Nicole J Estrada Rosario
Dancing can be exciting, thought-provoking, and new, but it doesn’t have to be out of reach. “Dancing is walking… on patterns,” said Andy Taylor-Blenis, folk dance teacher at UMass Lowell. She, along with Folk Dance Club President Sarah Bustin, and other students hosted the Multicultural Dance Party on October 15.
The event collaborated with the Pair-Up program, a university program that pairs transfer international students with domestic students to encourage cultural awareness and new connections. The multicultural dance night started with food, icebreakers and games before the students had a chance to learn a few dances.
The dances were incredibly diverse, coming from many parts of the world. Some of the dances taught were Oakleaf Oak, Master of the House, Horan and Idle Robin. The event included several other dances from Mexico to Ghana.
Despite the wide cultural range, all of the dances shared an encouraging learning process. Taylor-Blenis took the time to guide the group through each dance step, allowing for rehearsal and re-explanation when she felt it was necessary. She encouraged the group to “feel the beat”. The event was not only aimed at learning a new dance, but also exploring culture, history, movement and expression.
Many of the dances were performed in circles or lines, which made it a collaborative act. Throughout the dances, the participants leaned on each other to follow the dance and the rhythm. As explained by Taylor-Blenis, it was about feeling the circles and the lines, the hands that were held and how many people were moving in a given direction. More so, it was about feeling how much people were ready to give and receive throughout the dance.
Each dance began simply as the steps were explained in the basic concepts of beats and movements. It only took a few rounds of practice for the group to fall into a rhythm and try out dancing with music.
At first the night started with an awkward tension that normally comes with the fear of being judged. However, the awkwardness didn’t last long and the event ended in a comfortable environment with many attendees even thanking their instructors for the experience upon leaving.
There are more opportunities for students to experience something similar at the weekly Folk Dance Club meetings. The club meets every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Studio 2 of the Campus Recreation Center. As the club flyer says, no dance experience is required. Everyone is welcome to learn new dances and discover other cultures.
“Rhythms and rhythms – these are the things that keep [dances] together, ”says Taylor-Blenis. It seems that learning these folk dances is simply a matter of willingness to find that rhythm.