This past Saturday, Wellesley’s hip hop dance group, Freestyle, put on its annual spring show, Jam On It (JOI). JOI is a hip hop showcase in which several dance groups from the Boston and larger New England area come to perform. The theme for this year’s show was “20 years of joy” to celebrate Freestyle’s 20th anniversary.
Kia Barclay ’19, a member of Freestyle who choreographed two dances for JOI, was excited for the performance because it celebrated the 20 years Freestyle has been at Wellesley.
“We are really excited for JOI because it is our 20th anniversary,” said Barclay.
Simone Archer-Kraus ’19 gave details about the different groups performing and explained the philanthropic side of JOI.
“We bring dance groups from all around the area, professional groups and other college groups. It’s all a fundraiser for Boston City Lights which is an organization that teaches youth dance in low-income areas as a way to keep them off the streets.”
Since 1997, Freestyle has been supporting Boston City Lights. Every year, the organization brings a dance group to perform. This year, the group performed before intermission. According to Rachel Thommen ’17, who has been a member of Freestyle since her first year, the Boston City Lights performance is always a highlight.
“This show is actually supporting and highlighting them, so you will see them perform right before intermission. And there is always the cutest little kid that comes on the stage and they dance and they sing. And they are just so cute and so pure,” commented Thommen.
Thommen emphasized that JOI is a family show which is something not often associated with hip hop.
“It’s actually a family show even though it’s hip hop and people often assume that explicit lyrics and sexualized movement can’t be a family show, but it is actually to support a huge network of people in Boston,” continued Thommen.
Freestyle puts on two shows every academic year. The annual fall show is called “Spotlight” in which Freestyle invites performance organizations at Wellesley to showcase their talents. In the spring, JOI focuses on showcasing hip hop dance and performance groups in the New England area. Famous performers such as Russell Ferguson, the winner of the sixth season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” have performed in the past three years, and Ferguson returned this year to perform with the Boston-based group “Side Street”.
Besides the performances they put on for the College, Freestyle is always willing to collaborate with other performing and cultural organizations on campus.
“If any organizations want us to perform for their cultural shows or any of their shows that they are doing, feel free to reach out to the presidents of Freestyle,” commented Barclay.
Outside of performing for the community, Freestyle has built one of its own in which members can de-stress and express themselves freely.
“It’s just a great big family. I’m a very serious reserved person most of the time, and from the moment I was on Freestyle that wall came down immediately. No one on Freestyle has really seen my serious side,” said Archer-Kraus.
Thommen echoes these sentiments by explaining the liberating nature of hip hop dance.
“Hip hop is very liberating because you are in comfortable clothing. In hip hop, you are comfortable and having fun and you can just let go,” said Thommen.
Freestyle meets to practice three times a week for approximately two hours. The group is completely student-led and choreographed. It is also audition-based, meaning members are let in based on their dance ability. All members emphasized that one does not need dance experience to audition and encourages anyone interested to audition.
Archer-Kraus finds Freestyle’s environment to be liberating from stress of academics and other commitments. Given that, people rarely miss practice.
“People still come to practices because even if they are stressed out, because it is a place of release, where we can just let loose and dance for two hours. Then we can go back to the real world and stress out some more.”