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So You Think You Can Dance?

Heights Senior Staff

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

The first thing one notices upon stepping into the Brighton Dance Studio one crisp November afternoon is the piercing focus of energy from the dancers in the room. The girls of Boston College Dance Ensemble (BCDE), who were about a half-hour into a four-hour long rehearsal for their upcoming semi-annual performance, were impeccably precise—nailing perfectly synchronized pirouettes and stick straight arabesques on pointe against a Britney Spears medley, all with the peaceful elegance typically embodied by seasoned ballerinas.

Perhaps it’s not a surprising observation. After all, BCDE is composed of an assortment of skilled dancers in ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, lyrical, and hip-hop. Dancing, in one rigorous form or another, has played an important role in the life of each dancer starting from a rather young age. But unlike the other (much larger) dance groups on campus, BCDE remains especially competitive in choosing its members. "We’re more of a commitment, time-wise," said Hannah Camilleri, BCDE president and A&S ’13. "We do two shows a year amidst various other events such as Arts Fest, ALC Showdown, and the occasional Sexual Chocolate show. We also have mandatory classes for our dance team taught by professionals."

The 29 members of varying class years have all undergone a rather grueling audition process to achieve the position they are in today. "It was fun, but it was a really long day of dancing," said Morgan McCaskey, CSOM ’16. McCaskey admitted auditions were intimidating: "All the officers are lined up on the bench…" at which point Camilleri continued, "We just watch them, for about five hours. We have them in big or small groups the entire time, so they aren’t singled out." The officers also bring in two teachers, both BCDE alumni, to teach two classes and a jazz combination. The jazz combination is then performed in front of the officers "to highlight incoming talent," said Colleen Mara, treasurer of BCDE and CSON ’13.

Mara and Camilleri are two of the eight members that compose DE’s Executive Board whose officer duties extend far beyond their titles during any given season. Everything that comes with putting on a show—from conceptualization, hiring teachers, photography, choreography, costume designing, stage decorating, music selection, and vetting contracts for stage crew—is in their hands. Over the three months that BC has been in full swing ushering in another semester, new members were selected, dance routines choreographed, music determined, and costumes planned all in preparation for the fall show. "Our costume directors [Michelle Prew, A&S ’14 and Sarah Pollard, CSON ’15] are magical people," said Kelsey Barnes, director of publicity and A&S ’14. "Each choreographer talks to them about their vision and they go out on this tiny budget and find fabrics or something at Forever 21 that they can turn into costumes."

When they are not preparing for a show, the E-Board is fielding requests for collaboration with various campus dance groups, and invitations to the annual Arts Fest and ALC Showdown shows in the spring. During the holiday season, BCDE performs at holiday parties for the Campus School, BC’s non-profit special education day school, which receives 100 percent of the proceeds from BCDE performances.

"Campus School is a big motivator for us," said Nicole Harris, A&S ’14, director of member relations. On average, the E-Board estimates that BCDE donates around $15,000 to Campus School a year. "They are so grateful for what we do for them, and they invite us to visit once a year to show us what our money has done for them, which is very cool to see," Camilleri said. Professor Sheppherd Barnett, BCDE advisor and manager of the Brighton Dance Studio, commended BCDE’s tenacious energy, saying, "DE embodies BC’s core principles ‘Ever to Excel’ and ‘Men and Women for others.’ They work at least 14 hours a week on both their craft and art … and they have been [donating their proceeds to the Campus School] for as long as I can remember. So they are not only an artistically expressive group, but also a service organization."

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