Baylor Dance Company provides community for students

The Baylor Dance Company provides dancers like Emily Blackwell (pictured) with the opportunity to continue their lifelong passion into their college careers. The team has a diverse background of dance experience. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

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Students who love dance have found their creative outlet through the Baylor Dance Company.

Carrollton freshman Emily Blackwell is an elementary education major with a dance minor. With a background in several forms of dance, it’s always been a passion for her. After her time teaching dance lessons in high school, she was excited to continue her passion in college in the Baylor Dance Company.

“I knew it was something I wanted to find a way to continue,” Blackwell said.

The Baylor Dance Company practices twice a week, takes part in events like the Baylor homecoming parade and puts on a show in the spring.

“They are just the best group of people I’ve ever met, like, there’s not a single rotten one in the bunch. I love all of them and I would trust my life with any of them and it’s great,” Blackwell said.

Because auditions weren’t until two to three weeks into school, Blackwell said was able to nail down good habits before she even got involved with dance.

“It gave me time to kind of find my people outside of it, but then all of a sudden I see all these girls I know on campus or in my classes that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise or known they had the same interests as me,” Blackwell said. “It really feels like home when you see them because you see them all the time.”

Blackwell said dancing in college continues to push her and encourage her to be the best version of herself.

“It pushes me really hard to be my best,” Blackwell said. “You want to do your best both for the team and just for you, to better yourself.”

She’s excited to return home with her dance degree and earn certification to teach dance. However, she hopes to be able to take part in Baylor traditions such as All-University Sing and Pigskin in the near future and continue to develop her passion before she leaves Baylor.

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“I’m a kinetic learner. So getting to move through my feelings is very deep for me, and dance puts you in a vulnerable space where even if you don’t want to say with your words, somebody can tell how you’re feeling or you can convey a story,” Blackwell said. “It’s really nice to go and just forget about school for a little bit … and focus on something else that just genuinely brings me joy.”

Liberty, Mo., freshman Sophia Spurlock has been dancing for 13 years. She did both studio dance and dance team in high school. Her favorite styles are tap, “because you get to make a lot of noises and just kind of go crazy,” and jazz, “because you can be sassy with it and just kind of express yourself.”

As a chemistry major on the pre-med track, Spurlock said she was hesitant about continuing to dance while getting used to college.

“Originally, I wasn’t going to do dance because dance for me was kind of stressful last year, but then going a month into college, I just was really missing it,” Spurlock said. “I was kind of just looking around either just for fun or to be competitive. It didn’t really matter to me.”

She said she loves being part of the Baylor Dance Company because it’s simultaneously competitive and fun.

“It’s kind of like a stress reliever for me, so I really do enjoy like being a part of the team and just hanging out with a bunch of girls that share my same passion,” Spurlock said.

Spurlock said one of her favorite things about dance is being able to step away from everything else and focus on something she loves.

“Obviously, being part of a team with all girls, you’re going to get the occasional drama and little fights I guess, but really I love all the girls on the team,” Spurlock said. “They’re super nice and super accepting, which I was worried about coming to college. I love just dancing to express myself.”

Competition season is in the spring semester for the dance company and is an aspect of dance Spurlock is specifically looking forward to.

“I love being on that stage. Whether we win or lose, I’m there to perform and just entertain,” Spurlock said. “That’s what I love doing — I’m not there for the trophy or for the placement. I do like competitive dance a little more. Dancing for fun is great, but having that competition gives you that thrill … It’s also a lot of fun – as much as I don’t like makeup and stuff, I’m not really that into that – but it is kind of fun to dress up and get your hair and makeup done and just perform on a big stage as opposed to just staying in the studio dressed in sweatpants and a baggy shirt.”

Spurlock said even just having a month without dance in her life made her realize how important it is to her.

“I feel like a lot of dancers can relate to where there’s a point in time where you’re like, ‘Oh. I hate dance. I’m never going to do it again.’ And then when you try to step away from it, after a while you just kind of miss it because it is a lot of expression and just being myself and just not worrying,” Spurlock said.

A big difference between high school and college dance is the level of commitment, Spurlock said.

“The college level is also a lot more competitive and more technical. You want to be together and be one person, so it’s a lot more precise,” Spurlock said. “Especially compared to high school dance teams, you can get away with messing up and not looking like the girl next to you every now and then during competitions, but in college in order to do your best in the season, you want to look exactly like the girl next to you.”

Flower Mound sophomore Mina Shuda is a dance minor and has been dancing since she was 4, but didn’t get involved in Baylor Dance Company until her sophomore year.

“It was weird to not have it because it’s so much a part of who I am, so that’s why I came back to it because sophomore year I’ve figured things out a little more and I knew I could designate time for it,” Shuda said.

Shuda said the dance minor program is less intense and more technique based, while the Baylor Dance Company is more competition based.

“There’s definitely a discrepancy between the levels, which is interesting, but I enjoy both of them,” Shuda said.

Shuda said Baylor Dance Company gives her more of a challenge.

“It’s nice to have a community of other dancers,” Shuda said. “It’s kind of like a stress reliever, to get to do something fun for two hours even though it’s hard work and tiring.”

The spring show the company puts on in the spring is something Shuda is specifically looking forward to because company members can submit student choreography and other members can be dancers in their piece.

“I really like the creative element of dance. I like that it’s athletic and that it keeps me in shape. But I also really like how it can be used as a creative outlet and avenue of expressing themselves,” Shuda said.

Shuda said she loves how each person’s unique background contributes to their dance experience. For her, dance goes beyond physical motion and holds spiritual meaning.

“I just really love how unique it can be for each person,” Shuda said. “Each person can have their own style where it’s very individualistic art. I also come from a Christian dance studio, so they used dance as a ministry outlet, so I definitely see dance as a way to worship, so that’s important to me. I’m quite passionate about that element as well. It’s very freeing and you can just express yourself.”

One of her favorite aspects of being a member of the dance company is getting to see how everyone contributes differently based on their backgrounds.

“The environment is a little bit different because people just come from so many different backgrounds in college,” Shuda said. “Some people are drill team. Some people grew up at the same studio their whole life. [For] some people, their mom is a studio owner. So in high school and before that everyone kind of had been shaped by the way our studio was, but in college everyone’s coming from different backgrounds so that’s definitely factored into how it feels different.”

Though the three all have different backgrounds, experiences and goals for their dance, each has found a deep sense of community within the dance company.

“There’s just something in my heart that just says, ‘You need to dance. You need to do this,’” Spurlock said. “It makes me really happy and it’s just a really good feeling every time I’m dancing.”

For more information on Baylor Dance Company, check out their website at baylordance.wixsite.com.