Exploring the implications of viewing dance as a sport versus an art for McMaster Athletics and Recreation

The recognition dancers receive in the sporting community is contested both organizationally and from the perspective of the general public. Some may view dance as solely an art or form of entertainment. Others might not associate dance with the physical demands sports such as football or basketball demonstrate.  

Members on McMaster’s competitive and recreational dance teams often get overlooked in favour of other university athletes.  These struggles can be summarized by their classification as a club as opposed to a varsity team under McMaster's athletics and recreation department.  

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster competitive dance team, acknowledged the artistic components of dance but she also underscored dance’s athletic intensity. 

“We encourage all of our dancers and choreographers to be really creative and express your feelings. . . but to an extent, we are very athletic individuals. We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it,” explained Arnott.  

"We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

Per Arnott, members of the McMaster competitive dance team are expected to undergo at least six hours of training a week, including a one-hour intensive group conditioning class. Dancers also have the option to sign-up and participate in extra dances, which can add up to double this mandatory time. 

In preparation for their three competitions in March and end-of-year show in April, extra weekend practices and dress rehearsals contribute an additional layer of responsibility for members.  

Even with the difficulty and commitment required by members, neither the McMaster recreational nor the competitive dance team are officially considered varsity teams by the university.  

“As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . . I do think that it definitely can be discouraging not to have other people view you as an athlete when you do put in that high level of training,” said Arnott.  

"As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . ."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

This lack of recognition has significant implications not only for dancers and their identities but also their finances.  

The Athletics section on McMaster’s impact donation page allows patrons the opportunity to provide merit-based athletic financial awards for athletes across multiple different sports. Donors may provide one-time or perpetual gifts to various sporting team funds laid out on the website. Neither the McMaster Recreational Dance nor the Mcmaster Competitive Dance Team are among those listed. 

According to the McMaster Athletics Eligibility page for student athletes, dance is not officially recognized as either a U Sport or Ontario University Athletics sport. Accordingly, scholarships and financial support for athletes provided by the university are also only offered at the discretion of U Sports and OUA policies.  

Within both the OUA model outlining G1, G2 and G3 sports, as well as the Sports Model Framework developed by U Sports, dance fails to match their criteria to be considered a recognized sport.   

Currently, both teams primarily raise money through student-led fundraising events to cover their costs. Last year the team organized a Christmas bake sale, a Fun Run, and a sticker sale in support of both Mac Dance and the McMaster Children's Hospital Foundation. 

The lack of sponsorship or external backers furthers the funding gap between dance and other McMaster Athletics and Recreation sports. This lack of financial support results in increased payment fees for expenditures such as costumes, competitions and transportation. Alongside impacts to their personal identity, these financial burdens on dancers make their recognition as athletes a critical topic of discussion. 

C/O Felix Wong

Lessons learned at the end of my first year with the Silhouette

“Make some noise for your . . . McMaster . . . Marauders!” 

These are the words I’ve heard countless times this year. In my time as the sports staff writer for the Silhouette, event staff for varsity games and an executive on the McMaster Women’s Football team, I’ve become more immersed in the McMaster sports scene than I expected at the beginning of the year.  

I’ve gotten to meet so many people with such interesting stories and it’s been an honour to cover them. I’ve watched the basketball teams struggle and succeed, gained an appreciation for football and volleyball and learned about less-covered sports such as curling, wrestling and Nordic skiing.  

I’ve gotten to meet so many people with such interesting stories and it’s been an honour to cover them. I’ve watched the basketball teams struggle and succeed, gained an appreciation for football and volleyball and learned about less-covered sports such as curling, wrestling and Nordic skiing. 

Writing for the Silhouette hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole time. Speaking of which, Mac has a sailing team that you should check out if you’re interested. I applied for the position on a whim because I was interested in sports and interested in writing. However, by the end of first semester, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue.  

I reflected and ultimately decided to remain in the position. I started writing articles about what I was interested in, one of my favourites being “Body neutrality within dance,” and pulled from all I had learned about interviewing and writing. I focused my attention on the personal side of sports, wanting to hear about the highs and lows from everyone.  

My favourite part of the position was meeting so many incredible people. I’ve talked to McMaster’s first two female football coaches, members of the Black Student Athlete Council, an Olympic gold medalist, a McMaster Sports Hall of Famer, McMaster Sports’ Associate Director of High Performance, some good friends and the rest of the Sil staff. I’ve taken away lessons from my conversations with every individual and I never would have had the opportunity without the Silhouette.  

What I’ve taken away from this experience is that without these conversations and without giving these teams and issues the spotlights they deserve, we can never notice the small victories that each team gains. By learning more about them, we can celebrate, mourn and learn with them, helping the teams feel seen as representatives of McMaster and helping us maintain positive school spirit.  

What I’ve taken away from this experience is that without these conversations and without giving these teams and issues the spotlights they deserve, we can never notice the small victories that each team gains. By learning more about them, we can celebrate, mourn and learn with them, helping the teams feel seen as representatives of McMaster and helping us maintain positive school spirit.  

While I don’t know what I’ll be doing for the rest of my time here at Mac, I hope I can still be involved with the sports scene and the Silhouette.  

Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator

Feeling comfortable in our own skin is hard, but dance is one way we can express ourselves freely

In 2015, the concept of body neutrality began to emerge in contrast to the concept of body positivity. Body positivity advocates for a world where all people should have a positive body image despite what anyone else says. However, body neutrality proposes that people should focus on what their bodies can do for them rather than what they look like. It requires a state of mindfulness and listening to the reactions of your body, whether it is saying to eat more, less or to take a walk.  

Shiny Huang is a dancer with the Mac Dance team and has danced for nearly her whole life.  

“There’s definitely been instances where I don’t feel comfortable dancing in my own body, especially with the perfect body type and shape that has been discussed within the dance community . . . It was definitely more challenging during my time in high school when I was beginning to be conscious of how I looked physically and when I was dancing competitively, I would often compare my own body to other dancers which would emphasize the flaws I saw in myself,” said Huang.  

“There’s definitely been instances where I don’t feel comfortable dancing in my own body, especially with the perfect body type and shape that has been discussed within the dance community . . . It was definitely more challenging during my time in high school when I was beginning to be conscious of how I looked physically and when I was dancing competitively, I would often compare my own body to other dancers which would emphasize the flaws I saw in myself."

Shiny Huang, Mac Dance Team

This “perfect body shape” differs among each dance style. In ballet, the ideal shape is slim, long-necked, short torso and long limbs. This is where the divide between body positivity and neutrality exists. Body positivity would advise one to do whatever it takes to feel positive about how they look. However, this can be interpreted as forcing your body to fit that specific ballet mold. In body neutrality, one accepts that their body can move and express itself without idealizing that body type.  

In a dance studio, there is a huge mirror in the front where you can stare at everyone and everyone can stare back at you. You might end up comparing yourself to the person next to you — their form is a little better, the costume fits them just a little tighter or their arms are just a little longer. Similarly, in life and in our university career, we can find ourselves constantly comparing our grades, extracurriculars and even the way we dress to our peers. What we don’t see is the constant swirling of similar thoughts and comparisons going through their heads.  

“I think maturing in my faith has also really helped me to love my body as it is. Being a Christian, I learned to really put my identity in God and to focus on what's in my heart rather than letting myself worry about what's on the outside,” explained Huang. 

This concept of body neutrality focuses on a personal mindset. One can’t change the way others think and it takes a lot to conform our personal mentality that has been shaped by constant external pressure implemented over our entire lives. However, people shouldn’t let this stop them from expressing themselves.  

“Dance has always been an outlet of mine, when I'm stressed and needing a break from studying or feeling sad or feeling down from a bad day . . . a way to, I guess, tell a story or to just let my body move however it wants to or needs to. And since I’m not the best with my words a lot of the time, I think my body does it for me whether it’s for someone else to hear or to feel or just a reminder for myself,” Huang explained. 

“Dance has always been an outlet of mine, when I'm stressed and needing a break from studying or feeling sad or feeling down from a bad day . . . a way to, I guess, tell a story or to just let my body move however it wants to or needs to. And since I’m not the best with my words a lot of the time, I think my body does it for me whether it’s for someone else to hear or to feel or just a reminder for myself."

Shiny Huang, Mac Dance Team

Dance isn’t for everyone but finding a way to release that internal stress and express oneself is important for anyone’s personal journey. What works for someone else may not work for you, just as what worked for you in the past may not work anymore. It’s all about listening to your body and keeping an open and ever-evolving mindset.  

By: Esther Liu, Humans of McMaster Staff Writer

Please introduce yourself.

Santee Smith, Tekaronhiáhkhwa iónkiats, Kahnyen’kehàka, niwakonhwentsio:ten, Wakeniáhten. Ohswekén nitewaké:non.  

My name is Santee Smith, Tekaronhiáhkhwa, I’m from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Turtle Clan from Ohswekén also known as Six Nations of the Grand River. I have a long connection to McMaster University, first as an undergraduate student in the faculty of physical education and psychology. [Now], I am the current chancellor of McMaster University.

Please give a brief description of what you do as the chancellor and at the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.

I'm also the artistic director of the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Kaha:wi in the Mohawk language means to carry. We are a performing arts organization who is really focused on embodied storytelling and sharing Indigenous narratives that are often underrepresented or misrepresented in popular mainstream culture. 

As chancellor, I have the honorary position of being the head of the university. I am responsible for convocation, my name is on every single student's diploma. I am also the chair of the honorary degree committee and I also am a speaker at events. For example, the upcoming Remembrance Day event, I'll be delivering a message and [am] responsible for any other messaging and connection to faculties that would like the chancellor there to connect with the students, staff and faculty.

What inspired you to go into this work?

It was an invitation. I have a very back-and-forth connection to academia. I have a professional artistic career but also my background is supported through two degrees at McMaster University and a master's degree from York University. One of the interesting things about being a chancellor at McMaster University is that you have to be a McMaster alumna, so I fit the hat. 

Also, I had a connection over the years to the president's office and especially past president Patrick Deane, who visited Six Nations, who visited my family. I also have connections to the Indigenous studies department. Recently in 2018, [I was] a part of the Socrates project which brought in community artists and speakers to share their work with the McMaster campus. So I was in-residency through Socrates and the Indigenous studies department and that's really how I became even more present in McMaster. 

The work that I was doing as part of that was called the Mush Hole. The Mush Hole is a performance that shares the history of Canada's first residential school called the Mohawk Institute Residential School. My job not only as a creative, but as an Indigenous artist, is to share that truth and to educate others. I was invited by Patrick Deane to consider being chancellor. That was a wonderful surprise and something that I didn't plan for or didn't know was coming down the road for me in my life. So I gave it some important thought because of what I can contribute, especially due to my very busy artistic career, but also the important parts of representing the Indigenous and representing the arts and experiences that I would bring forward as chancellor.

What inspired you to become involved with the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre?

I was a dance artist and my training is in classical ballet. Since I was little, I attended the National Ballet School for six years. And then really, when I was a teenager, thinking about identity and being away from my home community and family, I felt something was missing. And I returned home. Then I pursued academics, but nothing really filled that passion and drive for performing arts. 

The first opportunity I had to be creative and create choreography based on stories that are within my culture, I put two things together: my love of performance and body storytelling and sharing about my culture and being an Ohswekén Indigenous woman. My first choreography was in 1996. Since that time, I have been dedicated to creating, introducing new work and sharing with audiences around the world. Collaborating is a big part of it, being able to share with Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators.

What are your goals as Chancellor and as a dancer?

My goal for both is Indigenous representation and visibility. It's nice to see even for myself, people in positions that are — I don't want to say powerful in a colonial hierarchical power way, but that they're in positions of prestige and influence in offering that different perspective, in offering Indigenous perspective. For example, when I was growing up and studying classical ballet, I didn't have any role models who were Indigenous, except for one: Maria Tallchief. She was from the United States and she was a prima ballerina dancer. 

My parents showed me her and wanted me to have an Indigenous role model. So I think that representation is really important, that offering different perspectives and stories, narratives that come from this land, Turtle Island, is really important. I want to do that as Chancellor, as an artist, as a speaker and offer that out both for role modelling within Indigenous communities and for everyone.

Do you have a favourite memory as chancellor?

For being chancellor, it was my installation in November 2019. That was the first time I became officially chancellor. Being a part of that ceremony and putting on my robes for the first time, being in the presence of all the graduates and the faculty on the stage and being able to hear the singing of my Indigenous colleagues and being dressed in robes with students within the Indigenous faculty. I would have to say that was a major highlight — a major life highlight — it was a bit surreal and it has a very ceremonial feeling to it.

Do you have a favourite memory regarding dance?

I had so many dance memories. Because all of my experiences are quite different and all of my productions are quite different, it would be hard to choose one. I love performing and I love performing artists. I just feel like out of all of the times of performing, the experience of falling into performance and being able to share with audiences in an 100 per cent committed, talk-inspired and dedicated way is why I do what I do.

Do you have a big takeaway from your experiences or message to others?

I think the biggest takeaway, for myself personally, that I continue to hold, is lifelong learning. Learning is never-ending. It keeps you inspired. It keeps you curious. It keeps you asking questions and developing and transforming. So, I hope to continue to be a lifelong learner. And I encourage everybody else to find that for themselves as well.

Aeris Körper is showing the community how to dance as smooth as butter and sharp as a knife

C/O @aeriskorper

Imagine that you had a space in the center of your chest in the place of your heart, like an egg yolk, and you can shift and move the egg yolk around in the cavity of your chest. Now, the yolk begins to evolve and ooze throughout your entire body. How would this sensation translate into movement?

This is how Aeris Körper, a dance company based in Hamilton, brings a unique spirit and energy to contemporary dance. What does it feel like to dance with the fluidity of runny egg yolk? To dance as if you have an itch on your neck that you can’t scratch? To move as if there is a pinball machine ricocheting in your body?

What does it feel like to dance with the fluidity of runny egg yolk? To dance as if you have an itch on your neck that you can’t scratch? To move as if there is a pinball machine ricocheting in your body?

Aeris Körper was founded by Lisa Emmons in 2014 and currently consists of three core performers. Emmons received their bachelor of fine arts in dance from York University and founded Aeris Körper after having worked with numerous dance companies and choreographers, in addition to starting a family.

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The company name roughly means “light body.” “Aeris” means to channel the light and energy of the human spirit, while “körper” is a German word meaning body. Altogether, Aeris Körper signifies the company’s vision of creating dance and movement through channelling each dancer’s intrinsic energy and physicality.

Aeris Körper roots its style in contemporary and modern dance. Above all, their intention is to portray bodily movement as opposed to simply dancing, with a mindfulness of the individuality of movement. Emmons takes a particular interest in dynamics — much like one varies their articulation and gestures in speech, Emmons experiments with varied texture in their movements.

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Emmons elaborated on their thought process throughout choreography, as they try to focus on the dancer’s quality of movement.

“As opposed to saying, “we're going to do a pirouette,” it could be, “can you slice your leg through the air, and see what happens.” I think it creates really rich and interesting physicality,” explained Emmons.

“As opposed to saying, “we're going to do a pirouette,” it could be, “can you slice your leg through the air, and see what happens.” I think it creates really rich and interesting physicality,”

lisa emmons

With such a heavy focus on creating movement, Emmons utilizes an intuitive approach to creating choreography for the company. Sometimes they create choreography before it is set to music so that the atmosphere of the music dictates the piece’s dynamics.

“I'll usually pick a texture and follow my intuition or my gut. If an idea comes, like I think I should move with my elbow or my hand moves, then I'll do it to let go without judging or pre-editing. Just generate the material and then that can be honed and refined,” they said.

“I'll usually pick a texture and follow my intuition or my gut. If an idea comes, like I think I should move with my elbow or my hand moves, then I'll do it to let go without judging or pre-editing. Just generate the material and then that can be honed and refined,”

Lisa Emmons

Aeris Körper collaborates with numerous local artists, with a large amount of their choreography set to original commissioned music. Emmons makes an effort to work with Hamilton-based artists whenever possible.

The company is constantly trying to redefine what it means to be a dance group through integrating projection, props and audience interaction into their work. Many of their pieces are immersive, allowing audience members to be involved in the dance and break the fourth wall. 

The performing arts have seen an enormous shift due to COVID-19 and Aeris Körper is adapting and rising to the challenge. Since audience interaction normally plays such an important role in the group’s creations, the company has taken to experimentation with videography.

“If we're doing something live on Zoom, we’re controlling how much the audience can see and how and where. I think that's really interesting in terms of our interest in creating immersive works because we get to decide their angles. It’s a really powerful and compelling way of doing things, and it's really like a beautiful set of limitations that causes us to be creative,” said Emmons.

“If we're doing something live on Zoom, we’re controlling how much the audience can see and how and where. I think that's really interesting in terms of our interest in creating immersive works because we get to decide their angles."

Lisa emmons

As opposed to viewing the online nature of their current performances as a hindrance, Aeris Körper has begun to view the screen as a portal to the viewer — as if it were a vessel to transfer their art’s energy.

As performers-in-residence at Hamilton Artists Inc., the company recently did a socially-distanced immersive performance, where the audience was placed on the street in regulation with COVID-19 guidelines looking into the gallery. A number of online videos and performances were also produced, as Aeris Körper shifts its efforts to researching and creating new digital works.

https://vimeo.com/492627005

Aeris Körper will be holding their eighth works-in-progress showcase entitled PROSPECTS on Thursday, March 25 at 8 p.m. over Zoom. The show was curated with the intent to spotlight artists from the Hamilton and Burlington communities, featuring numerous performances from local artists and choreographers.

The evening takes an innovative approach to dance performance, as each work presented will be accompanied by choreographer-led discussion and opportunities for audience interaction through questions, feedback and interpretation.

For students looking to get involved, Aeris Körper has mindfulness workshops available on their Instagram page and is looking forward to hosting summer intensives as well as in-person classes in the near future following all COVID-19 regulations. They emphasize that no experience is necessary to be able to create movement, welcoming dancers of all skill levels.

Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative is making teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants

Representation matters. It’s an absolutely essential part of reclaiming and decolonizing spaces for the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour community. Goodbodyfeel’s new initiative, Fueling Reclamation, is bolstering the fight for representation, by making their teacher training more accessible for BIPOC applicants. By doing this, they are helping to decolonize the wellness industry.

Robin Lacambra had already been working in the movement and wellness industry for many years when she moved to Hamilton. As she began to practice in studios in her new city, she recognized the lack of representation of the BIPOC community in studios not only in Hamilton but also in Toronto where she grew up.

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“It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political. So it was in trying to find a movement community here in Hamilton that I woke up to a need of mine, which is to have a space that felt safe for me to be in my full expression as a queer woman of colour,” explained Lacambra.

"It just sparked this awareness that I was asleep, to the political nature ever-present in studio spaces or just in spaces in general when you've got a space of bodies because our bodies are political."

Robin Lacambra

This realization prompted Lacambra to create the space that she needed. She started teaching pop-ups in 2018 and then that same year ran her first teacher training. Many of the graduates from the course went on to be the teaching staff for Goodbodyfeel when it officially opened in 2019.

While Goodbodyfeel is a Pilates, yoga and mindfulness studio, at its core it’s a place of inclusion, healing, empowerment and representation. 

“[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion,” said Lacambra.

[It’s] a place where all bodies can come home to their bodies without shame and with compassion.

Robin Lacambra

This philosophy is at the heart of Goodbodyfeel and everything they do, from the classes they offer to the individuals they employ.

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“We really centre values of equity and representation, equity and accessibility. I don't ignore the hard realities of systemic oppression and the studio works to challenge systems of oppression, both in the way that we run our business and the way that we share our offerings to the broader public, in the folks that I employ . . . and we do our offerings, don't shy away from creating exclusive spaces for safer spaces. So we have classes that are exclusively for folks of colour, we have classes that are exclusively for queer, trans and non-binary folks, we have classes that are exclusively for folks in bigger bodies. And so yeah, we believe in creating these inclusive spaces for healing,” said Lacambra.

Goodbodyfeel’s teaching staff is mostly made up of BIPOC women, with 10 of 14 teachers being BIPOC and of these 10, seven are Black. Lacambra continues to offer a teacher training program at Goodbodyfeel and also offers scholarships for BIPOC individuals in an effort to make the training more financially accessible.

In February, Goodbodyfeel launched a crowdfunding campaign, Fueling Reclamation, to offer the teacher training program free of charge this year to the 15 individuals who applied for BIPOC scholarships and to help finance a BIPOC specific edition of the teacher training in 2022.

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“For me, it is the way to radically shift representation of leaders in wellness. Many wellness practices are from brown and black cultures of origin and why isn’t our mainstream leadership reflective of that . . . It started off as just scholarships or subsidies that I could afford to give and seeing that the folks who would apply for the scholarship and subsidies were growing every year. I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?” explained Lacambra.

I imagined what would be possible if I could say yes to everybody, what would be possible if I could give a fully free training? Wouldn't that be so amazing? Wouldn't that be one of the things to really help decolonize wellness and push back on these capitalistic ideas of leadership training, of teacher training?

Robin Lacambra

This campaign is an example of an easy, concrete way the larger Hamilton community can support the BIPOC community and contribute to decolonization.

“It's overdue. This kind of investment into BIPOC leadership is overdue [and] it's easy reparations for the folks who are like, “Oh, I'm so overwhelmed. How I can contribute to anti-racist work?” Here you go, here's a really easy way to do it. Just help fund it, help spread the word, help empower our future changemakers. If we're fully fueling BIPOC leadership, we are fueling an equitable future,” emphasized Lacambra.

Mac Dance’s annual showcase carries on despite COVID-19

Performing arts have the power to, for a brief moment in time, bring people together in a shared experience. This year’s Mac Dance showcase The Show Goes On is a reminder of the students’ ability to come together, albeit online, to share their love of dance. The group features a range of styles: from jazz and tap, to musical theatre and Bollywood.

Last year, Mac Dance’s annual showcase was held at Mohawk College and was almost entirely sold out. This year, the show will be held virtually as a YouTube live stream on Feb. 27.

“We want to make it feel as much like a typical show as possible, so we made a show order, a virtual program, we’re having an intermission and we’re having raffles. Chance [Sabouri, Mac Dance president] is going to do a little speech at the beginning. The biggest difference obviously is that you’re not going to be sitting in a chair screaming at people on stage in front of you,” said Lauren Shoss, a fourth-year health sciences student and secretary of Mac Dance.

In September, choreographers and dancers began the process of preparing dances for the showcase. Each piece is two to three minutes in length and it is up to the choreographer to choose the music and set the choreography for their group.

Dance classes this year have been taught over Zoom, posing its own unique set of challenges, from half of the choreographer’s body getting cut out of the frame to dancing in cramped spaces to getting kicked out of the call due to unstable internet connections. However, through mutual support, everyone moved past these challenges together.

“We've heard from a lot of our dancers that people are just so thankful. They see dance as a break and escape from the stress of school. I know that's how people feel in a typical year — you go into the studio and you kind of leave the rest of the world behind [to] focus on dance for a bit and just let yourself really get into your movement, so it's really nice that people are still able to get that from the year,” said Shoss.

The Silhouette interviewed some of Mac Dance’s choreographers to get an in-depth look at some of the pieces that will be performed this year.

C/O Mac Dance Team

Going Home by Kevin Vong

Vong described his piece’s style as a type of hip hop fusion that blends contemporary and hip hop styles.

Choreographed to Sonn and Ayelle’s Lights Out and Vance Joy’s Going Home, the piece pushes traditional definitions of hip hop. Where hip hop is typically defined by its hard-hitting movement, Vong brings out the texture and subtlety with particular attention to emotion in his piece.

“Especially during the pandemic, [I was inspired by] going home to reconnect to what is important to you instead of looking out to the material world. Sometimes family, home, is what you should rely on and it’s really important,” explained Vong.

For Vong, dance has become a form of home and he hopes that the audience will feel that through movement. Currently in his fourth year of linguistics, Vong said dance will forever remain as a source of inspiration and for all intents and purposes, his second home.

C/O Janet Bell

Got It in You & Grave Digger by Lauren Shoss

Shoss roots her dance pieces in storytelling. Drawing from her personal life experiences, her two pieces Got it in You and Grave Digger are two halves of a whole, with antagonistic but related storylines.

Got It in You, a lyrical dance set to the song of the same name by BANNERS, is based on the idea of finding the strength and power within yourself to overcome life’s obstacles and challenges.

Complimentary to Got It in You,Grave Digger is a contemporary piece exemplifying the feeling of being weighed and held down. Set to the song by Matt Maeson of the same name, Shoss described the piece’s darker and more aggressive tones as a welcome challenge, as she branched out of her comfort zone to create the more intense piece.

Now in her fourth year of the health sciences program, Lauren is considering pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology, with the intention of working with athletes from a mental health perspective.

“I think [work with athlete mental health] is really needed in the dance world. I've seen a lot of my teammates suffer from body image issues, low self-confidence, perfectionism and eating disorders . . . It is a very neglected population, but they're in need of support,” explained Shoss.

C/O Hannah Armstrong

Burlesque by Hannah Armstrong
Armstrong’s jazz group is channelling their inner Christina Aguilera in her piece entitled Burlesque, inspired by the film. In her first year choreographing a jazz piece, Armstrong decided upon the theme of burlesque as a fun and uplifting dance concept.

“The biggest challenge was probably just trying to envision how I wanted the routine, while also trying to make it [conducive to] online [viewing] . . . What can make a jazz routine really great are the transitions, group formations, interaction between dancers and just the energy on stage, so trying to replicate that online was probably the biggest struggle for me,” explained Armstrong.

As one of two co-vice presidents for the recreational dance team, Armstrong admires that Mac Dance connects diverse individuals by their mutual love of dance. In the spirit of The Show Goes On, she detailed how the Mac Dance community has impacted her as a dancer and as a person.

“I did competitive dance throughout high school and I always assumed that that would be the end of my kind of dancing career, but coming to university and then finding this team [allowed me to] keep doing what I love. . . I'm very thankful that everybody is here because they want to [dance] for fun and because they're invested,” Armstrong said.

C/O Janet Bell

Vienna by Abby Buller

When finding inspiration for her piece, Buller found that she clicked instantly with Billy Joel’s Vienna. As a tap choreographer, she liked the song for both its musical elements in combination with tap sounds as well as its message.

As tap dance is largely dependent on dancers’ timing of tap sounds with each other and the music, creating a tap dance in an online environment poses its own set of challenges. With technical difficulties in teaching over Zoom, Buller pointed to the timing of intricate steps as one of her greatest challenges.

Buller described her creative way of splicing dancers’ videos together for her dance’s showcase performance.

“When I get dancers to send me their videos, I want [to coordinate] their feet sounds, but I need to [overlay the] music in with it. I was so happy when this worked out — the [entire group] has Bluetooth headphones, so they're going to listen to the song through their headphones, film out loud so the can get their feet [sounds] and then I'll put the music in over top,” explained Buller.

The Mac Dance team hopes that The Show Goes On will bring people together in an otherwise distant time, reminding them that even though we are physically distant, we are still all in this together.

“Mac Dance reminded me of what the dance community is supposed to be just like. A bunch of people coming together to have fun, to share a common passion, to create something really beautiful and meaningful together and just having a great time,” said Buller.

Vie Division blends mainstream and old school hip-hop in online concept videos

Established in 2014, Vie Division is bringing old school hip-hop to a student audience. The semi-professional dance crew, which consists entirely of McMaster University students, hopes to create a community through dance in the Hamilton area.

As ‘vie’ means to strive towards a goal, their name signifies the group’s continuous progression towards their goals, whether they be in terms of personal growth or in dance. 

 

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“We've always strived for helping each other towards goal setting. Early on in our term, we would set goals for each other, both as a person and as a dancer and we always try to work towards that,” said Addi San Juan, a Vie Division director and multimedia student.

Welcoming students from a variety of dance backgrounds, Vie Division focuses on a fusion of hip-hop and contemporary styles. Taking advantage of team members’ unique skill sets, the group has created a style that is uniquely their own.

“What we’re basically trying to do is just create an open community where you can share your ideas through dance. After high school, I was accepted onto Vie Division and I’ve just been growing and seeing and learning from there with my post-secondary community,” said Azia Naguit, a Vie Division director and fourth-year life sciences student.

“What we’re basically trying to do is just create an open community where you can share your ideas through dance."

Typically, the team plans their semester around regional hip-hop and urban dance competitions. Early in the fall semester, they select songs as a group and rehearse choreography until early spring. Working up to performances, they bring in Vie Division alumni to help with their creative process.

Due to COVID, Vie Division has recently shifted their focus from competition to video production and concept videos. The videos showcase Vie Division’s student choreography and experimentation with different styles of dance. In a recent concept video entitled Vie Throws It Back, the group experimented with house, waacking, vogue, dancehall, litefeet and traditional hip-hop techniques.

 

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As the group has adapted to the pandemic they’ve become more skilled with their filmography and video editing. In their most recent video, dancers unable to attend due to COVID protocols were inserted into the video seamlessly through videography by the group’s photographer and videographer Jacob Arcas.

For students looking to participate in dance classes, Vie Division has several free and paid online videos and workshops available. The group recently held their auditions for the winter semester and hope to hold a virtual showcase in the near future.

“We're super accommodating and welcoming to anyone who is interested in pursuing dance and giving them a light to see how it is possible [to balance dance and school] . . . As much as we are a dance team, we're also just a bunch of students trying to survive university, so we're definitely a huge support to each other as students and as people outside of dance,” explained Emma Powell, the Vie Division captain and fourth-year mechanical engineering and management student.

"As much as we are a dance team, we're also just a bunch of students trying to survive university, so we're definitely a huge support to each other as students and as people outside of dance,”

By watching and participating in what Vie Division has to offer, students get to explore dance culture through the ages.

Hamilton’s sole hip-hop dance studio takes strong precautions to ensure the safety of its patrons.

Before 2009, not many studios in Hamilton focused on hip-hop and street dance; it was not until Josh Taylor co-founded Defining Movement Dance in 2009 and opened the studio in 2010.

“The point of it was to offer something different than other studios were offering at the time, with a focus on hip-hop and street dance, alongside Latin dancing,” said Taylor.

As of now, DMD has shifted its focus from Latin dancing to hip-hop and street dance.

[/media-credit] Youth technique class led by Josh Taylor in February 2018.

“The point of it was to offer something different than other studios were offering at the time, with a focus on hip-hop and street dance, alongside Latin dancing,” said Taylor.

The studio has a varying number of programs for all individuals. Dance programs for the children consist of: breaking classes where they learn how to “breakdance”, funk styles classes where they learn the technique “popping and locking”, hip-hop classes where they learn basic hip-hop dance moves and all styles class, where students are introduced to various street dance styles and eventually freestyle and participate in dance battles with fellow students.

[/media-credit] Mini dance battle in March 2019.

For the younger members, there is also a competitive team, Megacrew, in which the students would usually compete against other dance studios. The students learn multiple dance styles and undergo training and conditioning, while under the guidance of the artistic director.

“This year is a little different given the COVID-19 situation,” said Taylor on the cancellation of competitions this year.

For adults, they have both drop-in classes and registered programs. The drop-in classes consist of choreography and contemporary classes, where the former takes a focus on incorporating a variety of dance styles while the latter looks at personal expression within dance.

The registered programs consist of a heels class, where individuals exhibit beauty within their techniques, and street dance training classes, where street dance, popping and locking and hip-hop dance styles are all incorporated. On an occasional evening, the studio offers salsa dancing pop-up classes.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, DMD’s functions have taken quite a hit, just like many other small businesses. Before the pandemic arrived in March, classes were up to 30 children, running for two hours straight where they underwent training, conditioning and participated in small freestyles and dance battles.

“That was one of the largest classes at the time, where we could operate classes without worrying about numbers, in terms of how many people are in a room,” said Taylor.

Once the pandemic hit, classes immediately went online — utilizing platforms such as Zoom, YouTube Live and Instagram Live — to keep people moving while stuck indoors. The length of the programs was also limited to about an hour to adjust for the online transition and learning curve.

“That was one of the largest classes at the time, where we could operate classes without worrying about numbers, in terms of how many people are in a room,” said Taylor.

When the government allowed the studio to re-open in September, the studio created a comprehensive plan to keep all of its patrons safe. The first item on the list was to create a 4.5 square-foot taped box on the floor, each three meters apart.

There is an “x” placed in the middle to give the students a visual of where they need to be stepping. Due to these wide boxes, the class sizes had to be reduced in order to keep up with current government regulations.

“From a dance educator perspective, what really is exciting is working with six students in that class and really just focusing on each student’s needs. From a business standpoint, [the reduction in students is] not as great; we want to have more numbers in the studio. But it is where we are,” said Taylor.

“From a dance educator perspective, what really is exciting is working with six students in that class and really just focusing on each student’s needs. From a business standpoint, [the reduction in students is] not as great; we want to have more numbers in the studio. But it is where we are,” said Taylor.

The studio has also taken a variety of steps with regard to cleaning. They implemented a fogger which takes a disinfectant and makes it into a mist to disinfect the entire studio. There is a 15-minute gap at the end of each class to allow the disinfectant to spread over the studio before beginning the next class. Aside from this, wipes and hand sanitizers have been also placed around the studio. 

To ensure comfort for the dancers, they are allowed to take a break from wearing their masks as doors are open to allow for greater air ventilation and quick breaks.

“It's really important for everyone's mental, emotional and social health with dance, but it's really important as our responsibility to ensure they do it safely. A business is not worth more than anyone’s health,” said Taylor. 

“It's really important for everyone's mental, emotional and social health with dance, but it's really important as our responsibility to ensure they do it safely. A business is not worth more than anyone’s health,” said Taylor. 

Screenings and temperature checks have also been implemented in order to minimize the amount of risk for students and staff to contract coronavirus. While these listed precautions are not ideal for any business when they are trying to carry out their daily operations, they are a necessary step to ensure everyone’s safety. For Taylor, he is unsure as to how the studio will continue to operate in the current pandemic climate.

[/media-credit] Dress rehearsal for the year-end show in June 2019.

“It's hard to say, I think what we will do is follow the advice of the experts and continue to do that. If it gets to a point where businesses are asked to lockdown, then we will lockdown. We have to play it by ear and go from there. I think that's all we can do. We can hope that we make it to the other side. Small businesses are what make up communities. The corner store, then dance studios, the small gyms, the bookstores — all of those places are so important. We hope we continue to offer our services and be a part of the community and eventually, people feel safe to continue coming out,” said Taylor.

“It's hard to say, I think what we will do is follow the advice of the experts and continue to do that. If it gets to a point where businesses are asked to lockdown, then we will lockdown. We have to play it by ear and go from there. I think that's all we can do. We can hope that we make it to the other side. Small businesses are what make up communities. The corner store, then dance studios, the small gyms, the bookstores — all of those places are so important. We hope we continue to offer our services and be a part of the community and eventually, people feel safe to continue coming out,” said Taylor.

Sous Bas is offering an online dance party in partnership with DJ Donna Lovejoy and WEFT Projects

Nightclubs are about escapism. As you abandon your body to the loud music, your senses become overwhelmed by the flashing lights and the thumping rhythm of the heavy bass. Your brain shuts down, but you feel completely present and alive in the moment. Although it may be difficult to experience this nightlife in the near future, Main Street East bar Sous Bas has come up with a solution to bring the dance party to your home. 

Bedroom Dancing is a freestyle dance and movement series co-hosted by Sous Bas owner Erika McMeekin, Rachael Mae, also known as DJ Donna Lovejoy and WEFT Projects founder Jen Anisef. The three have been friends for a long time and collaborated in the past. The six free dance sessions occur bi-weekly from Sept. 21 to Nov. 30 over Zoom.. In place of a fee, the co-hosts are requesting a donation of $10 per session to one of the local and national initiatives listed on Sous Bas’ website.

The dance series initially launched last year featuring Dallas Walzak, professionally known as DJ Gelled Hare, at the physical location of Sous Bas. Unlike most club events, it was held on early Monday evenings. McMeekin, Mae and Anisef created the series to provide a stage for dance lovers who are unable to go out at late hours or who are uncomfortable being in the crowded club scene. Anisef is among them.

“I’ve loved dancing since I was a little kid. Sometimes I’m happy to go out [and] stay up until 2 a.m. for that perfect dance moment, but sometimes I just want to dance outside of a club setting, and I don’t always find [the places to do] that,” said Anisef. 

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Last year the event was a hit and attracted a wide age range of folks between 20 and 60 years old who came to dance their heart out. 

Following its successful inception, the series was brought back online this fall to recreate the therapeutic and cathartic experience of ecstatic dancing, a neo-hippy form of dance in which you free your body and mind and let the music guide your movement. The event was also created  to remind people of what it’s like to be at Sous Bas. 

“[Sous Bas] is about just being yourself, dancing, [without] judgement . . . It’s truly about creating a community and an environment for people to feel good and safe, make friends and have good experiences that make them happy,” said McMeekin.

“[Sous Bas] is about just being yourself, dancing, [without] judgement . . . It’s truly about creating a community and an environment for people to feel good and safe, make friends and have good experiences that make them happy,” said McMeekin.

Ontario’s stage three of reopening allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen, however only for the purposes of serving food or drinks. Dancing remains banned both indoors and outdoors at these venues. 

To simulate the club experience as closely as possible online, McMeekin, Mae and Anisef have provided tips on Bedroom Dancing’s social media showing how to improve the lighting, sound and vibe of your home for the dance party. Many of these tips are insights they have picked up from their first online dance event, The Good Foot, in March. Some of the advice includes using an essential oil diffuser, placing tealights in a glass cup to create shadows, throwing a colourful scarf over your lamp and using an auxiliary cord to connect your device to a stereo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFQL9JGntvL/

The first Bedroom Dancing session held on Sept. 21 had over 30 people sign up. Although the physical component of the club is missing, McMeekin, Mae and Anisef appreciate being able to reach and engage with more people on an online platform. Anisef recalls community members asking to do a live stream of Bedroom Dancing when it was held in person last year. They hope a virtual dance party where cameras can be turned on or off at attendees’ discretion will help lift some of the physical accessibility barriers and social anxiety about coming to a club.

“I really hope . . . these sessions can create an hour where you’re not worrying about anything and you’re connecting back with yourself and . . . getting grounded in your body. For me, that’s the power of dance,” said Anisef.

“I really hope . . . these sessions can create an hour where you’re not worrying about anything and you’re connecting back with yourself and . . . getting grounded in your body. For me, that’s the power of dance,” said Anisef.

Mae shared a similar sentiment. More than anything, she was the most thrilled about “DJing” and being able to share an energetic exchange with people through music and dance again.

“I hope that [the attendees] can feel invigorated to move a little more in their own way . . . [and] connect with the community. That’s my ultimate goal,” explained Mae. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFX0oJuHvS3/

As someone who deeply values the analog experience, McMeekin did not have plans to host online events prior to Bedroom Dancing. She missed all the physical aspects of Sous Bas, from the smells to the interactions with the old and new faces at the bar. However, launching the dance series has inspired her to think about a more long-term online strategy for the bar. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many have felt stressed, worried, confused or overwhelmed. Bedroom Dancing offers an outlet to de-stress, reconnect with the community and share an exhilarating sensory experience that we thought was lost to the past.

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