College Dance Team Central

Friday, May 05, 2006

Harvard Dance Team Gets "Made"



Thursday, May 04, 2006
By KRISTINA M. MOORE
The Harvard Crimson

Behind the sparkly costumes, heavily hair-sprayed ponytails, and overly exaggerated smiles of The Harvard Crimson Dance Team (CDT) are young women who started out as slightly awkward ballerinas.

“When I was five, I walked pigeon-toed,” says former captain Patricia L. Pringle ’07, with some embarrassment, while talking over coffee. “My father suggested that ‘maybe she should start taking ballet.’”

Former captain Kimberly M.Y. Chang ’06 laughs and adds that she slouched as a child and that ballet was also suggested as a remedy.

Chang and Pringle, now lithe and limber, are part of the 13-woman CDT, whose performance this weekend, “I want to be…MADE,” promises to be anything but awkward. With a routine containing pom, jazz, and funk sections—loosely organized around the MTV-style theme of fame and stardom—CDT’s performance will combine impressive athleticism, graceful lyrical dance, and incredibly sexy energy.

The CDT spend most of its year intensely preparing for the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla., at which they have ranked sixth for three years in a row. The team has only four weeks from nationals at the beginning of April to ArtsFirst weekend to prepare for their annual concert.

But Monika Laszkowska ’07, one of the new captains, says the ArtsFirst performance actually gives the team a chance to be more creative and artistic than when they’re practicing their routine for nationals or performing twice a week for the Harvard Men’s Basketball games.

Additionally, while CDT’s routines may be one of the more athletic and unique within the dance community, no one currently on the team had a background specifically in the style of competitive dance; most come from 13 years of ballet, jazz, or musical theater training, says Laskowska. The team is currently undergoing a transition in its membership—former ballerinas and studio dancers have replaced the pom squad girls of previous years. As a result, Chang says, “the routines have become much more difficult and technically sophisticated, with a shift towards jazz.”

Several of the dances will be choreographed to songs that fit the “Made” theme of glamour and fame—Jessica Simpson’s “Boots,” “All that Jazz” from “Chicago,” and songs from the movie “Center Stage.” But the choreographers have also exercised creative freedom and diversity in their choice of numbers—Chang says she’s selected Godsmack’s “Voodoo” for one of her pieces.

Appropriately to the theme of its show, the CDT itself seems very much to be self-made. Because Harvard qualifies them as a club sport instead of a varsity sport, their funds from the College are quite limited.

Chang says that they “make their own costumes, sewn together with appliqués from the Garment District.”

“There’s a dance aspect, and there’s a small business aspect,” Laskowska says.

“Sweatshop element,” Chang interjects, giggling.

Pringle recalls an incident at nationals, at which dancers from New York University who had $40 per day stipends from their school, actually bought food for the Harvard dancers. “We looked hungry, I guess,” Pringle says as she laughs and bites into her bagel.

Laszkowska comments on other limitations on the CDT compared to their competitor schools: “We all do go to Harvard—other schools can practice twice a day—girls have other commitments here.”

CDT practices are no less intense, though, as the team practices three to four days a week for most of the season, in addition to its twice weekly basketball appearances. “You need to be able to sprint so hard for two minutes,” Pringle says of the athleticism required of their self-choreographed dances.

Despite their gigantic smiles while performing, called “facials,” the young women of the CDT are very serious about dance.

“You can’t help but be ecstatic,” Laskowska says with a smile.

Likely, audience members at this weekend’s “I want to be…MADE” will share in the dancers’ ecstasy.

—Staff writer Kristina M. Moore can be reached at moore2@fas.harvard.edu.

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