Five. Hundred. Members. That alone blew my mind as I spoke to Ramine from the board of the Erasmus Dance Society (EDS). EDS happens to be the second biggest sports association, and it also happens to be a mix of both a sport and a cultural student association.
Dance, unlike many traditional sports, can be broken up into distinct styles. EDS offers Salsa, Kizomba, Ballroom and Hip-Hop programmes for its members, with multiple classes of different difficulty levels for each style. I’m no dancer, but I decided to give the beginner’s hip-hop session on Monday a go.
Constant, fluid motion
This week’s hip-hop session incorporated elements of contemporary dance, so it was a bit different from the norm. Hip-hop is usually more upbeat, featuring a little more swagger than contemporary dance, which tends to be more down tempo and flexible.
We were taught a choreography that lasted no more than 30 seconds, but the attention to detail of every movement was fascinating. From small turns to wide whirls to a few jolts of emphatic motions, everything blended together to create an emotion-filled dance. It helped that we were swaying and twirling to my girl Beyoncé’s “Pray You Catch Me”; when I closed my eyes, I almost felt like a dancing queen. (Dancing king, I meant king.)
“Contemporary dance is about constant motion. There’s more room for ‘free movement’ than with hip-hop. You can make your moves really big or keep them small. It depends on how you feel.” The instructor, Dyon, walked us through the choreography for an hour, standing at the front of the group fluidly demonstrating each move. He made sure each short section was understood and practised by everyone before moving on to the next.
To cap off the end of the session, he divided us into three groups (my heartbeat quickened I saw another member pull out a camera and start filming) and had the groups perform the choreography without him leading. It was fun seeing everyone perform what they had just learned, and especially gratifying to be able to perform alongside the other dancers.
When I first stepped into the dance studio, I noticed with some amusement that there were only two other guys in the studio. Granted, the instructor was also a boy, but female students made up most the participants.
I asked about this ratio, and found that EDS was made up more of women. Many guys seem to believe that dance isn’t masculine, or that it’s too far outside their comfort zone to try. During Euraka week and the beginning of this year in general, the club focused on getting more guys to join. One particularly compelling argument EDS used was that “EDS has a lot of girls.” I, for one, found that brilliant.
Many students, guys and girls both, who are hesitant about joining a dance society say they can’t dance. It should be noted that when Ramine said this I raised my hand in response. Laughing, she said: “That’s not a real reason. There are try-outs at the beginning of the year, so you should just come and see if you like it.”
Many EDS members start off unsure, because they lack experience or don’t believe they have any natural talent. While there are also experienced dancers who use EDS as a base for growth and performance, many others just like the club for its social atmosphere. At some points, the club was jokingly referred to as the “Erasmus Drinking Society” and the “Erasmus Dating Society”, clever plays on words that were perfect to attract the university student crowd.
A passionate hobby
Dancing is a very specific kind of hobby. Many members are first year students looking to supplement their studies with an extracurricular hobby; some stay and move from beginner to intermediate classes, and others drop out after only a couple months.
Every year, there’s a fluctuation in the number of members, and typically the number of students in the beginner groups drops as the year progresses, also because of students on exchange at Erasmus. The members that do end up staying with the association are the ones who really do grow to enjoy dance. Whether it’s for competition or the social aspects, dancing with the show team or at the beginning level, everyone’s in it for the same passion.
To wrap up my hip-hop and contemporary session, I spoke briefly to the teacher, Dyon, who I learned is still a first year student. When I asked him about the thing he enjoyed most at EDS, he had this to say: “I love being the one to help people learn, and I love dance. Teaching dance at EDS mixes my passion of dance and teaching. At EDS, we’re all peers. Students living the young adult life, and every Monday we all meet here to dance.”