If you are looking for an article describing the obstacles dancers face in their everyday struggle of dancing in parking lots, this piece will only give you a taste of our reality. Until you have experienced a 3 a.m. rehearsal in the middle of a cold, dirty parking lot, where you are expected to perform a piece to your fullest capacity and then have to wake up early the next day to attend your morning lecture, the issue at hand cannot fully resonate with you.
However, this issue transcends the UCLA Dance Team Community. Whether it be an organization that has utilized a dance team to support their cause, or a Bruin who understands what it feels like to pursue one’s passion, this cause has relevance to and impact on our Bruin community. It’s time to address it.
The UCLA Dance Team Community is a collective of multiple dance teams that were created for various purposes, be that participating in dance competitions, exhibiting dances at showcases or simply providing a space for students to express themselves. The origins of many of these teams are tied to cultural organizations that have existed for decades on this campus.
The impact of this community is evident today in the existence, sustainment and progress of many of our student communities and UCLA traditions. Since the early 2000s, the dance teams have performed at Bruin Bash, the Beat ‘SC Bonfire, Spring Sing, Bruin Life Weekend, UCLA basketball games and New Student Orientation, to name a few. We may dance to different rhythms, but we share the same aspirations as any other student organization: to thrive and succeed at this public institution.
But for more than a decade, the issue of accessible dance space has seen little movement. On any given night of the week, you will still find hundreds of student dancers underground, forced to persist in subpar conditions because they have no other choice. The dance community’s first access to studio space began with the John Wooden Center two years ago. Yet even with the passing of the Social Justice Referendum, which opened up 24-hour access to the Wooden Center, teams are not able to use these studios until after 10 p.m. some nights because of programming reservations.
Because of these limitations, studio space is often not even a choice for dance teams whose practices finish by 9 p.m. And because Wooden only has three studios, it cannot accommodate all teams at once. While this resource has added relief to our community, it is still an insufficient means to approach the needs of all teams on campus.
With the pending enrollment increase over the next few years, the dance community will continue to grow. Access to Wooden is only the beginning of the conversation.
Of course, you might be asking, why now? Why is it that this community has operated in these conditions for so many years? We pose a similar question: Why not yesterday? Why is that a heat wave hits Los Angeles and we have no other choice but to rehearse in an outside parking structure? Why is it that groups from our community can be recognized across California as high-ranking competitive teams, yet we cannot be recognized as a group deserving of space on campus? Why can our community offer a space to grow, express and affirm identities through dance to every student at UCLA, yet we can’t be offered the space to feed this growing desire?
Every year we ask the same question of why. But now is the time to move past rhetoric and into action. This year, we must begin with the how.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the UCLA Dance Team Community will be holding a town hall in Parking Lot 7 to develop concrete approaches to allocating practice space that our growing UCLA dance community lacks but rightfully deserves. We urge members of the dance community to raise their voices and share their experiences with the campus community. We invite all members of the Bruin community to stand in solidarity with our dancers. And we call upon UCLA administration to listen and recognize dance teams as direct stakeholders in the conversation.
Let’s motion to find feasible solutions that address the conditions that our dancers have endured for years. Let’s begin the movement from parking lots to functional spaces, to ensure that teams can operate in a safe environment that is conducive to self-expression. Let’s mobilize behind the dance community to legitimize the work that dance teams create not only for the UCLA campus but across the state of California. It is long overdue that we break ground on this issue. Let’s make moves.
Albea is a fourth-year sociology student.