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Toxic dance crew brings a cultural flare to Brandeis

By Alana Hodson

Section: Arts

September 25, 2015

In the overwhelming crowd of the Brandeis club scene, it may seem as though new groups could be lost among the multitude of creative student organizations. However, a new club has taken to the stage this semester, bringing with them a style of dance Brandeis has never seen before. This new group, Toxic, focuses on a type of dance called majorette, which is popular in the southern states among high schools and universities. Majorette is usually performed at sporting events, such as football games, in companion to the marching band. Toxic provides students with a fun opportunity to experience a style of dance uncommon to the North.

Toxic was founded by five sophomores who shared a passion for majorette dancing: Keturah Walker, Asia Hollinger, Mariah Cohran, Kiaina Gomez and Erika Carter. Walker and Hollinger had shared the dream of creating a majorette dance team at Brandeis long before arriving on campus, already solidifying the idea together as fellow Posse members at their high school in Atlanta, GA. Walker and Hollinger both possess an impressive dance repertoire, encompassing many styles from hip hop to ballet, and, of course, majorette.

“Dance is a big part of our lives … and we really wanted to bring some of our culture from the South up to Brandeis,” explained Hollinger. “This is something [different] … unlike other dance styles [like] hip hop and ballet that are renowned. Majorette is only in the U.S., mainly in the South.” When Walker happened to discover a shared love for majorette dancing with Cohran, Gomez and Carter, their dream of starting a team at Brandeis suddenly began to come to fruition. Even amidst all of their personal obligations over the summer, the five founders still labored over their preparations for the start of the school year.

Toxic welcomed five new members after the conclusion of tryouts two weeks ago, which involved a much more supportive structure than most other dance tryouts on campus. This was partially due to the founders’ encouraging personalities, but mainly because they realized that majorette is a very unfamiliar form of dance for most people. The process included a three-day clinic before the official tryouts in order to get the new students familiar with the feel and techniques of majorette. Synchronization is a vital component to majorette dancing, and in order to achieve perfection in that area, one must also be able to follow the lead of the dance captain. Therefore, acting as the dance captain, as well as a following group dancer, was another unique part of the Toxic tryouts.

Since Toxic is a new and unknown club on campus, they hope to eventually increase their membership from 10 to 17 in order to participate in competitions with other colleges and universities. They are working to incorporate more diversity into their team as they grow, because they want to want to teach people about this aspect of Southern black culture and strive to break the idea that only black females can be a part of a majorette dance group. “At the activities fair, we were really rooting for people from a bunch of different races to come in because the whole point of bringing it to Brandeis was to expose culture,” said Hollinger, “Don’t assume that we are this segregated club … we’re so inclusive. We want anybody to come.”

Toxic is affiliated with the BBSO (Brandeis Black Student Organization) because the main goal of Toxic is that others will be able to learn about this unique aspect of black culture, an idea about which Walker and Hollinger are very passionate. “We need to teach people about our culture. We’re open to learn about everybody else’s culture, and Brandeis is always talking about inclusiveness and diversity … but when we have things about black culture, it’s not really out there as much,” Walker explained. She and Hollinger said that it is also important to the members of Toxic to find a way to give back to the community, such as through fundraisers, providing mentor services, or going to high schools to start up younger Toxic teams.

Toxic is currently hard at work practicing and polishing their routine for their first performance this tonight, Sept. 25 at Chum’s, at a kick-off event for a magazine called “Ebony Axis” created by LaShawn Simmons ’18, which features narratives by people of color. Since Brandeis does not have a football team, Toxic hopes to perform at basketball games instead. Because this form of dance is meant to compliment and be performed in tandem with a marching band, Walker and Hollinger are also in the process of starting a marching band here at Brandeis.

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