Mason’s celebration of different cultures can be seen through the many different kinds of dance organizations around campus.
Dance is just one of the many ways people can express themselves and their culture. Through the many organizations offered on campus, students can explore styles of dance ranging from ballroom dancing to hip hop. The more culturally-focused dance groups allow the diverse community at Mason to share their background with others.
The salsa club at Mason, Acuzar, is influenced by a variety of cultures. Founded in 2004, the club shows influences from Cuban salsa, as well as different styles that emerged in the United States – namely Miami, Florida.
“My favorite thing about the club is how diverse it is – we have people with different backgrounds, different nationalities, different ages, different sizes. We have freshmen, we have people that are 50…we have Arabs, Indians, white, black, Hispanic…but we all can dance together and that’s what so cool about it,” said Alexandra Lysenko, a junior economics major.
Lysenko herself is an international student from Russia. She joined Acuzar after her freshman year Resident Advisor organized a Salsa lesson that sparked her interest in the type of dance. Since joining she has gained a real passion for Salsa.
“It gave me something to look forward to every week because I really liked dancing salsa and I loved that we all danced together as a group – just gives you some feeling of unity,” Lysenko said.
The club has separate practices every week for beginners and intermediate-level dancers. Beginners meet on Monday from 7-9 p.m. The most advanced dancers can be seen performing around D.C., as well as on campus. This year they will be making appearances at Family Weekend and Patriot Day.
Mason students can also participate in Irish Dance. The dance club was founded just last year in 2013 by current President Bridgie Weber, a senior and mathematics major at Mason. The club explores dance to different types of Irish music, which includes instruments such as fiddles and accordions.
The club practices every Sunday from 1-4:30 p.m., and can be seen performing at the Intercollegiate Irish Dance Club competition in Philadelphia as well as International Week here at Mason in the spring.
Irish dancing is more than one might expect.
“I love being able to share my love of Irish Dance with people that have never tried it,” Weber said. “It’s always great to see people’s reactions when they learn we wear wigs at competitions and glue our socks to our legs.”
Weber explains that Irish dance is not so much an art as it is a sport that is physically demanding.
For those looking for an Indian-style dance club, Mason’s Bhangra club offers dance influenced by the northern regions of Punjab. Elements of Bollywood styles can also be seen, but their main focus is traditional Punjabi-style dance.
The club’s treasurer, senior criminology major Adity Choudhury, says she joined the club after being involved with Bhangra in high school for two years. She enjoys being a part of the club for many reasons, one being the sense of empowerment she feels while dancing.
“The dance form is traditionally a very masculine dance form and as a female I feel somewhat empowered when I’m performing Bhangra, allowing me to embrace both masculinity and femininity in an equal fashion” Choudhury said.
She has been able to improve her dance while making life-long friends in the club. The club’s schedule varies depending on upcoming performances, but they most regularly meet on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. The club travels to competitions that they perform in, as well as performing in local and on campus events, such as Yard Fest and International Week.
Bhangra club photo courtesy of GMU Bhangra.
Irish dance photo by Erika Eisenacher.
Azucar dance photo by Amy Rose.