Student clubs and academic depts. host int’l dance event
The event organizers drew inspiration from the German and Austrian tradition of a winter ball.
Various language departments, intercultural organizations and dance groups hosted “Let’s Dance” in Levin Ballroom on Sunday. The event featured various styles of dance through performance, short lessons and extended free dance periods. The organizers aimed to invite everyone in the Brandeis community — not just students, but also staff, faculty, alumni, family and friends, leading to over one hundred people attending the event.
A wide array of organizations came together to produce the event: Ballet Club, the Brandeis Ballroom Formation Team, Hooked On Tap and Brandeis Swingers all gave performances, and ballroom club and swing club offered dance lessons. The lessons were conducted in the middle of a semicircle of chairs, allowing the audience to first watch a brief performance of the dance, and then try out the dance themselves.
The Brandeis campus events calendar advertised “Let’s Dance” as an “opportunity to mingle.” In keeping with this goal, all of the lessons were partner dances: the ballroom club taught waltz and salsa, and swing club taught swing dances. Attendees were also encouraged to switch partners throughout the evening so they could meet new people. For the salsa lesson, to showcase the intercultural nature of the event, the phrase “let’s dance” was shown in several languages on the Levin Ballroom projector. The instructors encouraged the attendees to ask partners to dance using a language other than their own.
The event was sponsored by the Intercultural Center, the World Languages and Cultures Committee, the Center for German and European Studies and the Brandeis Pluralism Alliance. Other language departments also pitched in to provide a selection of international desserts. Emcee Gabriela Giordano ’21 provided a general overview of each program and mentioned the various events each organization was hosting in the future, such as the WLC’s “Brandeis Language Oscars” on April 16, and CGES’ Deutschlandjahr: Brandeis Catan competition on March 27.
Giordano then introduced Prof. Sabine von Mering (GRALL), director of CGES, the primary creator of this event. Von Mering explained her motivation for introducing “Let’s Dance,” which took a year to come to fruition. She developed “Let’s Dance” around the winter ball, an old tradition originating in Germany and Austria. Von Mering recalled her childhood in Germany, where everyone was required to take dancing lessons at the age of 14. This tradition is not practiced today, but Von Mering hopes to restart the tradition at Brandeis, making “Let’s Dance” an annual event.
After a performance from the Ballet Club, Prof. Irina Dubinina (GRALL) talked about the link between foreign language and dance. Although music from different countries played throughout the event, Dubinina explained that the connections ran deeper. “Dance is a form of communication” she said. In both language and dance, “people express [through] movement and gestures some kind of emotion, some kind of story.” Second, both dance and language require some training, and as beginners, we are often “afraid to open ourselves to ridicule if we don’t move the right way or if we say something wrong.” Although it is difficult, Dubinina argued that being a beginner is “the time to enjoy language learning, [because you feel] as if you are sprouting wings and taking off.” One of the central messages of this event, Dubinina said, is to not “be afraid to be a beginner, either in language, or in dance or in anything else that you are trying for the first time.”