The Daily Gamecock

Carolina Competitive Dance Club looks to offer lane for dancers of all levels to explore passion

<p>The Carolina Competitive Dance Club poses for a group picture on Dec. 5, 2023, in the Russell House Ballroom. The 2023-24 academic year is the club's first year on campus.</p>
The Carolina Competitive Dance Club poses for a group picture on Dec. 5, 2023, in the Russell House Ballroom. The 2023-24 academic year is the club's first year on campus.

Lea Khalil, a third-year neuroscience student, started dancing at the age of 2. 

By fifth grade, she began competing in competitions up until she graduated high school. And after coming to South Carolina in 2021, Khalil decided she wanted to continue her dance journey.

Now Khalil, who is minoring in dance, has started a new club dance team to help students compete and perform at the collegiate dance level despite their experience or background in dance. 

Carolina Competitive Dance Club performs in showcases every semester and competes in dance competitions around Columbia. The 2023-24 academic year is the club's first year on campus. 

The club has a wide variety of dance styles, each with its own practice schedule. Khalil said members are not required to attend a minimum amount of classes, just as many as they would like. 

But the club wasn't the easiest to establish, Khalil said. The Sport Programs Office wanted her to combine with other dance clubs on campus.

Originally, when I tried to make the club they told me, 'No, it's too similar to stuff we already have. Try to merge with this club instead,'” Khalil said.

She then met with the president of Swpye, another dance club on campus, to discuss the potential merger, but Swpye ended up deactivating. Khalil's club did not look like it would get approved during her sophomore year. But by the end of spring 2023, Khalil decided to try again.

I just kind of gave up for my sophomore year and focused on my studies. At the end of my sophomore year, I was like, 'I really need to keep trying for this because it's something that I’m passionate about, and it means so much to me,'” Khalil said. “And so I tried again, and it worked.”

Khalil said she then started to try and find potential students to fill executive positions, such as Sam Golding, a second-year public health student, who is the fundraising and campus relations chair. 

Golding said she heard about the new organization by word of mouth. And when she came on board, she started planning how they could best recruit students during the fall semester.

"Over the summer, we worked to spread the word, get ourselves certified through the university, all of that. We held interest meetings, we went to the student org fair, we tabled and we just kind of — that was our way of getting out there," Golding said. "Right now, currently, we're using social media, and we're trying to increase our social media presence as well as just reaching out." 

 The club also set up tables at organization fairs and handed out flyers with links to its social media pages, helping gain interest in the club.

But once the club gained more members, Khalil and Golding were faced with another task: How were they going to pay competition fees and rent to practice at Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center?

Carissa Reebel, a second-year finance and statistics student and treasurer of the club, created detailed budget sheets to lay out member fees for the semester to help the organization keep track of its finances.

The club also started holding percent nights, a fundraising night where a percentage of the money raised goes back to the organization. Golding said she hopes to expand more into other ventures, such as apparel and other merchandise. 

The team has raised money all on its own to help pay for competitions, Khalil said. 

Club members have the option of being on the performance team, meaning that they would be in the showcases that the team puts on. The team had its first fall showcase on Dec. 5, 2023, in the Russell House Ballroom and will have another one later this semester, Golding said. 

Dancers can also choose to participate in the dance competitions but are required to audition. However, any member of the organization is allowed to compete in the solo, duet and trio events without needing to do an audition. 

The club has 18 people in competition groups and 10 to 15 people on the performance team.

I’m the kind of person, I'm not going to turn any dancer away," Khalil said. "There is an audition process for joining the competition team."

Club member Taylor DiFondi, a first-year biology student, does a mixture of both performance and competition. She has enjoyed her experience and made new bonds throughout the club, she said.

“I love all the girls and, honestly, just every practice is so fun, it definitely helps that our teachers or instructors are close to us in age,” DiFondi said. “So we respect them as teachers, but we also get to bond with them and become friends with them, so it's just a really fun dynamic throughout the club.”

Khalil said she hopes to continue to expand and stay true to the idea of creating a place for anyone passionate about dance, regardless of background. The club creates a space for students who don't have the ability to afford other dance outlets, she said.

In dance, you have those girls who they have the money and resources where they can practice every single day of the week, and you can really see those results. And then you also have people who aren't given that same opportunity,” Khalil said. “I wanted to give the opportunity to compete to those individuals ... I really wanted to focus on the people who are often, I guess, looked over in the dance world."

The Carolina Competitive Dance Club will hold its first competition from March 15 to 17 at the Lexington Four Performing Arts Center.