“When words fail, ______ speaks.”
While this may not be a prompt we think about on a daily basis, one’s answer can be extremely revealing. If your primary form of communication were taken away from you, how would you express how you feel? I have heard various answers to this prompt that range from nature, to food, to fashion, each answer coming with its own rationale based on personal context. At Tufts, a lot of students may choose to answer this prompt with “music”, but perhaps even more students would answer it with “dance”.
Dance teams and clubs are central figures in the social fabric of Tufts. The seemingly endless offerings range from competitive cultural dance teams such as Tufts Bhangra, Blackout and ENVY Step Teams, and Roti & Rum (Tufts’ Caribbean dance team), to the Sarabande ensemble, Tufts’ Spirit of the Creative, and the immensely popular Tufts Dance Collective, just to name a few. Nonetheless, Pearl Young ‘22 has identified a void in the dance community at Tufts and devised a plan to fill it with the introduction of her new troupe, Harlem Grooves.
Growing up between Waterbury, Connecticut and Harlem, New York, Young cultivated a deep connection with traditional Black American art forms while also developing her own unique creative style and aesthetic. She cites her biggest creative influence as Black dance pioneer Pearl Primus. Primus, an instrumental figure in introducing African styles of dance to American audiences, performed under the mantra “dance is a weapon”, and believed in dance as a medium for social and political commentary as well as activism. Performance wise, Young draws most of her influence from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose compelling and powerful choreography seeks to tell the stories of Black America.
Young created Harlem Grooves out of what she feels is a cultural necessity. While she acknowledges that there are excellent spaces for Black dancers on Tufts’ campus, there was previously no one group specifically dedicated to the creative expressions of Black Americans. The principal objective of Harlem Grooves is to promote the performance and preservation of Black American dance, a mission to which Young and her Harlem Grooves collaborators have dedicated their creative spirit and energy.
As Harlem Grooves heads into its first full year and seeks official recognition as a student organization from the Tufts Community Union Senate, Young has hopes that the group will develop into a company-style dance group: a space open for dancers of all backgrounds and skill levels that provides the opportunity for personal growth and development, as well as the opportunity to perform and celebrate Black American artforms.