Dance, Dance, and more Dance

A dance is one way to get a group of different people in one room to bond over a shared activity. Millikin has three such opportunities: Gregory, Physical Graffiti and Burlesque

Jeri Leader, a junior BFA Musical Theatre major, is the founder and head choreographer of Gregory, Millikin’s tap group. The group is named after Gregory Hines, a famous tap dancer.

“I really just wanted to create a space for people to be able to tap, and not just put on shows and stuff, but also learn,” Leader said. “So, I wanted it to be really inclusive in the sense that you can be any level or no level at all.”

Gregory’s dancers range from theatre majors to music majors to English majors. Membership, however, was a worry for the group’s founder. 

“I didn’t know if people would audition,” Leader said. “I was honestly surprised, the first year, how many people did audition and how many people we had.”

Gregory is a newer student organization, especially compared to Physical Graffiti and Burlesque. Executive boards, funding, bylaws, standards, and the future of the group were all questions on Leader’s mind.

“Will this succeed? Will it fail after one semester? Will it live on past me?” Leader said.

Leader is excited for Gregory’s first live show after two semesters of recorded productions. “That’s such a big part of tap — being in the room and not just hearing the sounds, but you can feel the vibration in your chair.”

Leader acknowledged the pros of the recorded shows of past semesters. “Because everyone is different levels, it gave everyone a chance to have a redo if they didn’t do a dance the way they wanted to,” Leader said.

Leader, who spent the Fall 2022 semester in London, recalled a moment of realization about Gregory’s [purpose/significance].

“[The exec board] told me that someone joined with no tap experience whatsoever, but they just really wanted to learn,” Leader said. “And now they’re in our first ever [live] show.”

Gregory is known for its camp dances, and Leader said they were trying to follow in the steps of the other dance group’s themed shows and elaborate storylines.

Gregory’s first live show is on Saturday, April 22 at 10 p.m. in CTD 300. Seats reservations are available through the link on Gregory’s Instagram page.

Ramsey Folkerts joined Millikin’s hip hop group, Physical Graffiti, in the fall of her freshman year. Folkerts, a junior Musical Theatre major, is now the president of Physical Graffiti. 

“It was one of the reasons I decided to come to Millikin,” Folkerts said.

Folkerts started as a crew member her first semester and moved through several roles before leadership, including dance captain and artistic director.

“I really found a sense of family and place in the group,” Folkerts said. “I think that when you go to college, you’re always trying to find that place that you want to be, and find your people, and that was it for me.”

Folkerts said she loves being able to teach dances to 30 people, focusing on the big picture and not just individual moves. She also loves seeing the different types of people who have auditioned.

“People audition and be like, ‘I can’t dance, I don’t do hip hop, this is not my thing,’” Folkerts said. Physical Graffiti allows them to try, to have an outlet, and to grow. 

“To see people grow through it is one of the coolest things and the most rewarding thing and why I love PG the most,” Folkerts said.  “Everyone can dance. It takes the right teacher to teach you how to dance, but I believe you can teach anyone to dance.” 

The title of Physical Graffiti’s show, “Step Right Up,” brings to mind images of the circus. Folkerts said the group’s themes start with a familiar idea within which the group finds a plot line to flip that idea on its head.

This semester’s show follows The Traveler, a character who runs off to the circus while trying to find a purpose in life. “They think it’s all glorious and glamour, but of course there’s a flip side,” Folkerts said.

Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in CTD 300. Tickets are available through emails to treasurer Conner Schroeder or through the link on Physical Graffiti’s Instagram page.

Rochelle Pense is a sophomore creative writing major and a dancer in Burlesque.

“I’ve always been ‘dancing’ my entire life,” Pense said. She participated in color guard, dance, and cheerleading prior to college.

Like the other two dance groups, Burlesque gives its members a sense of shared belonging. 

“My favorite thing about Burlesque is the community and support within the group,” Pense said. She commented on the societal idea that “you that you have to look a certain way and you have to be a certain way to feel sexy and love yourself. 

“With Burlesque, it’s, ‘come as who you are, and we’re going to love and support you no matter what,’” Pense said.

Pense said she could not reveal Burlesque’s show theme. 

“Be prepared for the unknown,” Pense advised. “Be prepared to be shook.”

Burlesque’s community is built throughout the rehearsal process, including a “show-and-tell day” where the group gets to see everyone’s dances for the first time. 

“We actually had just had our show-and-tell this past rehearsal, and I had such a headache because of how loud everyone was yelling,” Pense said. “I’m surprised we didn’t get Public Safety called on us.”

Burlesque’s shows will take place May 6 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre space. The group will release information on ticket purchases during the first week of May.

“Come with an open mind,” Pense concluded. “You never know what to expect until you get there.”