Dance RSOs to Get Your Footwork “En Pointe”

From K-pop to hip-hop and competitive to casual, there’s a dance group for everyone at UChicago.

In light of the spreading Delta variant of COVID-19, recognized student organizations (RSOs) currently await further notice from the University on the return of physical meetings on campus.

From the longboard dancer zooming across the Quad to inter-house dance-karaoke competitions, the world of dance inspires fancy footwork within any UChicago student. This fall, we welcome our dance groups back onto campus after a year spent choreographing, filming, and busting a move or two online. With a myriad of dance RSOs to choose from, from tap to hip-hop, contemporary to K-pop, the chances to uninstall Zoom once and for all (fingers crossed) and stretch your legs out are infinite. While we realize this list is not exhaustive, we hope that it encourages you to take a step ball change outside your comfort zone!

The first of our features is NeXus Dance Collective, the newest dance RSO to step into our UChicago spotlight. Founded in 2019, NeXus is UChicago’s premiere K-pop dance organization, reimagining K-pop dance covers from the likes of Red Velvet, Loona, and BTS. Recently, NeXus received the Outstanding New RSO Award for its low-pressure, welcoming environment and won Crowd Favorite at the annual “Where Fun Comes to Dance” (WFCTD) showcase in 2021. Check out the group’s signature killer camerawork and choreography on its YouTube channel.

Boasting the largest number of dancers, Rhythmic Bodies in Motion (RBIM) embraces the widest range of dance styles in one group, borrowing elements of K-pop, Bollywood, tap, and even musical theater numbers. Auditions start typically in the middle of fall quarter for the annual spring performance at Mandel Hall. RBIM dancers welcome performers of all levels to share their riveting, relentless enthusiasm with their equally excited audiences.

Fusing jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop, UChicago Maya choreographs mesmerizing performances that perfectly blend minimalist appearance with extravagant motion. Maya choreographers constantly challenge the limitations of expression (e.g., “Can you dance without having your feet ever leave the ground?”), and their creativity shines all year round, from the Moda fashion show to free open workshops in the spring. Sign up for the winter show’s auditions in the fall, with separate tryouts for later performances.

For storytellers old and new, the pantomimes of the University Ballet (UBallet) are an obvious spectacle worth watching and performing with. Traditionally hosting workshops in the basement of Ida Noyes Hall, UBallet offers free classes every week for the curious at heart, the longtime masters, and everyone in between. Here, fulfill your dreams of completing the perfect pirouette, or learn the graceful arabesque while donning a chiffon tutu. The company typically performs two full-length ballets each academic year at Mandel Hall, and previous shows include The Nutcracker and La Fille mal gardée.

We have a football team? UC Cheer, UChicago's oldest cheerleading team, roots for our student-athletes all year round, attending football games in the fall quarter and basketball games in the winter. No matter your skill level, bring your school pride to our athletic events—and learn how to successfully tumble on the side.

At the heart of the UChicago hip-hop scene, Excolatur Dance Crew (EX Crew) delivers exhilarating urban choreography, hosting dance workshops weekly with professional urban dancers at Bartlett Dining Hall. The group competes at events such as World of Dance Chicago, but for the more lowkey novice, feel free to try out one of its free classes. Groove Theory, whose hip-hop arsenal includes breaking, locking, and waacking, is a competitive yet no-cut group that can typically be found hosting beginner workshops at Bartlett or showcasing its annual Revival show. Auditions are held in early fall and winter. UC Dancers, the oldest dancing RSO at UChicago, specializes in lyrical and contemporary dance and welcomes students from all majors and backgrounds. The group hosts company showcases and no-cut showcases annually, so why not sign up for an audition in October or February?

Bhangra, Raas, and Apsara provide energetic spaces for the South Asian arts. Donning colorful traditional clothing, Bhangra dancers politicize their choreography—a declaration of solidarity among communities of color—which shines at events such as the annual South Asian Students Association (SASA) shows. Bhangra found national fame at the Punjabi Mela competition in Richmond, Virginia, placing first in 2016. Raas impresses with a tremendous quantity of leaps, jumps, and delicate footwork necessary for the folk dance, but perhaps the dancers’ brilliance is made most obvious through their handiwork of the spinning of the daandiya, or decorated wooden sticks. Both the Bhangra and Raas teams are competitive, having graced the stage with their presences at competitions such as Nachte Raho, Nasha, and Naach Nation. Apsara performs classical Indian dances, including Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, and retells ancient mythology with traditional choreography fusions. The group is inclusive of total novices, and past performances include the winter show Layatharangam.

More romantic souls should consider RSOs such as the Chicago Swing Dance Society (CSDS), Tap That!, and UChicago Ballroom & Latin Dance Association (BLDA). Offering classes ranging from Beginner Charleston to Blues Dancing, CSDS holds free lessons at Ida Noyes Hall. As the longest-running nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of swing, CSDS hosts a weekly Java Jive for anyone interested—for the daring who wish to learn the spinneroo, consider giving the Jive a whirl on Saturday—featuring DJed open dancing. Tap That! combines classic tap dancing styles with modern pop music, teaching members of all levels the precision of the step-heel heel-step or the single buffalo. As a bonus, each new member receives a pair of tap shoes, so you can start tappin’ away even in your own dorm room! BLDA captures the amorous feel both competitively and casually, with no prior experience necessary to join. The group offers nineteen different styles of dance, including salsa, bachata, and samba, and its dancers showcase their talents in more than ten competitions per year in the Midwest!

Every spring, several of these dance troupes compete in WFCTD, hosted by the UChicago Dance Council, the overseer of all dance RSOs on campus. Hype your friends up, vote for your favorites, and, naturally, use your newfound inspiration to join these communities in the upcoming seasons.

—Alexia Bacigalupi and May Huang, updated by Alina Kim