My activist project is on UMBC’s very own hip-hip dance team,
winning multiple titles in and out of their division, Major Definition!
This dance team has been around for years;
putting on performances and competing against some of the top teams in the nation, traveling from Baltimore to Virginia, Philly, and D.C. with all in the time span of two semesters. Major Definition is a very talented and dedicated dance team who unfortunately suffers from strained and limited dance time, which include buildings hours and most importantly, space. I was an active member of Major Definition from Fall 2012-Spring 2013 and the experience of being on such an organized team, was rewarding. Now, let’s see who Major Definition is and what, both, the Fall and the Spring team of the Fall 2014-Spring 2015 year have been up to!
My project is for Major Definition to have a set area to practice with specific times devoted them. I’m no longer a member of this team but I do know the in’s and out’s of what is helping the team and what is not. First and foremost, practice is key to being successful in anything and everything. Major Definition holds practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (bi-weekly), Thursday evening and Saturday morning. Their dedicated space is in the Commons building, Main Street, but although the space (square-foot-wise) is open and large, there is a lot of interference with students walking by from the entrance to the Commons, to Salsaritas. The students have to get to whatever destination they’re headed, and Major Definition also has to practice; so what do we do?
The first issue with the Commons is that they close at midnight on the weekdays, excluding Friday. The problem is, Major Definition practices at 7pm and in order to reach their highest potential, they practice until the choreographer and/or Officers are happy. Lets just say, with this team they like things being close to perfect. Commendable, but very difficult. So the issue is, sometimes, midnight is too early to end practice therefore; the team relocates to the Engineering building. This building is an advantage because it’s the only building on campus that is open 24/7. The only issue with this building is limited space. Major Definition has around 25-30 members and who need to fit in a condensed space for hours at a time. The tricky part is muscle memory and the downside to adjusting practice areas frequently. I noticed that it’s difficult to have formations, which include space and stage awareness, then going to practice in a small area only to perform on a very large stage.
One time, when I was on the team, we had a competition in a week so everyday after the Commons closed, we would go outside of the University Center and practice our routine there, due to the Engineering building being closed for maintenance. This was also during the closing of the Fall 2013 semester so it was very cold and very windy outside. Not so pleasurable, I must say.
The second issue with the Commons is that there are no mirrors. Granted, the windows from the bookstore act as mirrors for the dance team, but it’s just not the same. I’ve been dancing around 12 years and dancing in an open, public, space like the Commons versus an actual dance studio are two completely different experiences. So I thought, let’s go to the RAC; there’s a live dance studio there! I talked to the front desk staff and told them about my goal, asking them if it would be possible to rent out the dance studio for UMBC’s dance team. The staff worker said, “Probably not because it’s usually booked with yoga, zumba, karate and other extra curricula’s.” I then asked Gary, the athletic coordinator, about the dance studio and he said that Major Definition used to practice back in 2007 in the studio but one of the dancers broke a mirror, which was very expensive. I just nodded my head and gracefully bowed out.
I asked the staff of the Commons, the RAC, and the new and improved Performing Arts and Humanities Building about the hours and flexibility and the answer was the same. So basically, there’s no way of keeping the building hours open for longer than they are already set to.
My last hope was speaking with the director of the dance department. The PAHB building is beautiful and the new additions of the dance studios are flawless. I spoke with Liz, head coordinator of the dance department, and she said that the studios are for dance majors/minors only. She also said sneakers aren’t allowed on the floor since it’s marley and expensive. I understood the rules and regulations explained, but that still didn’t satisfy what I needed in order to fulfill the solution to my project. My consensus is that Major Definition works hard and makes any situation work in their favor regardless of the circumstance. If I had to come up with a Plan Z, I would say to have all Major Definition members pay a set amount of dues when joining and use that to rent out a local dance studio. An alternative for that would be to cut down the size of their team/only take around 18 members during auditions. This way, they could fit in the Engineering Building comfortably.
I learned that activism is hard work. It takes a lot of movement, commitment, communication, and dedication. By doing this project it made me open my eyes to making a difference in the UMBC community and although I wasn’t completely successful in resolving this issue, I know that one day my project will be completed. I got to understand the importance of activism and I would like to say that I’m beginning my journey to being an activist. This may be spontaneous, but the next project that I would love to tackle is UMBC parking because . . . I think that explains itself.