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Whether you’re dressed to the nines or covered in a splatter of glow paint there’s a dance culture at Principia as diverse as the student population. Underlying the zing of the 1920’s swing trumpet, the sway of a rock ballad, or the buzz of dropped bass are chords that connect listeners to movements both urban and ancient. There’s music, there’s food ranging from cupcakes to crepes, and there’s the opportunity to be with friends after the grueling week of deadlines, but is this really what the students ask for? What else is there to the dances at Principia? For insight, we asked the event planners.
Dances are organized by students in the community, not just by Student Life. Student Event Manager, Brett Grimmer said that roughly “90% of the dances are house or club sponsored.” The job of the event planners is to support the houses or clubs, “spiritually, emotionally, financially,” said Student Event Planner Erica Suess. She added, “[Student Event Planners] find out what the student body wants and then tell Brett, and then Brett is the liaison between the SA’s and the administration.”
The goal of most dances is to have the most people attend, “to bring the community in as a whole,” as Suess explained, “Yes people are going to do what’s comfortable, they’re going to want to hang with their friends a lot, but if we can provide an opportunity for people to come together and maybe make a couple of new friends, that’s great.”
That’s what made Homecoming most successful to Student Event Planner Lauren Fulton. She said, “There wasn’t just one group-type that was there: like the people who like to dance. There were people who just came for the crepes, and enjoyed the fires. I feel like that’s what made it most successful, that there were different types of people there. It brought the greatest happiness to the most diverse group of people.”
At the same time, Fulton added, “Even if just one person leaves having the best time of their life, that’s what matters.” Dances are about the individual as much as the community. “There’s always something that you can do that’s better,” says Suess about the hosted events, “With that said, every event is a successful event as long as one person is there. It is worth the effort. It is worth the money. It is worth the time if one person goes to the event and has a good time.”
Underlying the physical appearance of a dance, the pulse of the speakers against one’s skin, the sweat, the constant movement, is a deep wish for a dance to provide an opportunity for people to see and accept other people for who they are. Suess described this outcome, her highest wish, as “Empathy: understanding people other than yourself.”
Suess thinks “social events are an amazing way to do that because everyone comes from their own ‘rooms’. Everyone comes from their own spaces, and everyone comes from their own unique experiences, and then at this dance – at homecoming – everyone comes together….I want people to be able to empathize and be more about the community and less about their personal experience because you’re going to have your own personal experience wherever you go regardless of what you do. You are always going to have you, but you are not always going to have the people around you. What better way to make your experiences better than to incorporate other people’s experiences and broaden your sense of ‘self’.”
In exploring the tangent of having administration, faculty, and staff at an event– maybe a “Ask your Professor” to the dance theme, or an English/Philosophy/Ed-Bloc majors versus Political Science/History/Business majors dance off.
Yet every song will end. Every event, for the weeks and months of planning, has its “strike at midnight” moment. “In the realm of ending things,” said Fulton, “the time you had, especially when you meet new people, get to know new people: that doesn’t end – you can’t backtrack that. You can’t unmeet them. That breaks that ‘ice’. That’s what carries forward. It makes me excited for new things, for making weekends more exciting. After homecoming I’m like, ‘Whoa! I wish every weekend was like this.’ And then I’m like, ‘Whoa! Every weekend can be like this!’”
“That’s what’s special about these events,” she says, “it gets a lot of different people to go to one place for one time and they might accidentally bump into each other and say ‘Hi’, and that is breaking a little bit of ice, and you can’t go back from that point. You have at least that little bit of connection with that person you didn’t know before than if you sat in your room and watched Netflix.”
Dances happen because the students want them to happen. If they wanted more diversity, then all they would have to do is ask. “My door is open,” said Grimmer. “My job is to listen,” said Suess. There may be concern about asking for something that goes against policy or tradition, but silence is not what produces the ideas. A community is healed and entertained and strengthened by the willingness of individuals to be inventive about their connections, to have the urge to break away from the mundane, and to have the willingness to empathize with strangers. This is what makes these dances happen. Furthermore, opportunities to express joy, community, and empathy provide a path for the two-steps shared at an event to dance right off the floor and become the same steps taken in the daily dance between people and the lives they live.