sports teams and making appearances at school events, the team is now focusing on becoming stronger dancers.

Although this season’s rules are much more restricting than usual, the team is remaining productive and showcasing new changes. According to the Lead Choreographer, “As well as creating a successful reputation for Holy Family, creating a dedicated, passionate, and comfortable atmosphere. My ultimate goal is to have dancers feel at the end of practice/rehearsal successful, accomplished, and satisfied, as well having this goal be a reality, for the long term.”

The team will function on their own with skill building practices, learning choreography, shooting dance video projects, and grow as artists exploring the artform. As the Dance Team President, committee founder, and Chair of Choreography, I feel more than proud to have implemented so many positive changes and watched the amount of growth thus far; although this began as a giant, stressful task, my passion to dance with this team has only grown.

The dance team will flourish this season regardless of the new restrictions with COVID-19 because the Executive Board, Choreography Committee, and Coach have a vision of success. This is an opportunity for growth and production while making history for the Holy Family University Dance Team. Where will our passion and dedication take us next?

Kira Stallworth is an English-secondary education major with a creative writing minor. This is Kira’s senior year at Holy Family and she is very proud of everything she has been given the opportunity to accomplish at college. Kira writes annually to Holy Family’s literary magazine, Folio. She is also a proud second-year member of the education organization, Aspiring Educators, on campus.