For those looking for a way to unwind before Founder’s Day, May 3 will see HYPE’s biggest showcase yet. HYPE, Vassar’s first non-exclusive dance group, will be performing above the student center (UpC) in an event starting at 9 p.m. and ending at midnight.
The event will also showcase other performers including the Banjee Boiz, Shiva Ware, RepStyles, ATS, McGrizzz, SikNik, AdeRa, the alumnae/i who formed HYPE, and Ariel Bridges ’15. Shiva Ware, the Banjee Boiz, and Apollo Sa’Deek, in collaboration with the LGBT activism group Act Out! will also be teaching their own dance combinations in a workshop on May 2. Those who are interested are invited to join HYPE to learn the dances in Kenyon Hall at 6 p.m. on that day. The workshop will run until 9:30pm.
HYPE, which was formed during the 2009-2010 academic year and became an official Vassar Student Association organization the following year, currently has a performance team of about twenty-five students. Its members dance mainly to hip hop music but also to styles such as R&B and techno. The group welcomes all students, and those who are interested can join fellow dancers each Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Kenyon Dance Hall for a general body meeting of approximately twenty to thirty dancers. After attending three of these sessions, students are welcome to dance in performances for events such as Gays of Our Lives, the Faculty Student Basketball Game, Vassar’s Best Dance Crew, QCVC’s Flawless, and Hip Hop 101’s Four Pillars.
Communications Captain of HYPE Sienna Brown ‘13, a Psychology and Hispanic Studies double major, joined the group at the beginning of her sophomore year. For Brown, one of the best aspects of HYPE is the support its members give each other. “We’re very much about pushing people to believe they can dance even if they don’t believe they can,” she said. “Everyone there was really willing to help me and support me and let me know, ‘You look great doing whatever you do, because everyone dances in their own way.’” Executive Board member and Asian Studies major Nicole Alter ’13, who has been involved with HYPE for three years, also appreciates the organization’s inclusion. “We really do feel like a family,” she said. “We help each other and push each other to grow. The other thing I really enjoy,” she continued, “is seeing how people who haven’t danced before—or people who have recently started dancing with us—grow in one or two semesters.”
For Physics major and Executive Board member Tewa Kpulun ’15, who joined HYPE her freshman year, the group’s diversity is one of its best qualities. “We’re not like other hip hop groups around the area that have one set choreographer,” she said. “We’re a bunch of college students saying, ‘This is how I move, and I’m going to teach it to you guys.’ And just the diversity of that—I think it helped me find my kind of hip hop and explore different areas.”
On the flip side, dancing in HYPE has its challenges. “On Vassar’s campus the most difficult thing—because we are the only solely hip hop dance group—is being able to grow more by learning from people who are at a higher level,” said Brown. “I feel like one of the best ways to learn is to go to classes by other people and to learn from professionals and be under their wings. We always try to push ourselves to find new ways to choreograph and perform, but there’s always the struggle of forcing ourselves to make that extra jump to push more.”
Alter maintained that making decisions is the trickiest part of her job as a board member. “We have a lot of personalities and we’re growing and growing, so we’ve had to make a lot of decisions based on how fast that’s happening,” she said. “But we make our decisions for the sake of the group, and I do think everything works out in the end.” Ultimately, Kpulun maintained, sticking with it is really the best way to conquer the intricacies of dance. “‘Practice makes perfect’ is pretty much it,” she said. Her additional advice for prospective dancers is to try new things. “You don’t know what your set style is,” she said. “For hip hop, there are so many different variations. Nowadays there’s contemporary hip hop, people dancing to slower songs, and it’s all over YouTube. You’ve just got to explore your options. You have to keep doing it and doing it, and eventually you’ll get it.”
For all its challenges, HYPE strives to remain an inclusive group that encourages freedom of expression. “Everyone gets to show the things they want to focus on. One of the things I love about dancing, especially in HYPE, is the ability to express yourself,” said Brown. “In other spaces on campus you might feel like you have to conform to a certain way, and then through that way you’ll be able to express yourself the way other people want you to. But with HYPE it’s very much like you take the feelings you have in the studio, throw them out there, and they’ll be accepted.”
Tickets can be purchased for $3 in the College Center and The Retreat and $5 at the door. Pre-order a HYPE tank top and you will get a discount on the tickets.