COMPEITITIVE DANCE FEATURE: How Dance can help with the body and mind.
“Let us read and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world,” so stated French writer and noted Philosopher Voltaire, and although he may have died in 1778 his words still ring true today.
Indeed, rather than doing harm, dance can do the exact opposite. It can be a release, a chance to step away from the rigours and stresses of everyday life and, in a University setting, can be a way for students to relax, unwind and ‘dance their worries and anxiety away.’
The newest team in ANU Sport’s collection of affiliated clubs, the ANU Competitive Dance Team, is led by their bubbly and effervescent President, Erica Coxon. Coxon, brought up on a rural property just west of Longreach in Queensland, is in her fourth year studying a double degree in astrophysics and biotechnology.
She’s a young lady with big ambitions. A self-described ‘Science Girl’ who wants to go into Space Exploration and help put humans into space and, as she readily admits, uses Dance to combat anxiety and depression.
“One of the reasons that I started this club was that I was struggling so much with my anxiety and depression when I came back to ANU as there is so much going on in the academic space,” Coxon admitted.
“When I gave up dancing when I came here it had a severe impact as I didn’t have that outlet for my stress. This meant my anxiety got worse as I wasn’t challenging it which is important.
“When I started dancing again there were a few moments before I went on stage when I was very anxious but being able to do something that got me through it helped me. It meant that it didn’t control me. Dance gave me a focus and a purpose and something to be proud of.”
The ANU Competitive Dance Team is comprised of three separate teams. A Hip-Hop team, a Jazz/Pom Team and a Contemporary Team, which all compete at AASCF competitions throughout the year. Each team trains for 2-3 hours a week during the semester time in order to learn and perfect a routine which they will perform at each competition, with around four competitions held per year.
“Pom is kind of a crossover with cheerleading, so you do it with pom-poms, but you use your technical jazz skills, like the commercial jazz you’ll see on stage often at concerts,” Coxon explained.
“Hip-hop is a big thing out there that’s very entertaining to watch that originated from street dancing, so is far more freestyle, whereas Jazz and Contemporary, which comes from ballet, but more modern where you need a bit of grace, are more structured. Some of our girls can do all three, but most specialise. I personally can’t do hip-hop to save my life!”
Coxon has a strong background in dance. She’s been dancing since she was four years old and has plenty of experience of being involved in teams on stage. Her vision for the Competitive Dance Team was one that allowed the dancing community to bond together and form a representative unit to pull on University colours nationally.
“When I came to ANU I was sad that I didn’t keep up the training and I missed having the structure in my life,” she said. “I knew many dancers at ANU who were incredibly good and weren’t ready to give it up.
“Last year, after Interhall Dance, I saw so many amazing dancers that I got a group of people together and we started doing competitions. We really enjoyed it and it was a great way to bond over similar interest that had nothing to do with our degrees.
“I wanted to open the club up to the rest of ANU as we all benefited from it so much that I wanted to share it with everyone else and to compete at Uni Games. We have so many amazing dancers and I’m sure we would do very well and enhance the reputation of ANU through Dance.”
There’s more to Competitive Dance than just turning up and having a go, although dancers are more than encouraged to do so, especially in the freestyle section of the hip-hop part of the club. There is however a fair bit of athletic prowess involved as well.
“You must be quite athletic and have a lot of stamina,” Coxon revealed. “You’ll use muscles you didn’t think you had! We have a variety of different types of dancers from different backgrounds. Gymnasts and Cheerleaders who bring that flexibility, others who are talented at dancing and feeling the emotion that comes from the creative side.
“You can come into dancing from a lot of different directions and still make the team. A lot of people who come from drama tend to do well as they have that acting skill that is great for dance. The most amazing thing about the team this year is that they all bring amazing skills. You watch them all and are like Wow!”
Dancing competitively is one thing but, as Coxon stressed, its not the club’s raison d’etre. The simple fact of doing something physical and fun can be beneficial in so many ways. If, as the saying goes, music is the food of love, then dance could well be food for the soul.
“When you’re tired of studying you can come to dancing and just dance it out,” Coxon explained. “There are so many benefits to your mental and physical health and, it’s a great social atmosphere. When we go to competitions, we all bond and stay close way after the competition has ended.
“This competitive aspect may scare people, but it’s just one part of it. You’re on stage for two-three minutes and there is so much more to gain outside of that time. You have a supportive team, and a structure, and we also get to travel, compete and see things. Don’t fear the competitive part, it’s not the defining thing about the group!”
For more information on the ANU Competitive Dance Team email the club at anudanceteamgmail [dot] com (subject: Competitive%20Dance) .
Story: Russ Gibbs