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Dancing with Diversity impacting campus

December 12, 2018

Dancing with Diversity is a student organization at UW-River Falls, with a focus exploring international dances and building friendships. The club meets Monday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. and Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. in the small studio at the Falcon Center.

President Chandra Vang, a sophomore majoring in animal science, explained that each week the group gets together and follows along to a dance. “I teach them a dance for two hours. We usually will record the dance at the end for our Instagram page,” said Vang. “Each week we did a new genre of dance, like African dancing, K-pop, Indian dances, and sometimes English dances.”

The group works to promote diversity on campus through the variations of dances members learn.

Dances typically take a single practice to learn, with longer dances will take two practices. Dancing with Diversity has performed at different cultural events around campus. Last year, they performed to the song Danger by BTS at the UWRF Culture Fest. “We did a k-pop girls dance,” said Vice President Elizabeth Rivera, who is a sophomore majoring in social work with a Spanish minor.

At culture fest this year, the group tried a variety of dances. “It took us about a month to learn the whole dance and formation. We had nine performers including Chandra and I,” said Rivera. “We also added Latino, African, hip-hop, K-pop, and Indian (dances). Two of the dances were solo that the members made up, and the other dances were learned from YouTube,” Rivera explained.

The group discussed which dances were of interest to members. “In the beginning of the year I asked for suggestions on what kind of dances they wanted to learn,” said Vang. “If I can learn it, then I know they can. If there’s a really hard part in the dance I can just change it.”

Members don’t need dance experience to join the group. Vang explained, “This dance club is for anyone. We could still break it down for you step by step.” Vang’s background with dance comes from step dancing that she did throughout high school.

Last year’s president, Kaliopi Vanderhye, is a junior majoring in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Vanderhye is currently studying abroad in South Korea. Vang took over the group during her absence.

Vang, as the current president, discussed some of the main challenges this group has faced have been related to attendance. “Attendance is optional so if someone doesn’t want to learn the dance, they can wait until the next practice,” Vang said.The non mandatory attendance allows members to enjoy the club, without feeling stressed that they have to make it to every meeting.  

In an effort to keep the group active, Vang consults members on which dances interest them. “I try to do dances that everybody would like,” Vang explained.  “I try to keep it so everybody feels included. Every Monday I send out an email and tell them what kind of dance I am going to teach.”

Members are then able to decide to attend or not. There are about 15 members, though attendance fluctuates weekly.

The group has members from all different backgrounds, including some international students. “It’s just a place where you can dance out your stress, and also if the dance is something that you want to learn, you can feel excited about it,” Vang explained.

The goal of this group is to spread different dances to those who wish to learn, and enjoy music. “As long as they enjoy the dance, I’m doing my job,” Vang commented.

Dancing with Diversity is a club where students can connect with other cultures through the dances. “The new friendships that are formed and the positive environment are probably the best parts of the club,” Rivera said.

Next semester, Dancing with Diversity has plans to be part of African Night and the International Bazaar, as well as several other campus events. Vang said they plan to continue spreading passion for cultural dances to members, and offering a inclusive environment for all.