It’s an hour before the Pres Dance Cabaret, the annual dance recital that features the Dance Team and the classes from Dance I. Girls squeeze in front of the mirror, helping each other put on makeup and do their hair in the crowded locker room. They’ve been there since 5 PM, stretching and warming up for the night ahead.
As she gets ready, sophomore Grace Dibble tries to think of anything other than the cabaret. Junior Marissa Proost does the opposite, mentally running through her dance routines whenever she finds herself getting nervous.
Both are members of Dance I, the introductory dance class that teaches ballet, modern, and jazz techniques to students. They knew that when they signed up for the class, there would be a day or reckoning–the day that they would have to show their newly acquired dance skills to a large audience.
That day was now here — December 2, the night of the Dance Cabaret, a dance showcase that is mandatory for all students currently in a dance elective–even those who feel like dancing in public is going to make them hurl.
These students prepared for this night for a long time, but for many this can only go so far to calm the nerves. “We do have a lot of practice, and she video tapes us so we can watch those videos anytime,” Proost said. “Just knowing that there’s going to be so many people watching you dance…it’s just really scary.”
Dibble agreed. “I am extremely nervous for the cabaret because I have never performed any type of dance before, especially in front of this many people,” she said. “I am very nervous that I might forget a part of my dance or freeze in the middle of one.”
Despite this, both of them have had overall positive experiences with the dance class. “I really enjoyed having a break of being stuck to a desk, and being able to move around and dance,” Dibble said. “I really enjoy each class–it is definitely more fun than I expected it to be and I am very glad I decided to take this class.”
Junior Sydney Leffler, a fellow member of Dance I, echoed Dibble’s enthusiasm. “It was really fun to learn something that I’ve never really learned before,” she said. “It’s a great way to end the day.”
All three of these girls had chosen Dance I of their own free will–and had known that they would have to participate in the cabaret when they did so. “I requested it,” Proost said. “I needed to fill my art requirement, and I thought it would be fun.” She went on to say that as she has learned the dances, she has become more nervous about the cabaret than when she first signed up. “I’ve kinda realized that there’s gonna be a lot of people watching,” she said. “Back then I just remembered that spring dance was in the theater, and there weren’t that many people so it was like, okay, I can do this, but now I’m like…no I can’t!”
Dibble also signed up hesitantly because of the cabaret, but Leffler said that it was actually one of the reasons she chose the class. “I’ve always wanted to do something like a play and go behind the stage, and also be on stage and see what that felt like,” she said.
In addition to being a showcase for all that they’ve learned, the performance and their participation in it is a part of their movement final, making it obligatory for all except in individual specific cases. Leffler thinks this makes sense.
“We’ve gone over this dance for a long period of time and we’ve prepared for it for so long, so why not test we already know how to do it,” she said.
Dibble also supported the obligatory cabaret. “I do think that the cabaret should be obligatory because it really teaches all of us how to perform in front of crowds,” she said. “Even though I am very nervous for it, I am glad that I have the opportunity to be in the cabaret.”
Whether or not they wanted it to, eventually the night of the cabaret came, and they all performed. Dance I members participated in two songs, spreading across the gym floor in their costumes to perform for the audience.
Afterwards, Dibble reflected on the experience. “I feel very accomplished now that I finished performing in the cabaret. This is completely different than anything I have ever done before, but I am very glad that I did it,” she said. “The cabaret was definitely a huge confidence booster for me. It showed me how fun it was to try new things and do things that you never have before.”
Proost had a similarly positive experience. “Performing increased my confidence because my biggest fear was forgetting the routine, but when I actually performed it and remembered everything, I felt very accomplished,” she said. “Dancing took me completely out of my comfort zone, but I ended up having a great time and learned a lot in the process.”