Every semester the posters appear. Every semester the Bi-Co blue bus emerges for a night as the unofficial Tri-Co van, & transports students to Swarthmore the hour before the performance. Every semester in the fall and spring, Mawrters pour into the center for performing arts and pour themselves into the colorful energy that characterizes one of Bryn Mawr’s unofficial traditions. I’ve never been to one of Rhythm n’ Motion’s celebrated performances—both semesters the effort I made to be there was interrupted by other responsibilities that now, for some reason, I can’t remember—until this semester when I auditioned for and became a part of the movement. My first RnM performance experience would be one that I had a hand in curating from backstage.
I arrived at Swat pretty early and worked on an essay while waiting for dinner to roll around. The whole team ate together talking and laughing. Therese, one of the Swat RnMers on this semester’s newbie team with me, baked us pumpkin pies to enjoy after the show and initiated a cup drop where we announced the performance’s time and place. At 6 p.m. we hurried back to the dressing rooms to prepare, do some last-minute run-throughs in dance studios, and get ready to perform. Below: Maliha Ashraf, Bryn Mawr ’19, fellow newbie going abroad next semester!
I cozied up in the dressing room corner surrounded by Bryn Mawr loves. I covered my eyes and face in golden shimmer. At 7 p.m., in our all-black outfits for opener, RnM warmed up together for the first time this fall since my audition. We had spent the last four months learning choreographed dances, the last two days getting the spacing and the colors and the music just right, & the night had finally come to bring our all. I had performed countless times before in ballet productions full of muted Marvin Gaye colors and debuts as the evil enchantress in Sleeping Beauty. But still, hanging in the shared dressing room dancing artlessly to old hits and helping my friends with eyeliner and highlight, (and later huddled after warm-ups receiving encouragement, and even later waiting to start off the show in complete blackout), my blood hummed with nerves. The lights went down. The cue for the newbies to walk on in darkness sounded. In one sharp beat the music played, the lights illuminated, and the ten newbies turned from our positions facing away from the audience to the vibrant roar of the crowd.
There was so much laughter shared soundlessly onstage and backstage in the dressing room while we watched our friends perform on the elevated screen. We marveled at clean choreo and danced the moves we knew for pieces we weren’t in, the energy easily matching that of the crowd even though the music and dances were committed to our memory. I grooved in mesh velvet to bubblegum pink and heartfelt blue in a piece named Honey, emerged in smoke and orange side-lights to dance in red silhouette and haunting golden-green. Backstage and hidden in the wings we energized one another.
I’ve never felt more heartened than when I learned that the dance I was consistently most nervous about perfecting turned out cleaner than I could’ve imagined. In all honesty, the piece I was now most nervous about was the one we newbies curated together, to Rihanna’s “Pose” and the classic “Get Ur Freak On.” But when it came time for us to close the show, hearing my name yelled in the crowd and the energy that surged when my friends Lia and Morgan danced beside me in our portion of choreo envisioned in 11 p.m. dance studio meetings, the nerves melted away and were replaced by my love for dance and performance, restored.
Our finale featuring performers from Swarthmore’s Terpsichore & Bryn Mawr’s Ajoyo made me feel extremely warm and loved. That feeling only bloomed when upon returning to the dressing room, my sweet friend and fellow newbie Morgan Fernandez presented me with a rose and a handmade sign asking me to be her hell parent!! (For Hell / Welcome The First Years Week, a loved Bryn Mawr tradition welcoming frosh with creative tasks and chosen families.) I can’t express how thankful I was; I had been hoping she would ask me and hadn’t yet gotten a hell babe. If my night hadn’t already been made, the sweetness of it made my newbie semester experience of the passionate Rhythm n’ Motion Dance Company all the more memorable.
For those who can’t make the shows, check out Rhythm N’ Motion Dance Company’s channel on YouTube, and enjoy the filmed pieces from past semesters or make a game of it and try to find me in four pieces from this fall! <3 Until next spring!