Widgets Magazine

Lack of practice space on campus hurts student dance groups

The ongoing renovation of the Roble Gym, a previous haven for performance arts studios, has left many dance groups struggling to find practice spaces that fit members’ needs, both in regards to scheduling and physical logistics.

The most widely-used dance spaces now include the two large dance studios at the Stanford Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC) in addition to the Wellness Room under the Arrillaga Dining Hall. With the number of dance groups left unchanged since previous years despite Roble’s renovation, the process of booking locations has become inevitably more complex and time-consuming for the students involved.

“It has been very difficult,” said Tess McCarthy ’16, the current President of Swingtime. “There has been a lot of running around on my part. Luckily, we haven’t run into situations where we had to cancel practice altogether because of the lack of space, but it has kind of taken over my life. We’ve even had to go to 4th and 5th choices of places to practice.”

A big concern for dance groups is the uncertainty of practice times. For spaces that can accommodate large groups, such as the AOERC, reservations are taken on a week-by-week basis, leaving many groups unable to claim a practice time that can remain consistent throughout quarter.

“We have a really hard time finding consistent practice spaces. In the past – in my freshman year when Roble was around – it was easy. We had the same place every week. You could book your space in the beginning of the year and just hold your space,” said Sanchay Gupta ’15, a Captain of Basmati Raas. “Now, it’s on a week by week basis. We have to submit an application to get a space, so we can’t find out until a few days before. So it’s really hard to carve out a specific time for dance in people’s schedule that makes the whole getting together for practice a nightmare.”

Moreover, with the onset of winter quarter, student and university class schedules will have to reconcile once more, forcing dance groups to rebuild their practice times from the ground up at the start of each new quarter.

“Now that we’re getting towards the halfway point of the quarter, things have settled down and everyone’s fallen into the rhythm for this quarter,” said Vienna Harvey ’16, a choreographer for Common Origins. “We’ve figured things out for now. But once we get into winter quarter, it will all depend on what classes the university is holding then. Then we’ll have to start the whole process over.”

Even when dance groups can secure a space that fits their group size, other logistical issues arise. Basmati Raas has been inhibited by a lack of mirrors.

“Mirrors are huge. Right now, there are very few spots on campus that have them – the Elliot Programming Center has them, AOERC has them,” Gupta said. “But with so many dance groups on campus, finding time for each of them in a mirrored area is very difficult. And again, when we’re in competition, making sure we’re all synchronized is super important and it’s so hard to do without mirrors.”

For contemporary and ballet dance groups, which require frequent leaps and jumps, flooring is crucial to stress on the joints. The ideal sprung floors, which absorb shock and make landing far less straining, are another limiting factor to dance groups because only a few locations have them.

“It’s particularly hard for Urban Styles because of the style of dance we do. When you’re jumping in the air, rolling and landing, you need to land safely,” said Rocco Cervantes ’15, who served as a Director for Urban Styles last year. “But if we practice on cement, we would break all our right ankles.”

The issue surrounding practice spaces has not yet been officially brought to administration. Nonetheless, faculty from the department of Theatre and Performance Arts Studies (TAPS) have been in close communication with students to optimize the use of available dance studios.

“I’m in contact with practically all the dance groups, all the time. I have a huge contact list, and I keep them apprised with what I can do and what I can’t,” said Tony Kramer, a TAPS faculty member who currently oversees spaces in the AOERC and previously oversaw the Roble Gym Complex last year. “The dance groups know that we do everything we can to help them. The lack of space is a shared problem… I have a system where you can request at the beginning of Thursday for the following Monday through Sunday. So that way I let the requests build up and I look at what’s available and who’s requested and I fit everybody together like a puzzle. It’s definitely a hand-made process.”

The renovations, set for completion in September 2015, will introduce three new dance studios as well as two acting studios. Although university-sponsored classes will be given priority, student groups will have the opportunity to reserve the practice spaces for their own use as soon as Roble comes back.

Contact Jason Wang at jwang198 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Jason Wang

Jason Wang ’18 is a staff writer from South Pasadena, California, covering student organizations and events. As an undeclared freshman, he has interests in a wide spectrum of topics ranging from Human Biology and Economics to Computer Science. To contact Jason, email him at jwang198 ‘at’ stanford.edu.