While visiting Stanford during Admit Weekend in April 2014 I was assigned to stay with a frosh named Paul. After dropping off my stuff, I met Julian, the other ProFro (prospective frosh) who would also be crashing in Paul’s room. One topic that we quickly bonded over was dance: I had done a few high school performances for fun, Julian had a background in breaking, and Paul was a member of Common Origins (CO), Stanford’s only non-audition choreography dance team. After showing us some of their previous performances on YouTube and seeing our excited reactions, Paul invited us to an open workshop CO was hosting that weekend. We ended up being two of the only ProFros at the workshop, and we both got our butts kicked by an aggressive piece taught to Meek Mill’s “Ooh Kill ‘Em.” But despite our struggles, Julian and I still had a ton of fun and decided that when we returned to Stanford in the fall we would both join CO.
Both of us kept our word and joined the fourth generation of CO dancers when we arrived back on campus in September. Fall quarter is CO’s busiest time of the year since we spend it preparing for Breaking Ground, our annual dance showcase that features other on- and off-campus groups. This means that we have only ten weeks to teach ten different pieces, add transitions, create formations for our dancers, and then clean our set so that it’s presentable to an audience. It was certainly a lot to take in as someone who was not only new to Stanford and CO but also relatively new to the choreography dance scene.
But it is for these same reasons that I experienced tremendous growth as a dancer simply because everything I encountered was so foreign to me. Besides learning dance terminology, such as texture, flow, and musicality, I also begain teaching my body new vocabulary, including hits, isolations, and waves. I discovered the difficulties that come with standardizing timing and angles for 30+ dancers, the exhiliration and exhaustion of late-night practices, and that crazy mix of nerves, calm, and anticipation you feel as you stand on stage with the rest of your team just before the lights come on.
Perhaps most importantly of all, joining CO provided me with a group of fun, loveable people whom I would eventually call my dance family. The sense of community I felt with CO pushed me as both a dancer and team member my sophomore year. Although I did not hold an official leadership position that year, I furthered my growth by taking part in Choreo Days, a CO tradition that allows members to present original choreo or dance covers to the rest of the team. Doing so helped me better refine and understand my own style as a dancer while gaining experience in learning pieces off the Internet and collaborating with others. And after jumping into my first freestyle circle and experiencing the thrill of having to spontaneously create new movement, I become an avid supporter of the practice and helped organize a number of freestyle sessions for the rest of the team. And as both a Co-President and choreographer my junior year, I was excited to work with the rest of my leadership team to shape CO’s community and overall direction while still continuing my own personal growth.