Elson '00 continues her passion for dancing in Rainbow Tribe
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012
Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012 18:05
She danced her way through her senior year, adding up to six hours of rehearsal a week to her rigorous academic studies. She continued through four years of medical school, finding time in her busy schedule to dance before she found time to sleep. And thirteen years later, now working as a doctor, Lauren Elson ’00 still makes time for some tap and hip-hop as part of her continued work for Rainbow Tribe, a group that unites dancers of different abilities.
A physician specializing in sports medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and at Spaulding Rehabilitation in Wellesley, Mass., Elson first began dancing for Rainbow Tribe, which works to “bridge cultural differences and foster a universal appreciation of dance in all its forms,” according to its mission statement online during her senior year of college.
A Boston-based organization, the purpose of Rainbow Tribe is to “bring communities together using dance,” Elson said in an interview with the Justice. The group consists of over 20 dancers from unique racial backgrounds with varying levels of dance experience who “serve as good role models for children and young adults interested in pursuing a professional, or even a casual interest in dance,” according to its website.
The organization aims to positively influence and motivate at-risk, under-served children and adults with different skill levels through its performances, which range from jazz to tap to hip-hop. It was founded in 1992 by Carleton Jones, a dancer who appeared on Broadway in A Chorus Line in addition to his work with Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul.
Elson decided to audition for the organization after a trip to West Africa where she had been studying African dance. After spending the summer after her junior year of college in Gambia as part of her Coexistence Fellowship from Brandeis, Elson heard about Rainbow Tribe from another student in her dance class in Boston. She decided to dance for the organization after realizing the similarity of Rainbow Tribe’s mission to what she was doing in Gambia: bringing people together with storytelling and communication through dance.
As co-president of Adagio, one of the dance groups on campus, the California native already had experience dancing and choreographing when she auditioned for Rainbow Tribe. In addition to starting the Brandeis Dance Ensemble, she also spent time studying dance from an academic angle as a double major in Neuroscience and an Independent Interdisciplinary Major in Dance and Human Movement Studies. “I was looking at motor control and dance so it was a combination of the sciences and dance,” she explained.
After being accepted to Rainbow Tribe during her senior year, Elson began rehearsing and performing with the group and decided to continue during her time in medical school at Tufts University. “At the time, we were rehearsing a lot more. Back then we were probably doing closer to six hours a week and it was kind of one of those things I had to do to stay sane. So I would have rather danced then sleep,” she said of balancing dance with medical school.
For Elson, the motivation to dance comes from “the opportunity to perform, the people that you meet [and] the audiences that [the group] reach[es],” she explained. “The biggest compliment that we often get is that we make people want to dance or motivate people to go dance.”
Rainbow Tribe has performed in order to get participants excited and motivated at events such as the Walk for Hunger. “We’ll also get hired by companies to do flash mobs to get people excited, to bring people together,” she said. In addition to performing, Rainbow Tribe dancers offer classes all over the Boston area and workshops on topics ranging from Zumba and tap to dance wellness and injury prevention and nutrition.
And the amount of dancing experience of Rainbow Tribe’s performers varies too, according to Elson, who says the group practices for two hours twice a week together. “All the women have had some training, to various degrees, but some of the women in the group are teachers or professional dancers,” Elson said, noting that others have less professional backgrounds. “There are people that are more street dancers or hip-dancers or more ballet. [Rainbow Tribe] basically looks to see what each person can bring. They’re looking for high-energy performers,” said Elson, whose personal favorite style of dance is tap.
Now finished with medical school and working as a physician, Elson still finds time in her busy schedule to dance with the group, thirteen years after first joining Rainbow Tribe. The group recently performed in celebration of its 20th anniversary.
“[The group] really is dedicated to providing a motivational presence in Boston,” Elson explained of the organization that she says tries to get kids involved in dance with high energy. “[Dance is] something I enjoy doing so much that I want people to enjoy it also.”