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MIT blogger Ankita D. '23

dancing at MIT (and beyond) by Ankita D. '23

continuity vs. fulfillment and the perils of stagnation

nearly two years ago, I co-wrote this blog discussing my experiences within the dance community at MIT. since then, a lot has changed! this semester, i started dancing on Kinematix, a Northeastern team, which means I have to bike to Northeastern three times a week. so far, it’s been a pretty doable bike ride, but it’s about to get brutally cold…

I still dance on Mocha Moves, but come to at most one practice a week. I spend seven hours with Kinematix and 1-2 with Mocha, so I’m dancing more than I did my freshman year.

my decision to commit to Kinematix full-time instead of Mocha was difficult and took quite a long time to make; I started considering what I wanted from the team during our elections this Spring. I served as Treasurer in my sophomore year and didn’t enjoy it since, well, it was during the pandemic, so we were buying very few things. there was no satisfaction of selling out a successful show, or of buying supplies for team bonding events, since we were all virtual. as a captain, I liked having creative direction over choreography, but the thought of being responsible for the entire set01 aka performance, normally consists of 4-5 songs terrified me, so I didn’t want to be the Show Coordinator. and since the president slots were already filled (not that I could handle that responsibility anyways), I was left with few options.

I thought about my position on Mocha and realized that the emotions I was feeling were primarily disgruntlement and regret. many of the people I respected on Mocha graduated in the two years that had passed since I was on the team in person, and the new members we recruited weren’t able to train or grow much as dancers since, well, they weren’t able to dance with the team. due to this stagnation, I no longer felt motivated by Mocha, and since I felt like I’d lost a lot of time to grow as a dancer due to the pandemic, I wasn’t really feeling being on the team full-time. I wanted to be a part of a team that challenged me more, where I could take on as much responsibility as I wanted at a given time, and where I felt the same pride of being on a dope team that I experienced freshman year.

freshman year Mocha was amazing. I felt like a solid part of the community, I was motivated by several people on the team, I had a few valuable opportunities to take on responsibility with choreographing + directing, and I felt passionate about team continuity. after being on exec and watching most of the people I respected graduate, however, I was caught between helping the team grow and going off on my own.

I talked to some Mocha alumni, who told me that I shouldn’t hold anything that happened during the pandemic against the team, since it’s only inevitable that it would take a hit. they also told me that every college must be experiencing the same thing, so the solution probably wouldn’t be joining another college team. from their perspective, the best move for me would be to be proactive in finding people I vibe with, and to look outside the college scene. according to them, the feelings I had about burning out were a universal Mocha exec experience, and part of the argument against joining exec too early into college.

ah, well. I had no choice at the time.

another qualm I had about dance at MIT was that, unlike in the past, there was little to no culture of attending workshops and improving dance fundamentals. when I would hear stories of what Mocha was like a few years before I came to MIT, I was confused about how things could have changed so much. the dancers who were on the team at that time were consistent and dedicated; they trained hard and often, and their growth during their time at MIT was significant. I missed out on these experiences since I was caught up in Mocha freshman year, and by the time things stabilized, the pandemic hit. now, it’s more difficult to organically find people to train with, and we don’t have the culture of lowkey peer-pressuring/holding friends accountable for training.

after a lot of deliberation and anxious conversations, I decided that I wouldn’t run for exec. looking back, this was the right decision considering how busy I am as a floor chair for my living community…I really cant conceptualize handling both.

in early September, I auditioned for Kinematix and made it on. with this, I was faced with the very tangible choice of leaving Mocha. I hit up the same alumni and they told me that I should consider what team will be the best use of my time in terms of optimizing my happiness; if I was focusing on growing as a dancer, I should be aware that growth can happen in any number of ways, not just by joining another college team. but I went to the intro meeting of Kinematix and decided that I liked the vibe enough to commit.

and that was that!

my decision to audition for Kinematix was pretty random. I respected the team a lot since I had seen them perform at competitions my freshman year. I was interested in some Boston dance teams as well, but they had either disbanded due to COVID or weren’t accepting new members. considering this, joining a Northeastern team seemed like a reasonable choice.

I’ve enjoyed it so far. the people are fun, friendly, and committed to dance. the exec board is very diligent and organized, so practices run smoothly and everything is well-coordinated. of course, things aren’t perfect—there’s a hierarchy within the team where “newbies,” aka new members, are staged less in the set compared to “permies” and the exec board. this is something that doesn’t make sense to me since pushing “newbies” to do more is what helps them grow. but considering how dead I am after dancing in only half the set, I am completely okay with being in less of it than other members.

I’ve also been dabbling in Mocha. I helped choreograph one section, which is the only one I dance in in our first set. I’m in all of our second set, however, and I also helped choregraph a section of that! we performed at our annual dance showcase, RTA,02 ring the alarm, this year rebranded as revive the arts , which featured pretty much every dance team at MIT. normally, we host teams from across Boston, but due to COVID regulations, we limited it to the MIT body. it was still a huge success—we sold out the show, and people seemed to really enjoy it!

however, seeing how many MIT students were on two or more dance teams sent me into another dance crisis. I couldn’t help but feel that I could be doing more, and that I was making the wrong decision by half-assing Mocha and thus being in way less of the set. I thought that participating in RTA would give me clarity on what I want to do for my last three semesters, but I still don’t know what’s best. if I commit to Mocha full-time next semester, I miss out on being on Kinematix for the team’s huge Boston-wide showcase, which was one of the highlights of my freshman year. I also wouldn’t be on Mocha exec, so I wouldn’t have much creative freedom, which is mainly what makes it worthwhile for me right now (besides the people). but if I join Mocha full time as an exec member senior year, I probably wouldn’t have the time or energy for Kinematix, and I would thus miss out on “permie” privileges, which wouldn’t be worthwhile.

ugh! so many considerations! why can’t everything be simple!!!

I don’t know what I’ll do, but right now I’m having a good time, so I’m just going to go with my gut. the post-RTA workshops, which were hosted by two Mocha alumni I respect a lot, helped me rediscover my love for training, so I plan on using resources such as STEEZY03 a dance tutorial website that features dope choreographers from all over the world and attending more workshops with my friends. I’m going to try to push myself and others back towards the same culture of training that I idolized my freshman year. as for what team I’ll stick with…I’ll figure it out later.

making the wrong decision terrifies me, but your experience on a team is what you make of it, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. everyone’s dance journey is different!

this crisis, or series of dance crises, is testament to how much I value dancing and want to use my limited time at MIT appropriately to do it as much as possible. it’s been stressful, at times perhaps too much so, but I’m happy to have something I’m so passionate about doing :)

  1. aka performance, normally consists of 4-5 songs back to text
  2. ring the alarm, this year rebranded as revive the arts back to text
  3. a dance tutorial website that features dope choreographers from all over the world back to text