Emotionally Charged Dance Workshop Questions Inclusion

Colorado College families and students squirmed in rows of seats as the lights dimmed in Armstrong Hall. Hushed whispers of excitement—sporadically broken by a loud “Woohoo!”—reverberated off the walls, and all eyes fell to the stage.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

“The air was electric backstage,” said dancer Annika Gartner ‘21. “You could almost feel the nerves of excitement radiating from behind the curtain and into the crowd.”

Dance Workshop is a student-produced biannual event that has happened for over 15 years. It consists of about 20 to 30 choreographers and at least 100 dancers. It is open to all dance skill levels, and it incorporates every dance style from electronic, hip hop, and ballet, to contemporary and improvisational.

Dance Workshop has always been the most attended student-run event on campus, but this spring performance was unprecedented in its weekend turnout. Audience members were forced to sit in the aisle and stand against the back wall. According to most interviewed attendees, this was the best performance that this student group has created so far.

The show itself maintained cohesion while flowing through a number of genres. Highly energetic and entertainingly chaotic pieces opened the show; a handful of amazing cultural, provocative, ethereal, and interpretive pieces followed, and an important social message defined the finale.

Zoe Lilak ‘20, a co-chair who helped put the whole thing together, commented that this performance was really “fueled by an intrinsic motivation among dancers” to promote inclusion within, and awareness of, an art form that for most is not just an interest, but a passion.

The inherent bias of casting decisions has characterized many performance venues on CC’s campus. Given the current dialogues surrounding the heinously racist email that was sent out a few weeks ago, the leaders of Dance Workshop wanted to make sure that this performance provided a platform for minorities who don’t always have such direct access to so many people within the framework of this campus.

The “Dance Workshop Encyclopedia,” which can be found on the CC Dance Workshop Facebook page and on the group’s bulletin board, has recently been edited in order to more clearly define the roles of members and organizers. This five-page document transparently lays out the entire structure of the program so they can “get feedback” and “promote dialogue and collaboration” to make Dance Workshop better, according to Lilak. She went on to explain that—by incorporating a variety of voices and valuing all input, especially from people of color and anyone who feels a lack of representation—there is always room for improvement in the world of dance.

Overall, there was an immense amount of time, energy, and dedication that went into this three-day performance, and the community that came to support it is what makes this message possible. Dance Workshop exists not only to support CC students with a passion for dance, but also to promote awareness and inclusion while facing the persistent threat of oppression and bigotry. From body positivity to minority representation and voice, the emotionally charged dancers in motion were able to inspire a greater idea than just words alone. And maybe that’s what dance is all about.

Maddy Unger

Maddy Unger

Maddy Unger, '21, is a winter start from Baltimore who spent her first semester in Costa Rica and Belize. Although undeclared, she hopes to major in environmental studies and Spanish. Maddy is also an ultimate frisbee enthusiast, loves to SCUBA dive, and hopes to visit every country in the world by the time she is 40.

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