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UC Dance Company finds new ways to engage with community, despite COVID-19

By Eula Mengullo, February 8 2021—

With the winter semester continuing online, University of Calgary clubs such as the UC Dance Company (UCDC) have found different ways to remain active through a variety of virtual events. 

The UCDC is a performance team of high-level dancers that perform at Dinos varsity athletic games to elevate school spirit. Founded in 2019, they also engage in charitable events and fundraisers that are often dance related.

“We view our club as an outlet for former elite dancers to continue to train, dance and perform” said Kathryn Strayer, co-president and co-founder of UCDC. 

During pre-COVID days, the team would hold weekly practices and training classes at the dance studio, but since they are currently operating online, they transitioned to weekly hourly classes consisting of warm ups, workouts and fitness activities of all sorts. 

“We are working strictly off Zoom so everything is virtual. We have maintained our weekly classes but we have opened them up to anyone who wanted to join because we didn’t have a performance team this year, so we wanted to give everyone the opportunity,” said Shaelene Standing, co-president and co-founder of UCDC.

Standing also highlighted the creative ways of holding virtual team bondings and fundraising events to continue their work in the new learning environment.

“The club looks very different this year but we are trying our best to keep up the [amazing] team atmosphere that [we] created last year,” Strayer added. 

Collectively, they recalled one of the successful events that they hosted in October where Black professional dancers and choreographers from mostly Alberta and British Columbia virtually spoke to their club about the intersection of dance and race, including their experiences as Black dancers and the impact of Black culture in dance.

“It was a really amazing event,” Strayer remarked. “We are trying to go beyond just hosting dance classes and to really enrich our whole dance community and to learn and push each other to grow.”

Standing also emphasized that they are taking advantage of the online learning situation by seizing opportunities that they did not have in the previous year. She says they’re focusing on initiatives that they might not have had the opportunity to explore in the past “but that mean a lot to our team and the wider community.”

“It’s really important to not only educate, but also support these different causes,” she added. 

Although the dance team mainly performed in athletic games during their first year, Standing mentioned that they are open to performing in other events if opportunities arise. Additionally, they are also aspiring to expand their outreach and membership beyond U of C students. 

When asked if they had specific goals for the winter semester, Standing emphasized their commitment to maintaining their impact on their members and the greater community.

“For our members, we are continually working on finding creative ways to spotlight [them] such as through our Instagram ‘Trick Tuesdays,’ and giving them the opportunity to be involved in our club events so that they can take greater pride and witness their contributions in action. For our greater community, we want to again support and raise awareness for initiatives that are prevalent, especially in our current society so that we can continue to use our club as a platform that promotes positive change and support.”

Standing reflected on the tenacity of the entire team that enabled them to adapt in a virtual environment. 

“I do want to add, that it is because of the dedication and commitment of our entire team, and especially the executive committee, that we have been able to remain active throughout this difficult year and so we want to do all we can to continue supporting our community.”

The UCDC is currently preparing for their upcoming fundraiser focused on mental health awareness scheduled for Feb. 13. The event is open to non-members and will consist of fitness activities including stretching, some dancing and meditation.

To learn more about UCDC and get involved, visit their Instagram page

Recordings of their previous performances are also available on their Youtube channel

Video courtesy of YouTube.

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