SPOTLIGHT: Cultural dances on campus

Cultural clubs use dance as a form of self-expression

Dance is deep-rooted as a meaningful foundation to many cultures and has been for centuries, with each culture having its own unique style of expression through dancing. Many cultural clubs at SCHS have contributed to enriching and diversifying the student body through dance performances that showcase their culture and its various traditions.

SCHS hosts a variety of club presentations throughout the year, including the Filipinx American Student Association’s presentation in October, Diversity Week in January, Black Student Union’s Black History Month presentation in February and more. These presentations are hosted to showcase clubs’ culture, in which members display their dances, share the history of the dances and their culture and perform national anthems. During their Black History Month presentation, BSU provided students with a step dance performance, a Black cultural dance where dancers clap their hands and stomp their feet to make noise like an instrument.

BSU’s step choreographer senior Nia Bozant enjoys the technique behind step dancing and appreciates how it unites her community.

“You could do two different steps, and it makes a difference. It makes different noises, doing different things,” Bozant said. “It’s something that makes me want to keep practicing. It helps build community whenever you’re doing it with the people that you’re doing it with.”

SCHS’s Vietnamese Student Association is working toward a cultural dance performance later in the year, with members beginning to practice on campus. They are currently practicing Vietnamese fan dancing, which is a dance style where the dancers use fans to make elegant formations. VSA vice president freshman Natalie Nguyen has been fan dancing since she was five.

“We dance with fans, and sometimes it doesn’t have to be fans. It can just be umbrellas or whatever we have,” Nguyen said. “It’s very elegant, and it usually consists of multiple people.”

Nguyen started with doing performances at her Vietnamese temple and then moved on to dancing with her Girl Scout troop. Nguyen is excited to use her background in fan dancing to help students at SCHS become more familiar with the dance style.

“It’s a new experience because most of the people here have never danced with a fan before, so they’re just playing around with it,” Nguyen said. “I did teach my friend a little bit of the dance, and she was also playing with it. She seemed like she was really interested, and I was really happy to see that.”

Nguyen encouraged people of all cultures to try out fan dancing. She believes that one does not have to be Vietnamese to fan dance as it is a fun and new venture to experiment with dance.

“Just try it out, experience it, learn new things and try new cultures,” Nguyen said.

Sophomore Aaina Bhatia established a competitive Bollywood dance team at SCHS named Jaashan. Bhatia previously felt her culture was not adequately recognized or appreciated on campus, which led her to charter the dance team.

“One of the main reasons I started Jaashan at SCHS is because most of the other schools around us have Bollywood dance teams where they are able to compete with other schools, but in our case, we don’t have anything like that,” Bhatia said. “We feel as though our culture isn’t seen as much. I feel like Jaashan brings out our culture like movies and songs. It gets people really interested in our movies and everything.”

Bhatia encouraged all SCHS students to try out for Jaashan due to how fun and easy Bollywood dance is.

“I think a lot of people think you need experience to join, but it’s really not true,” Bhatia said. “We have over six months to prepare, and Bollywood dancing isn’t even that hard. You just have to be fluid with your movements.”

Cultural clubs are not the only form of dance expression on campus. The Battle of the Classes event on March 24 and its 5 Minutes of Fame component included dance choreographies from all four classes. Freshman Class Publicist, Priya Pudasaini, helped choreograph freshman dances for BOTC’s 5 Minutes of Fame using inspiration from various styles of dances.

“When I choreograph, I take inspiration from a lot of different dances from places and just make it easier because that’s the type of dance we have to choreograph, and we have a lot of different people,” Pudasaini said.

From cultural dances to school-wide events, many appreciate dance for its ability to allow SCHS students to celebrate their peers’ talents on multiple occasions. Bozant feels that step dancing is the creation of music through collective human talent, and is grateful for the sense of community it incites.

“I think stepping is just something that kind of brings people together in a way because you’re practicing it together and you’re basically making music with people,” said Bozant.

Similarly, Nguyen appreciates fan dancing because it helps her feel more connected to her culture.

“It boosts my confidence and I’m Vietnamese, so I feel connected,” Nguyen said.

Bozant admires cultural dancing because of the positive and uplifting effect it has on the dancers.

“I think that dance culture is something that people use to express themselves, make friends through and use like an art form,” Bozant said.