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In spite of rehearsal space loss, student dance groups persevere

Dance is one of the most striking and versatile forms of performance art, enjoyed by people regardless of culture, age, gender and other dimensions of humankind since its beginnings. To perfect a choreographed dance of any kind requires rehearsal, which takes time, skill and extensive cooperation between dancers, choreographers and coordinators. Critically, rehearsal requires a space for dancers to gather and practice safely, effectively and privately. Brandeis’ student body follows deeply in this varied tradition, with a dozen active student-run dance organizations with styles ranging from Bollywood fusion to ballroom to pole dancing. Recently, though, some student dancers have been concerned that administrative decisions are causing them to lose their rehearsal space.

To discuss these concerns, The Brandeis Hoot sat down with Irina Znamirowski ’24, who serves as Vice President of Brandeis Ballet Club as well as Dance Ensemble Coordinator for both Adagio Dance Company and Hooked on Tap (Brandeis Ballet Club and Hooked on Tap focus on ballet and tap dancing respectively, while Adagio incorporates various styles of dance). Znamirowski, who manages the booking of rehearsal spaces for all three clubs, told The Hoot that these groups have typically rehearsed in Linsey Multipurpose Room #1 (LMPR1), a room located in the Linsey Sports Center. LMPR1, according to Znamirowski, is a perfect fit for dance groups to rehearse due to its wooden flooring, mirrored walls and sound system.

Znamirowski told The Hoot that she tries to book time slots for LMPR1 “as far in advance as I can,” having requested to reserve the space for the spring 2024 semester in “November or December [2023].” She did not hear back about the bookings until shortly before classes started, which she noted was “typical.” Instead of a confirmation, however, Znamirowski was notified by email that LMPR1 would be “offline” for the spring 2024 semester, and found that the room had been filled with exercise bicycles. She told The Hoot that she then emailed Senior Associate Director of Athletics Tom Rand on Jan. 9, “inquiring why LMPR1 was converted into a cycle room, and then also asking if we could work out some kind of compromise where the dance groups used this room at the times cycling wasn’t using it.” Znamirowski told The Hoot that she had received no reply from that email. A few days later, on Jan. 12, she was met with a separate email from Rand.

The email, obtained by The Hoot, was sent on Jan. 12 to executive board members of various Brandeis student dance organizations. It states that “over the intersession break we [the Athletics department] made the decision to convert Linsey Multipurpose Room #1 into a dedicated cycling studio.” The email further explains that this decision was made as part of an expansion of “cycle class offerings in both our recreational fitness program and our Health, Wellness, and Life Skills [(HWL)] curriculum,” and that the Athletics department believed that the changes to LMPR1 would “benefit a greater number of students, faculty, and staff, and will enhance the use of the space.” Rand then apologizes on behalf of the Athletics department for the “inconvenience and negative impact” of this change on the practices of dance clubs, and explains that “[the] decision was made after examining actual room usage and attendance numbers for all club reservations during the fall semester.” The email ended with suggestions for other spaces which dance clubs could use.

After receiving this email, as Znamirowski recounted to The Hoot, she and her fellow dance club members were frustrated with the short notice of these changes, and also confused regarding the email’s inference that LMPR1 had been underused: As a member of three dance groups that used LMPR1, Znamirowski told The Hoot that “[she] alone was in that room for about 20 hours a week,” while keeping in mind that the space was also used by other student groups. According to Znamirowski, Livia Adler-Maranhao ’25, the president of Hooked on Tap, was told by Department of Student Engagement (DSE) Program Specialist Bridget Summit that DSE was not involved with this decision—this was found by Znamirowski to be “problematic,” as she told The Hoot that LMPR1 had been “one of the dedicated spaces for clubs to book on campus.”

Znamirowski expressed to The Hoot that the short notice of the email caused trouble in finding rehearsal space for the dance clubs she was a part of, due to the “first come, first served” system of booking requiring her to ordinarily book space early. “I had to scramble to book spaces because I have these times set with all my groups.” With show dates set for the end of semester, obtaining the space required for clubs to rehearse has been a point of further stress. “We’re going to be getting our shows,” she assured, “we are dancing at this moment, [though] it’s been a little bit of a mess with our new rooms.”

Adagio and Ballet were able to find space to rehearse in athletic and residential buildings on campus, but Znamirowski reported that the clubs’ members were “very unhappy” with these spaces. Dancers’ socks and shoes had been reportedly damaged due to the spaces’ flooring, which unlike the flooring in LMPR1, was suboptimal for certain styles of dance.

Gosman Dance Studio, Znamirowski explained, was one of the most desirable spaces for dance rehearsal sessions outside of LMPR1. However, she expressed several criticisms of the space. Because the room had priority reservation for the HWL program, and other reservations had been made earlier, there was little availability to reserve it for her organizations. Additionally, the room itself was said by Znamirowski to have “incredibly slippery” floors, which can be “very dangerous for [certain styles] of dance.” The room’s walls are heavily windowed, which Znamirowski claimed presented a challenge to her organizations’ values. “That might not be … a deal breaker on a space, but it is really difficult for all three clubs that I’m a part of. … Our goal is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where [no] matter the dance background … or the level of experience you have, there’s a place for you in that club … The problem is that when you have a room lined with mirrors, it’s really hard to encourage people to join your club when you know … that people, at some point, are gonna stand and watch.” While dance is ultimately a performance art, Znamirowski elaborated, dancers—especially those with little to no experience—require some level of privacy to rehearse. “If you’re trying something new for the first time, you really don’t want people watching”

For Hooked on Tap, the loss of LMPR1 presents a more existential problem. Tap dance, the style the club specializes in, features dancers wearing specialized metal-tipped shoes that create a rhythmic acoustic effect to accompany dancers’ movements. “So much of tap is being able to hear the sounds that you’re making,” explained Znamirowski, “and to be able to hear that the sounds that you are making are the exact same as the sounds that the person standing next to you is making.” Znamirowski explained to The Hoot that the club has been barred from practicing in many of the alternative spaces—including Gosman Dance Studio—due to concern that the dancers’ shoes would scuff floors. The alternative rehearsal spaces presented to Znamirowski, she told The Hoot, included Levin Ballroom and the Sherman Function Hall. These suggestions were unsatisfactory for her, as she explained that clubs could only book Levin Ballroom for two days per semester, while Sherman Function Hall had carpeted floors, which would absorb the impact of dancers’ shoes and not produce the required acoustic effect needed for tap dancers to effectively practice.

Other space suggestions given for dance clubs to use included Linsey Multipurpose Rooms #3 (LMPR3) and #4 (LMPR4), which Znamirowski claimed were unfit for dance rehearsal. “[LMPR3] is covered in mats. It’s not a dance floor. … [LMPR4 has] a weird rubbery texture to the floor. This is the room that ping-pong happens in. This room, quite frankly, is also pretty hazardous … If you’re dancing on that kind of surface, [and] say you’re doing a turn, [it increases the likelihood of] the shoe stopping, but your momentum causes you to continue rotating[, increasing] risk of ankle and knee injuries.” Znamirowski also mentioned that LMPR4’s other users typically wear outdoor shoes when using the space, leading to “sand, pebbles [and] rocks” strewn across the floor. “[It’s] not good to have that trapped under your foot if you’re dancing barefoot.” The Village Multipurpose Room and Rosenthal East Dance Studio were also suggested as rehearsal spaces, though Znamirowski noted that both rooms were small, with the Rosenthal studio being “in not good condition,” and the Village room being “booked by other groups all the time.”

Znamirowski emphasized that she wanted dance clubs to continue using LMPR1, and that she was happy to work out a compromise where the space could be used for cycling as well as dance rehearsal. “I don’t have a problem sharing the space with cycling,” she elaborated. “[The dance groups] are perfectly fine if this means we need to move the bikes in and out of the hallway.”

“We’re kind of unsure what to do,” Znamirowski told The Hoot. “It feels like we’re being met with bureaucracy on every front.” She elaborated on the significance of LMPR1 to student dancers at Brandeis: “I’m very proud of the shows that we put together last semester for Tap, Adagio and Ballet … but we got there because we had adequate work. We had … the dedication of our dancers and the community that we built, but [we also] had a space that was conducive for safety and everything else, which … we don’t have this semester. Within the clubs, … [LMPR1 felt like] our space, and I think … people are feeling it, like people are frustrated by the floors, by not hearing the music [for tap dancing], not even having a set time or set rehearsal space yet.”

Znamirowski concluded by talking about longevity for the dance clubs she is a part of. “… After I graduate, I’d be very sad if … this is how Brandeis dance is gonna continue. Because I really think, like in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen such a transformation in these … three clubs. I hope that they will continue in this upward trajectory, and I’m sure they will. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. And I’m sure we’ll make something work this semester, but it would be nice if we had more … university support and if we … were able to work on a compromise. I’m all for the HWL program. … Cycling is so much fun. I don’t know why I can’t share the room with cycling. I really think it’s possible to share the room, or to work out something else that we can have one space for. And like I said, I’m a part of three dance clubs. There are so many more dance groups on campus. So I’m a very small sample size of the people that want this room.”

The Hoot additionally reached out to Rand for comment, who wrote that “[the Athletics department] wanted to enhance our recreational fitness program and [HWL] curriculum by both expanding our cycling class offerings and improving on the cycling experience. To do so, we needed a dedicated space and [LMPR1] (a converted racquetball court) was identified as the best location.” Rand added that “[i]t may be helpful for the community to understand that prior to this change, the cycles were stored in a hallway and needed to either be used in the hallway or moved by class participants in and out of a room every time they were used. This caused damage to the cycles, the facility, and was a deterrent to participation in cycling classes.”

On the subject of the usage of LMPR1, Rand confirmed that the Athletics department was set on converting the space to a dedicated cycling studio. “We will be adding a new sound system, lighting, a projector, and video screens. We will be increasing the number of cycling classes and HWL courses offered in the fall. We are very excited for the immersive fitness experience the room will provide in the future, and the positive impact it will have on our programs.” Additionally, Rand wrote to The Hoot that “[o]ur cycling group exercise classes have seen an increase in attendance this semester. All feedback from participants and instructors has been positive. The cycling club has been practicing in the room, and our strength and conditioning coaches have been using it for team workouts.”

Rand concluded by stating to The Hoot that “[a]ll campus organizations are able to reserve space in Gosman and Linsey. We have a large Dance Studio and 5 other activity rooms that can accommodate dance groups. The three clubs that most frequently booked [LMPR1] last semester have a combined 299 reservations in Gosman and Linsey for the spring semester. I am not sure if they are also practicing in other spaces across campus.”

The Hoot also asked Rand to elaborate on the extent to which DSE had been involved in the decision to convert LMPR1 to a cycling studio, but did not receive a response to this question.

Editor’s Note: Arts editor Naomi Stephenson ’26, who is a member of the Brandeis Ballet Club, did not participate in the writing or editing of this article.

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