College Students Take Cultural Step into Dance

puc-belly-dancing-2015The studio that is usually used to produce The Calumet Roundtable is turned into a multicultural dance studio every Monday and Wednesday.

The class is taught by associate professor Mary Beth O’Connor who has been studying belly dancing for over 13 years. O’Connor said that after studying, she wanted to share with the students something she deeply loves.

“I felt it was time to share my passion with my students so that they could have the unique opportunity to learn about themselves and other cultures, as well as to experience the pure joy of dance,” O’Connor said.

The class requires the students to learn at least one choreography while watching performances to identify dance and style. O’Connor said before beginning practice, the students dissect the language of the song and learn the meaning.

“I want them to have a good understanding of movements, culture and rhythms of Middle-Eastern countries,” O’Connor said.

During their choreographies, students are submerged in the specific culture of the dance by learning about the different costumes and props. The students of the class are currently practicing for upcoming performance opportunities including a dance to honor women’s history month.

Christian Lutes, a graduate student at Purdue University Calumet, thought the class would be a great way to exercise while researching cultural communication. Lutes said she believes the class helps with self-confidence and coordination.

“It’s about women creating their own community,” Lutes said.

Miranda Peterson, a senior majoring in general communication, said she had practiced ballet for over 15 years and wanted to experiment with new types of dance.

“It teaches you to have general confidence within yourself,” Peterson said. “It teaches you to love your body.”

Peterson said that many people were skeptical at the start of the class because they were unsure of how to appreciate their body while allowing themselves to dance. She said with the guidance from the professor and the camaraderie within the class, the dancers became more comfortable.

O’Connor set objectives for the class that are meant to help students build self-confidence, learn about another culture and try new techniques. Once the students became interested, the work began.