“Rhythm Project/Gather” offers frequent dancing and movement around campus

As part of an initiative to bring dance out of the performance space and into the community, student participants in the Rhythm Project have spent the past week dancing informally across campus. The Rhythm Project has been popping up where Oles may least expect it: in the Cage, at Chapel and even in the elevators. These random acts of movement will culminate with a performance in Dittmann Center’s Studio One on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

“Rhythm Project is an initiative to bring dance to St. Olaf students,” Rebecca Bowman Saunders ’16 said. Bowman Saunders is a member of the Rhythm Project “core team,” a group of eight students tasked not only with performing different types of rhythmic dance but also with organizing the event.

Participation in the Rhythm Project isn’t limited to dance majors. Other groups on campus have been participating in the week’s events and will perform on Friday, including Veselica, a student-run dance company, the cast of “In the Heights” and the Zumba and Taiko Drumming clubs.

Dance events throughout the week have included tap dancing in Stav Hall and the elevators in Buntrock Commons and an informal Zumba class in Crossroads on Wednesday night.

“All these things shake up the social norms of what dance is and where it should take place,” Bowman Saunders said. “We bring the joy, fun, and expressiveness of dance and rhythmic beats to places where it usually isn’t in existence!”

Those involved in the Rhythm Project have encountered a fair number of strange looks, but that was to be expected.

“I hope that students get out of their heads a little bit more to find the freedom that comes from movement,” Bowman Saunders said. “It’s been really interesting to see that reaction, but I hope that…people will come to accept movement as an acceptable form of communication and expression.”

Madison Goering, another participant in the Rhythm Project, commented on other intended outcomes from the spontaneous nature of the performances.

“Rhythm Project wants to demonstrate that not every performance has to be super rehearsed or ‘perfect,'” she said.

This isn’t the first year that Rhythm Project has been held at St. Olaf, but this year marks several considerable changes to its format.

“[Rhythm Project] has never lasted a whole week before,” said Karina Culloton ’15, a dance major who is on the Rhythm Project promotional team. “It has never encompassed so many different campus groups before, it has never been located in so many different places around campus and it has never been combined with Gather, which is another dance department event that is focused on a community dance party.”

The event is headed by Assistant Professor of Dance Sheryl Saterstrom, who selects the Rhythm Project’s core team at auditions for Companydance, a student dance company, at the beginning of the year.