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Op-Ed | Banning Tufts Dance Collective would be a mistake

Published: Monday, December 9, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 09:12

One of the most liberating, healthy and character-building things that I have learned at Tufts is the ability to balter. To “balter” is to dance gracelessly without particular art or style but perhaps with some enjoyment. Tufts Dance Collective is the ultimate showcase of baltering: an equal opportunity, all-inclusive celebration of movement for the sake of movement. 

I’ve been fortunate in my time at Tufts to participate in five TDC dances and to choreograph a performance. TDC has been an integral part of my Tufts experience, and I firmly believe that to cancel TDC would be a mistake on behalf of the administration. Nobody is denying that some aspects of TDC must be improved upon; at Saturday’s show, several students became a danger to themselves and to others. However, TDC is worth saving. 

TDC is one of Tufts’ biggest clubs, attracting hundreds of student dancers from a wide range of interests, activities, and majors. I personally participated in a ski team dance, an ATO dance, a biology majors dance and a wilderness dance. Most of my fellow dancers are people whose paths I might not have otherwise crossed, which is one of the most valuable parts of TDC. The desire to dance foolishly onstage arguably unites more Tufts students any other club or activity. To ban TDC would be to rob Tufts’ community of the two nights a year when hundreds of students come together to make fools of themselves in front of an audience.

Furthermore, TDC can be a healthy outlet for many people. During a long week of exams and projects, taking an hour or two to break out of Tisch Library and do some cardio at TDC practice can be the best kind of medicine. It’s a unique kind of interruption to the daily grind that few other clubs can provide with the same level of accessibility and minimum stress. 

Perhaps most importantly, TDC is an activity that, to me, embodies what makes Tufts so great. It is a distinctively Tufts experience in which 500 students — who ordinarily self-segregate in fraternities, activist groups, culture houses, sports teams, pre-orientation programs and interest groups — unite, mingle and make memories.

Understandably, TDC can’t continue in the same format given the events of last Saturday, when several students needed medical attention for excessive drinking or injuries. But if the TDC board and the administration work together to adapt TDC’s format and create a culture of responsible behavior, TDC can be salvaged. 

Perhaps one solution would be to eliminate the mid-game, when dancers leave Cohen auditorium to drink alcohol before the second show, by scheduling the shows back-to-back. Another solution would be to arrange a Friday show and a Saturday show rather than having two shows on the same night; this way, the impetus to binge drink is lessened. Another option could be to host TDC outside this spring on a stage, similar to the format of the O-Show, which would minimize damage to the new Cohen auditorium. 

Finally, it is important to understand how we got to this point: Why is binge drinking such a pervasive issue at TDC, and why has it continued to be a problem at other events like Fall Ball and Winter Bash? Unlike big sports schools where Saturday football tailgates provide a weekly excuse for hundreds of students to intermingle and have a good time together, Tufts only hosts a few events a year that unite a sizable portion of the student body. These events, including Fall Gala, Winter Ball, Spring Fling, Homecoming and TDC, inspire binge drinking not because the events themselves are faulty but because students feel pressured to make these events ‘special’ or ‘memorable’ by drinking alcohol or taking drugs. The administration needs to address how to change this attitude rather than just canceling events every year. 

Perhaps the most widely circulated image from Saturday’s performance is the picture of the last dance to perform mimicking the hand sign of rebellion from the Hunger Games in solidarity with the audience after TUPD shut down the second show. This photo reflects what a special and important event TDC is to hundreds of students — to cancel it would be to eliminate an irreplaceable part of Tufts culture.

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