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Evolution Dance Crew members Ingrid Xu ’18 and Thandwa Mduli ’20, along with Maria Nava ’18 (not pictured), are leading a dance workshop during winter term.

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J-term Scenes: Dancing Away the Cold [video]

January 17, 2018


By Roxana Rivera ’18

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – As the mercury dips below zero in Middlebury, students gathered in the basement of Proctor Hall are battling the chill with pure human energy. This winter term, Evolution Dance Crew, a student-led dance troupe, is offering two workshop sessions each week open to all students. Crew members Ingrid Xu ’18, Thandwa Mdluli ’20, and Maria Nava ’18 kickstarted the workshop the first Monday of winter term, guiding a group of more than 30 students through fast-paced choreography.

“We thought it would be a good chance for us to share our love of dance with more people in the Middlebury community,” said Xu. The crew’s popularity is growing among students, said Xu, and it worked out well to have three crew members available to teach the workshop. Mdluli believes the workshop will help people who coin themselves ‘bad dancers’ come together to gain more confidence, express themselves differently and learn how to dance with the crew.

Although Xu, Mdluli, and Nava are all crew members, they say their differing levels of dance experience make them more relatable to workshop participants. Xu said she was trained in ballet for 14 years prior to college, whereas Mdluli’s and Nava’s dance backgrounds mostly derive from their respective Swazi and Mexican cultures. Evolution blends hip-hop, contemporary, Afrobeat, and Latin dance styles.

All three say their range in dance has grown through Evolution. “I started hip-hop when I joined ‘Evo’ so everything I know from this style of dance, I’ve learned through the dance crew,” says Xu. “She’s really good at hip-hop now,” Mdluli chimed in. The crew leaders encourage their workshop students, who come from all ranges of dance experience, to get out of their shells and just have fun.

“Evolution started as another avenue of expression where the founding members felt that their dance styles or their body styles didn’t quite fit into the traditional dancing mold,” said Xu. The crew’s philosophy centers itself around being a family with plenty of joking and fun, she says. They hope this translates to a positive and welcoming energy for all newcomers.

The workshop organizers make it look easy, but they also understand their participants’ anxiety. “It’s very intimidating,” says Mdluli. “People come in and they’re nervous, but I don’t think they realize that we’re nervous as well!” Despite the nerves, the leaders say they’ve had a great turnout so far and they’ve been impressed at how quickly their attendees’ pick up choreography in a one-hour session. By the end, many are comfortable enough to fully perform and even add their own personal touches to the choreography. The key to getting to this point, Xu says, is to “have fun together!” 

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1 Comment

It is always inspiring to see students take embodied risks and enjoy moving together! I hope many of these students are also compelled to take advantage of the resources available in Middlebury's Dance Department. The'll have the chance to have the same amount of fun and deepen their critical engagement with the form under the mentorship of extraordinary faculty. Take a class with the (also) always inspiring Christal Brown!!!

by Annie Kloppenberg (not verified)

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