Raaz, Ujima, and Sheba showcase different dance styles in spring performances

With the arts-centric Green Key weekend, Dartmouth dancers are excited to bring that love of the stage to their upcoming shows this spring.

by Paulina Marinkovic | 05/19/22 02:00

Courtesy of Maxwell Simba ’25

Although known for Green Key and a return to outdoor activities, the spring term offers a wide range of arts-related programs and features performances by various student dance troupes, including senior shows from groups such as Razz and Ujima.

Raaz, which was founded in 2011, prides itself as “Dartmouth’s premier South Asian fusion dance team”, which “draws inspiration from a wide range of dance styles including classical, modern, bhangra, hip-hop, contemporary and Bollywood,” according to its website. Raaz dancer Eiha Patnaik ’25 said she was eager to share the new classical dance styles Raaz is doing, like Odissi.

“In the past, South Asian dance groups have mainly performed classical dance, Bharatanatyam, but I will be one of the first Odissi dancers in the team, so now we will include Odissi,” Patnaik said.

According to Patnaik, Raaz divides into three groups to choreograph their dances individually. After two weeks of separate work, they each teach their dances to the other two groups. The groups swap choreographies with each other and rehearse until everyone is on the same page. Altogether, bands need to consider other details like their positions and transitions with the new ensemble before their first show.

Ujima also tries to incorporate the backgrounds and experiences of her dancers into the choreography. According to its website, Ujima was founded in 1985 as the first college dance organization. The group began by mixing modern and African dance, jazz, ballet and hip-hop. Today, the group primarily performs hip-hop, but prides itself on the diverse group of dancers it brings together and their ability “to inspire and transcend boundaries within diverse communities” through dance.

“Several seniors are creating choreography and we’ll see everyone’s different styles come into play,” said Giana Amissah ’25, who dances for Ujima. “Ujima does a lot of hip-hop, but we also try to incorporate different styles into our dance because our dancers have experience with a variety of backgrounds. Some of them did ballet for a long time, but others did modern and jazz.

Ujima’s senior show will be held at the Sigma Nu fraternity. The group incorporates a range of musical artists into its choreography, performing songs by Travis Scott, Jack Harlow and Young Thug in addition to the Magic Mike soundtrack, Amissah said.

Both Patnaik and Amissah expressed their excitement for the upcoming performances, citing how much they look forward to being back on stage and dancing in front of large audiences. Amissah stressed the importance of blending the performing arts such as dance and music with culture and added that she looks forward to sharing this artistic outlet not only with other dancers, but also with the larger community. off Dartmouth.

Reflecting on Ujima’s experience throughout the pandemic, Amissah noted some of the limitations that came with the group’s virtual and socially distanced dance rehearsals. Along with the difficulty of breathing while performing complex choreography and wearing masks, she said an integral part of dancing is the use of facial expressions to tell a story.

“When we wore masks, we could honestly have blank faces and we would be fine,” Amissah said. “Now you have to smile.”

Sheba, another dance group in Dartmouth, will perform in the Beta parking lot. According to their social media, Sheba was founded in 1995 as an urban dance team that embraces all dance styles and musical genres. Elizabeth Ding ’24, who joined Sheba in the fall of her freshman year, noted that virtual experiences during the pandemic have played a key role in shaping Sheba’s recent and upcoming in-person performances, and have helped her. allowed us to see dance in a different light.

“Having our virtual shows pre-recorded allowed us to consider what our choreography and set would look like from different angles,” Ding said. “We had a circular camera which made us more creative. We’ve been experimenting with different formations and expressions, and I think that’s reflected in our recent in-person performances.

Since the pandemic halted in-person programming for two years, student performance groups are now enjoying this gradual transition to normalcy and looking forward to bringing people together again at dance performances. With Green Key’s focus on music and the arts, Ding hopes people will feel inspired to show their support for student performances throughout the term.

“I feel like Green Key is an event that brings a lot of students together because this experience is so unique to Dartmouth,” Ding said. “It’s just amazing that the College does this every year and gives students the chance to not only have fun, but also celebrate the performing arts.

Colleen D. Ervin