Before coming to Hopkins, I considered myself a dancer.
Not like a “tap-dancing-in-diapers” kind of dancer, but I’m not without experience. I’ve been doing musical theatre since I was seven, and have subsequently dabbled in all sorts of pseudo-dance. I salsa’d my feet off as Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie. I earned special recognition at a theatre competition for my tapping in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I’ve been the focus of one too many dream ballets. Did I execute any jaw-dropping feat of the human body? Nope. But I still thought of myself as dance-inclined.
Until I saw my roommate, the beautiful Lauren Francati, dance for the first time. Within weeks of coming to Hopkins, Lauren joined the Ladybirds, JHU’s official dance team, and I got to watch in real time as one of my best friends found her home away from home. (It’s a beautiful process; 10/10 would recommend.) There have been tons of opportunities to watch her over the past four years, so my memory is foggy, but I do remember the gorgeous contemporary numbers, the flowing costumes, the INSANE leg extensions. And Lauren was up on that stage, spinning around like a top and telling gravity who’s boss. It was the first time I had ever seen dancing in a non-theatrical context. And it was the first time that I understood what it truly meant to be a dancer who lived to dance, not just fake her way through Fame.
This matters. I’ve been saying since day one, from personal experience, that the arts are alive and well at Hopkins. But so are artists, and so is artistry. You would never know from a Hopkins brochure or tour that there is a strong community of dancers pirouetting around campus, but here they are, doing tap choreography in my living room and teaching me how to spin across a stage without swan-diving into the orchestra pit.
And from this secondhand experience, I’ve learned that dance at Hopkins isn’t just an extra-curricular—it’s a lifestyle. The girls on the Ladybirds team seize any and all opportunities to do what they love. They dance on the literal field/court during lacrosse and basketball games, produce and perform their own shows, and STILL manage to make time to travel to an annual competition. Don’t ask me how they do it, guys. Lauren doesn’t even drink coffee.
What I find most exciting about the dance scene at Hopkins is that there really is something for everyone. Every culture, genre, and style is represented, with options for dancers of all different experience and time-commitment levels. At Lauren’s most recent performance, there were four guest groups: a co-ed Latin dance group, a step team, a Caribbean dance troupe, and a co-ed Bollywood fusion dance team.
Lauren’s final Ladybirds showcase was this past weekend, and my other two roommates and I were taken aback by our own emotional attachment to watching her perform. That’s how strong the Ladybirds are, in both talent and passion. They understand and accomplish the whole point of the performing arts—they make you feel something. And that’s a feeling I plan to chase all the way to D.C., where Lauren will undoubtedly dust off her dancing shoes once again.
So the next time someone asks you if Hopkins is only for premeds and lacrosse players, kindly direct them to this video. Lauren’s choreography will answer for you.