Friday, April 12, 2024

Dance Corps: Behind the Scenes

Dancers, tall and short, are strung about the dimly lit Giltz Auditorium late on a Tuesday night. Some lean against the walls, checking their iPhones that are plugged into the spread-out sockets, while some are hunkered down in the red cushion seats quizzing each other from note cards. Laptops are lit up, water bottles are scattered along the floor, and a pair of tap shoes lay alone on the corner of the wooden stage. There are bright yellow and blue colors flashing across the stage, with women dressed in Dance Corps t-shirts and black spandex shorts dancing beneath the heated lights.

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Nothing seems to distract the dancers from doing whatever it is they’re doing — not even the encouraging shouts from the women dancing in the aisles. They’ve adapted to this setting. They practice from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night leading up to their two performances.

Graduate student and President of Dance Corps Leah Smyth has been part of Dance Corps for four years and has been dancing since she was five years old.

She’s a veteran on the team but new to planning such an event. Her trusty companion is a massive pink binder packed with white papers, green sticky notes and a small pink pouch with office supplies.

Smyth said the binder has everything she needs to know about their upcoming show, No Limits. After a lengthy process, the team came up with an open-ended theme they thought represented the team of 34 dancers.

“Our talent is limitless, and what we can bring to the campus is limitless,” Smyth said.

As a Student Association-approved club, the team is allotted a budget. Their budget, one of the largest, is about $6,500, from car washes, Yankee Candle and Chipotle fundraisers.

With a budget like that, Dance Corps really has no limits, which is what allows them to host such a large, detailed event.

Smyth said the planning process began when they booked Giltz auditorium in August. From then on, Smyth said her job has consisted of numerous meetings to ensure everything runs smoothly.

She makes sure they have a lighting and sound crew, a correct playbills with titles and correct spellings, head shots of the dancers, a videographer and costumes — just to name a few.

While the logistics are being set it stone, the dancers are concurrently choreographing, learning and practicing their routines.

Choreographer Ariel Monserrate has been part of Dance Corps for three years and has been dancing since she was 3 years old. For No Limits, she is choreographing seven dances.

It’s a big time commitment for a full-time student. A communication disorders and sciences major, Monserrate describes her role in Dance Corps as a full-time job as she puts in at least 20 hours per week, plus any extra rehearsals or choreographing.

The pay-off for the time commitment is Monserrate’s love of dance. She said that after her Dance Corp performances, she feels like a celebrity.

“Everyone knows who you are and people will come up to you and be like, ‘Oh, you’re on Dance Corps!’” Monserrate said. “It’s just so rewarding — thee recognition makes you feel so good.”

The team began choreographing and practicing the dance the moment they got back from winter break. They rehearse five hours a night for the week leading up to the event and one hour every Tuesday, with group dances on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the semester.

It can be a struggle for the team to secure a rehearsal space. They practice in Memorial Hall, the Black Box in Myers, and have even utilized the U.S. Oval and dance studios downtown.

With almost 40 women spending that much time together, tension can build.

“Sometimes it can get heated,” Monserrate said. “We all just want to do our best — we’ve really become a big family.”

The members of Dance Corps audition for the dances they want to be part of. They can choose how many they wish to dance in, based off the amount of time and commitment they can put in.

No Limits will have different styles of dance including jazz, tap, contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop and musical theatre. This year, the Korean Association will be performing a K-Pop number, African Unity will perform, Malikae will do a Bollywood number, fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha will stroll and Minor Adjustments will have a vocal performance.

Hotel, restaurant and tourism major and Treasurer of Dance Corps Cassidy Pulver plays a major part in the behind-the-scenes financials.

Pulver, who also carries around a large pink binder full of numbers and details, said the club’s budget has grown from about $2,000 to where it is now, and she helps manage it.

One of the biggest expenses is costumes. They are given about $3,500 for costumes from the SA, but they spend about $5,000, which is where the fundraising aspect comes in. The costume price is about $30 per dancer for each dance.

To balance schoolwork, dancing and her budget duties, Pulver took on only six dances. She said she’s learned a great deal about time management while in this position. Despite how busy it keeps her, Pulver plans on running for treasurer again.

“I might not be in every dance, but I’ve had a part in every dance,” Pulver said. Whether it be ordering props, dealing costumes, she tries to “put an impact on the show as much as she cans.”

Dance Corps has grown from 27 dancers to 33 in just one year. Pulver said she feels the team is currently a step ahead than they were last year and hopes to continue on this path.

Monserrate said that when she gets on stage in front of the audience, it’s all worth it.

“I become a new person. It’s like I have an alter-ego, I swear,” she said.

Email Brittany Shew at

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