Too many people, too little space. When it comes to dance groups on campus this is an all too familiar phrase. The limited dance space on campus has lead to many dance groups to end up practicing in subpar locations around campus that not only make rehearsals difficult but also can be major safety hazards.
BHARIL: Practicing is a vital component for any dance team to reach success. However, like finding that quiet spot in the library to crack down on lectures, dance teams need a suitable space to practice. Because of limited space on campus they have to practice in other spaces such as parking lots of 4 and 7 or Bruin walk. But neither of these spots are an ideal dance space.
Meet Sarah Park, a third-year psychology student who is a director for Core, a team part of the beginner hip-hop group Foundations. Her team recently started practicing in parking lot 9 as parking lot 8 didn’t have any bathrooms. They have tried rehearsing in other locations but usually they don’t end well.
PARK: We wanted to do it on the Hill like at the SV parking lot but the police kicked us out saying that there wasn’t enough space. They said that a lot of people complained about us being here and that cars needed to get through.
BHARIL: And practicing in parking lots has a lot of disruptions. For example, Park sometimes has to stop practice in order to let cars pass through. However, dancers can find Bruin Walk even more disruptive.
LEDESMA: We are dancing in the middle of a highway basically, there’s always traffic going by.
BHARIL: That’s Amalia Ledesma, a second-year biology student and president of the UCLA Salsa Society. Her group currently practices in front of the Bruin Bear.
LEDESMA: The fact that it’s outside and out there is what I think impedes people from trying to join. As our lessons started getting bigger we have to occupy more of the space right there in front of the Bruin Bear so what happens a lot is people just carelessly skateboard through our circle during the lesson. Ambulances and random trucks driving and we have to stop the lesson. And obviously there is random weather events from UCLA. If it’s raining we have to cancel. If it’s really cold we have to cancel.
BHARIL: Dancing outside is never the first option for any dance group because they find it hard to focus on their dancing. Indoor options such as the recreation rooms in the Wooden Center, but they are often booked months in advance.
So instead, dance groups resort to using either racquetball or squash courts or parking lots. Because of the demand from dance groups and other recreation classes, competition to book these rooms is fierce.
Siri Rallabhandi, a sophomore on the competitive Bollywood team Naasha, knows all about this issue.
RALLABHANDI: We try to practice in Wooden as much as possible but oftentimes we don’t find rooms so we are forced to practice in P7, the parking lot. It’s really hard to book rooms, the captain can’t just book the room, it has to go through a signatory which is very complicated. And that’s really frustrating because it’s really complicated and out of the way.
BHARIL: And many times her team has been asked to leave these racquetball courts in the middle of practices.
RABANDI: There have been practices where we have moved three or four times in a span of an hour.
Our team is big, we have about 20 people and we need a lot of room. You don’t want to hit people when you are dancing so sometimes the racquetball courts are too small.
BHARIL: And while having their dance practice disrupted is inconvenient, these dance spaces also provide a safety hazard to many dancers.
PARK: In KASA dance-off when I was doing that, a lot of people got sick because we were always inhaling the bad air in the parking lots and it was just like yeah everyone got really sick. We would go to the shower and we would have black things coming out of our ears and stuff. It was really intense.
BHARIL: And when it come to certain dances styles such as Grupo Folkorico, the concrete can have major impacts on their legs. Araceli Padron is a third-year latin american studies student and the artistic director of Grupo Folkorico.
PADRON: It’s really bad to practice on concrete. The footwork we do has a lot of stomping and we do it on concrete, it messes up our knees, I know I’ve gone through that so I caution my dancers.
BHARIL: The problem of limited and poor dance space affects almost every dance organization on campus. That said, recent efforts by Rich Mylin, the director of recreation sports venue with UCLA Recreation, has been addressing many of the problems these dance groups face. Mylin has been on campus for more than 20 years and knows about the conditions many groups face. Currently, the department is looking at opportunities in Wooden and Pauley Pavilion.
MYLIN: I’m not going to say that it’s right because it’s brand new but we took the competitive teams and we clumped them together.
BHARIL: Last quarter they tested a new model for booking rooms in Wooden. By sending out available time slots in Wooden, usually between 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., dance teams can decide on times that work for them. Furthermore, Mylin has mentioned that there are other time slots not being used such as earlier in the morning from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
This method has worked out well so far and is planned to continue next quarter. However, Mylin knows that this isn’t the final solution.
MYLIN: I know there are more dance teams than these competitive. What we are going to think about for the future: Is there a different way to do this? Can we stay open a little bit later? I have to think about our student employees, I know dance teams love to dance till 4 a.m. but I have to think about somebody’s student and academic life.
BHARIL: Mylin does recognize the safety issues students face.
MYLIN: It is a goal to try to get as many people indoors as possible because one, it’s safer, two, restrooms, so that just makes it a better space, and plus the concrete is not great for ankles and knees. It is something we are working on but I think as you probably know being a student here, lots of people small space, so these rooms are impacted heavily.
BHARIL: Kaufman Hall is the hub for dance student with dance rooms galore. However.
MYLIN: Kaufman really, and I think is the right decision, needs to be there for those students that come in for that major. We are in conversation but yes at this point Kaufman is not an option.
BHARIL: More viable options in the works include the outside lobby areas of Pauley Pavilion and the movement room in Hedrick Hall. It currently has carpet but has a possibility of being replaced with wooden flooring.
MYLIN: I just want to make sure everyone understands it’s a pilot program. Wooden and Pauley to start, and we’ll see where we go next. At some point it’s really your energy, the student energy that helps us make the decision. Right now we are just creating some space and letting it naturally evolve.
BHARIL: Limited dance space is a big issue at UCLA as the subpar spaces available come with safety hazards and disruptions. However, progress is being made and solutions are in the works. So until the next step, dancers can keep grooving to their own beat.
For the Daily Bruin, this is Sarika Bharil.