Over the course of the pandemic, physical activity has become somewhat of a rarity. Though Montreal is, unfortunately, still in the red zone, sports teams at McGill have been doing their best to stay active. Typically, varsity sports teams are applauded for their adaptability, but various McGill dance teams have shown similar resilience and creativity to keep their season alive.
Sophia Monahan, U0 Arts, is a part of two dance groups: Mosaica and United Groove (UG). Mosaica, founded in 1984, is one of the oldest dance companies at McGill. They do not have a specific dance specialization, but rather invite dancers of all styles to join. UG is a more recent group, formed in 2009, focussing on hip-hop dance.
Despite imperfect conditions this year, Monahan explained that having practices over Zoom can have many benefits.
“What’s really nice about the Zoom platform, especially on UG, [is that] there are a lot of students who are not in Montreal,” Monahan said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “One girl is actually doing a roadtrip across America, and she can do this while she’s still in the dance crew since it is on Zoom.”
For Monahan, dancing is almost as natural as walking. She shares her journey as a dancer and the many different styles of dance that she competed in.
“I began dancing when I was three [years old] at a community centre in Ottawa,” Monahan said. “I loved it so much that I began increasing my hours by one extra hour of dance a week pretty much every year. I also switched to a real studio at the age of 12 and that’s when I started competing in ballet, jazz, acro, contemporary, hip hop, and lyrical. I’ve been super involved in the last six years from Grade 7 to 12, and I was even more involved in my last year of high school, as I did competitive [dance] for two separate teams back home in Ottawa.”
Monahan added that no matter how gruelling the training was, she kept dancing because she enjoyed it.
“I was training over 30 hours a week,” Monahan said. “I stuck with dance because I love how challenging it can be. You can never be perfect and there are always things you can improve on.”
When she arrived at McGill, Monahan did not want her dancing career to end.
“[At McGill] I did not want to stop dancing and lose the fitness aspect of it [….] I really wanted to continue in any way possible, so I joined the two teams,” Monahan said.
Dance has been an integral part of McGill’s Physical Education Department since the early 1900s. The department played a key role in spreading modern dance in Montreal. During the department’s start, almost all classes were taught by Ethel Mary Cartwright, the department’s original director, and dance only continued to grow at McGill from there, especially with the hiring of Thelma Wagner as a dance teacher in 1938. Wagner founded the Dance Club, which still puts on yearly productions.
The dance diploma program shut down in 1990, 20 years after movement classes became a part of the Faculty of Education. Yet, today, dance at McGill is still alive and thriving, with over a dozen groups dedicated to different forms of dance.
Dance teams have remained creative in their operations during the pandemic. Recently, on Nov. 8, Alegria Contemporary Ballet Company, Recreational Dance Company, K-Rave, and Mosaica collaborated to hold a virtual dance-a-thon. The event will donate 50 per cent of their proceeds to Big Brothers Big Sisters, a local youth mentoring program.
Offering students a creative and physical outlet is incredibly important in a year as stressful as this one. The McGill dance teams have set an impressive example for all clubs trying to remain active during this pandemic, by continuing to provide a space for activity and self-expression.