The great dancer Martha Graham once said, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”
The Tufts dance department definitely takes this statement to heart, encouraging all students to move to the best of their ability, and understanding that everyone’s abilities are different. Perhaps that is why this is my favorite department at Tufts.
I became involved in the department my first fall, when I enrolled in Modern IV and Ballet III. I started the classes a little bit late, but right away, a girl in my ballet class moved to make space for me with her at the bar, welcoming me into the class. I was worried that the students and instructor would judge me because my technique wasn’t great, so I started out standing in the very back, hiding as best as I could. As it turns out, I had nothing to fear, because the department meets each student where they are.
Throughout my time in the department, I’ve noticed that we all come with different strengths and weaknesses, and the instructors respect that. My modern teacher, Ruka, was careful to give each and every student things they could work on; he didn’t single anyone out in an embarrassing way, but he did help us improve. Often, Ruka would choose to compliment a student for their emotion or expression while dancing, as opposed to their technique (Martha Graham would be proud!). Thanks to him, I’ve become much less self-conscious about the choreography, and I’ve been able to feel confident enough to move to the front—after all, great dancers are great because of their passion!
In addition to the non-judgemental environment, I really value the supportive community I’ve found through the dance department. Last semester, I took Contemporary Jazz with some of my friends. We often broke into groups to perform combos at the end of class, and I once had a classmate record me. At the end, a voice says, “Yes Emma!” really loudly. To this day, I don’t recognize the voice, so I know it wasn’t one of my close friends in the class—rather, it was a very supportive classmate!
The dance community is small enough that I often run into the same students in my classes. In fact, when I walked into my tap class just the second semester of my first year, I knew nine of the thirteen students in my class, which helped me feel at ease. I liked that course so much that I signed up for a dance performance practicum with the same instructor, Ian. My class performed in the Fall 2021 Dance Concert, featured above (photo credits to photographer Nikki Lee and the Tufts Dance Program).
The sense of community in the department extends outside of the classroom too. My sophomore spring, I took Dance Composition, and my nine person class got very close. We regularly had socially distant outdoor hangouts (during covid), and we had a celebratory dinner after our end-of-semester performance.
Thanks to its nonjudgemental environment and welcoming community, the dance department is truly a place where I can enjoy myself while learning at the same time. My advice for you today is this: When you get to college, find the department that creates a sense of community; a department in which all students are known and valued for what they have to contribute; a department that feels like home. You don’t have to make that department's field of study your primary major, but make sure that you take advantage of that department—continue to take classes there, make friends in it, and forge relationships with your instructors. Find what makes you dance through life!