For many members of the dance community, dance is not simply an art form. It can be a medium for self-expression, act as a physical outlet to alleviate stresses of college life and serve as a way to make friends and reconnect with one’s culture. Just like many activities on campus, dance holds emotional and cultural significance deserving of equal resource and space allocation from UC Berkeley. Yet, at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, the ASUC cut funding for dance studios in the Hearst Memorial Gymnasium.
This has left several dance teams and companies without consistent indoor practice spaces. More than funding, space allocation is a major source of frustration for the dance community. Several teams have been forced to practice in outdoor spaces or parking garages, which is especially difficult on dance forms that are traditionally done barefooted. Not only can it cause injury, the lack of adequate flooring also limits their ability to practice certain elements of choreography. To make matters worse, because dance is often female-dominated, practicing outdoors until late hours of the night could also make dancers vulnerable to sexual harrassment. Some teams have even resorted to paying out of their own pockets to rent off-campus studios.
Mastering choreography requires consistent practice; having a designated, safe space for this form of self-expression is vital. Teams should not have to resort to rehearsing outdoors or paying for off-campus spaces when there is adequate room on campus — whether in the Hearst Women’s Gym, the Recreational Sports Facility basement or even multipurpose classrooms and common areas.
This points to a larger underappreciation of the arts at UC Berkeley, where the discipline is often perceived as expendable or self-sufficient. This also points to a lack of respect for the dance community as an important athletic and cultural art form.
As dance occupies both realms of athletics and arts, dancers — particularly teams that represent minority groups on campus — face intersectional disadvantages when it comes to claiming space on campus. This is exacerbated by the out-of-pocket expenses required to perform at and attend dance competitions, which can include transportation, lodging, meals and costumes.
In addition to making studio space more accessible, the ASUC must offer equitable support to the campus dance community as well as allocate more funding for registered student organizations, or RSOs, across the board. Campus policies must also be adapted to make spaces more accessible to students, as many registered spaces are closed to students who urgently need them.
Having a reliable and safe place to meet is a basic need for all student organizations — campus and the ASUC must empower students to effectively achieve their common goals and build upon their passions.