Dance has played an important role in the lives of millions of people throughout history. Whether for professional, recreational, or even religious reasons we have always used dance to express ourselves.
Today students scatter throughout the gym doing homework, practicing their steps and even knitting to pass the time. It’s Marist College Dance Ensemble “hell week,” the week leading up to the fall showcase where dancers run through their show for several hours each night. There’s a group for every type of dance from ballet to Irish step and even line dancing. Each dance meets once a week for an hour but most dancers are in more than one dance requiring them to spend several hours a week dancing. But for dancers it’s not a chore or an inconvenience, they choose to spend that much time dancing because they love it.
The MCDE is the largest club on campus. It is run by a board of students and each dance is choreographed by members of the club. They meet and rehearse on their own times and do not put the while shot together until the end. There are no auditions or skill standards to be a member of dance ensemble. Some of the members have been dancing their whole lives and others have never been part of an organized choreographed dance, but regardless of skill levels the end of semester show always comes together beautifully because of the dedication and passion of the dancers.
Kelly Ottinger Irish step danced as a child but stopped when she got older. After attending the show her freshmen year to support her friends she decided to join dance ensemble. “I do it because it’s fun and a good way of expressing myself,” said Ottinger. She is in an Irish step dance and a lyrical dance so she has practice for her dances two hours a week. For someone who enjoys dance as a recreationally this is the perfect amount of time to spend doing something she enjoys but doesn’t center her life around.
This is one of the things that makes dance ensemble so appealing. It allows dancers to continue doing what they love without having to dedicate too much of their lives to it. On the other hand students who are more advanced and passionate about dance can be in as many groups as they want.
Like Ottinger, Jennifer Swift also danced as a child but stopped as she got older. Luckily for them dance ensemble made it possible for them to do what they love again. Swift is involved in three contemporary dance routines. She meets three times a week to dance, which she said is like taking another class. It’s a lot of time to dedicate but it’s something she loves doing so doesn’t mind spending her limited spare time practicing. There is no limit on the amount of dances groups you can be a part of, and Swift initially got into six different groups but had to limit herself to only three because of time conflict.
Dance is viewed and referred to as an art. It’s a form of self-expression like all other art but it is also more than that. Dancers are athletes as well as artists. For many people dance is their sport. It’s not only a strong physical workout it is a good mental one as well. People who are involved in organized choreographed dance routines spend hours perfecting each step and memorizing the routine. They not only have to be able to physically do all the movements but they also have to be able to remember each one as they move through the routine.
Gina DeRicco is a member of the Marist College Dance Team. Dance is her sport. She has been doing it recreationally and competitively since she was three-years old and has never stopped. “It has played a huge role in my life over the years even with competitions in high school I have always been very dedicated to dance and it helps me to relieve stress and express myself doing something I love,” said DeRicco. As a member of the dance team DeRicco practices three times a week for two hours, and performs at all home Football and Basketball games. They also travel to Daytona, FL for the NDA national competition each year. It is the commitment level of being on a club sport here at Marist.
Emma Hailey started dancing in kindergarten. She never did anything competitive it was just weekly rehearsal and yearly shows. She was part of a program in her town growing up. “The older you got the more dances you did and they harder they got. It wasn’t competitive or anything though, just a fun extra activity during the week,” said Hailey. The program she was involved in fell apart as she got older, and described that when she was little the senior dancers were God like to them. “They did like 10 dances and we couldn’t wait to be that good,” said Hailey, “but when we got to that point the program had pretty much fallen apart.” After dancing her whole life it was natural to join the dance ensemble club, which she was a dedicated member of for two years and loved it. It was nice for her to be part of a solid dance organization again with so many different genre and skill level options. Hailey stopped dancing her junior year after returning from abroad. “I miss it a lot, and consider rejoining every semester but I just have a lot of other things to do I don’t have the time. I Always danced because I enjoyed it and it was just natural to continue through my life, it’s weird not being involved with it anymore.”
Like any other sport dance has been proven to have many health benefits. According to research done by AARP, regarding how dancing can help improve the health of the elderly, dancing can have positive physical and mental affects on the body. Like most exercise it helps to strengthen bones and muscles and gets you into good physical shape, but puts less stress on the body and the joints than other sports do. There is also less of a risk of major injuries. Dancing can also help to improve balance and increase flexibility. As far as mental health goes dancing is an excellent way to release stress and can even help ward off depression and anxiety.
For Marist students having a weekly activity that helps to release stress can be very important. With the pressures of college students build up a significant amount of stress and anxiety and don’t have a lot of ways to relieve that stress while having fun and expressing themselves with others who share their love for dance.