Dancing Dukes

This new club works to create a stress-free environment where students can leave the studio with an open mind. No previous dancing experience is required and all students are encouraged to come out. 

Music bounces off the walls in the studio while eager students fill the room to attend dance classes and learn choreography from student teachers. With students’ hard work and dedication, a new club was introduced to campus this year. The Dancing Dukes are creating opportunities for those who love dance to express their passion with no limits based on experience or skill. The organization, which makes having fun a top priority, aims for participants to be able to develop their dancing skills and perform in a judgment-free environment.

After a full fall semester of Creating Excellent Organizations workshops through the Student Activities and Involvement Office, the Dancing Dukes officially began their practices this semester.

The club offers technique classes and teaches styles in contemporary, tap, hip-hop and jazz. The technique class consists of stretching, leaps, turns and a review on the basic fundamentals of dance. Each class is taught by designated student members who are most passionate about the particular style of dance they’re teaching. They want those who take the class to learn their personal style while performing their choreography, feeling the same rhythm they do. 

“I have been thanked many times for deciding to start this club and it has changed my life seeing I’ve helped people grow and have experiences at JMU,” Raquel Dash, a sophomore psychology major and president of the Dancing Dukes, said.

This club is a way for Dash to escape reality and live with the music she’s dancing to. 

Dash began dancing when she was two years old and wanted to continue her passion into college. Her favorite style of dance is tap. However, after teaching multiple hip-hop classes with the club, she’s grown to love that style, too.

“Dancing allows me to explore the feelings and words that I cannot physically say,” Dash said. “I feel free and relaxed when I am dancing and it has always been a major passion of mine.”

Practices are held at UREC with flexible attendance — if you can’t make a few of the practices, there’s no penalty. Students of all levels can take classes each week. They can also pick and choose which classes they wish to attend rather than committing to a specific one. With each class focusing on a certain style, students typically learn a choreographed routine during practice.

As Dash says, the club’s motto is “come to one, come to all.”

Dash encourages those who share her love for dance to explore all styles and wants dancers to step outside of their comfort zone. They may find more styles they’re interested in.

“Everyone in the club is so passionate about dance or exploring dance,” Dash said. “We’re one big dancing family.” 

The Dancing Dukes gives dancers a few hours a week to step away from their academics and busy schedules and to step in to a stress-free studio. 

“The whole idea about the club is to have a relaxed, fun and safe space for all members,” Dash said. 

The Dancing Dukes are looking to share its talent with all who are interested. 

“I love the vibe,” Hannah Breen, a freshman theatre major and member of the Dancing Dukes, said. “I’ve been to one class so far and everyone’s so welcoming and laid back.” 

Breen has been dancing for about 15 years. Like Dash, her favorite style is tap due to its high energy. Breen decided that the Dancing Dukes was the best way to keep dance in her life while balancing academics due to the club’s minimal commitment. 

“I love nearly all aspects of dance, but performing is my favorite,” Skylar Solomon, a freshman psychology major and member of the Dancing Dukes, said. 

She plans to be a part of the performance troupe, which consists of additional practices, giving her the opportunity to perform throughout the semester. The performance troupe is an optional group for dancers who are interested in doing more performances in addition to an end-of-semester showcase. These particular students will also be performing at MadiTHON and Spotswood Elementary School. 

Solomon’s favorite style of dance is contemporary. She loves the different styles of choreography she can explore within it and the genre of music to which she’s dancing to. She’s also involved with tap and hip-hop. 

Solomon has been dancing all of her life and was looking to join a dance club in college. When she heard about the Dancing Dukes at its interest meeting, she felt it was a good fit due to the relaxed commitment. The club has given her the opportunity to meet new friends who she shares a common interest with.

The Dancing Dukes aim to be an ideal club for students who share the desire to dance and are looking for a home away from home where they can learn choreography, improve their technique and showcase their abilities. 

“Coming to class is a relief from stress and a place for people to be open and themselves,” Dash said. “There is no time commitment and it is solely here for people to make friends and do what they love — dance.”   

Contact Maria Keuler at keulermc@dukes.jmu.eduFor more on culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.

Maria Keuler is a senior media arts & design and Spanish double major. She writes about what she loves — fitness and a healthy lifestyle. If all goes as planned with her future, you'll catch her on TV in the mornings broadcasting your local news.