Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 19, 2021

From dance crew to familE: My two years with the Eclectics

By KELVIN QIAN | April 4, 2020

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COURTESY OF KELVIN QIAN

Qian reflects on the community he found in Eclectics now that their last performance is cancelled.

Eclectics showcase 2020 was going to be lit. Twenty pieces that my peers choreographed, to be performed on the first Saturday of May. From gravity-defying rolls to six-steps and top rocking and epic shuffle choreography, this year was gonna have it all.

It would’ve been my second showcase. I still remember my first, the showcase of 2019. I still remember being in Shriver, dancing and moving under rainbows of light that rained from the spotlights.

Heck, I still remember the showcase that inspired me to join in the first place. I found a seat in the Goldfarb gym, found myself in awe at my fellow students on stage and said to myself “that’s what I want to be part of.”

I still remember my first practice. I was huddling in the Mattin Center dance studio with other newbies as I tried to make out the established members of the club (nearly all of whom I’d never met). Before I knew it, I was stepping to five-six-seven-eight for the first time in my life.

The months passed. 2018 became 2019 became 2020. I practiced, made friends and moved my body in ways it never moved before.

Sometimes, though, I felt like on the outside looking in. Impostor syndrome, if you will. I know it’s not healthy to compare yourself to others, especially in dance. But I couldn’t help feeling inadequate about my dancing, especially whenever I saw myself in practice videos moving in very odd ways, or whenever I ended up being blocked where nobody could see me (to the chagrin of my parents and my girlfriend).

If there was one thing I did regret about Eclectics, it was that I didn’t join earlier, during freshman year. It seemed impossible to keep up with my fellow seniors who were in it for the full four years, to say nothing of my peers who danced their entire lives.

But complaining wasn’t going to get anywhere. I had to practice, watch the videos, get the choreography down pat. Heck, I even got sick the week before spring break, and I kept practicing at home. This showcase was going to be great no matter what.

Then the virus came.

* * *

I still remember the Tuesday before break, the “will they or won’t they?” anxiety the Eclectics GroupMe had about the administration’s plans, until we were told (to paraphrase) “yes, classes are cancelled, now go the f**k home.” I still remember the following Friday, when my mom was driving me back home, when we learned the dreadful news that underclassmen had to move out of their dorms in two days.

To be blunt, it was all a complete disaster for Eclectics. At first, the board tried to make the best of the situation, allowing us to drop all or part of showcase.

Except it was not to be. It wasn’t long before classes were cancelled for the remainder of the semester. The next day, with heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, our presidents told us that there will be no showcase this semester.

That was it. All our work from the first half of the semester, reduced to ashes. Good game everyone. Time to pack up and go the f**k home.

But it was not the end.

When we learned that our underclassmen were being evicted, we went in to protect our own. One by one, our upperclassmen offered their residences for our members in need, either as places to live or to put down stuff. We even made a mutual aid spreadsheet to be a bit more organized.

We clung to the bits of normalcy left these days. In place of our cancelled practices, we had Zoom meetings where we laughed, danced and played scribble.io. In place of dance videos, we shared TikTok videos and GroupMe dance challenges. Through all of this, our board gave us much-needed moral leadership (more than what most politicians give these days). It wasn’t much, but to us, it was everything.

It’s times like these when I remember that I’m not some impostor. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve danced or when I joined the club. Even how well I dance is, in the end, something ephemeral. No, what’s important is the Eclectics family — this familE, as we say — that I’m proud to be a part of. Nothing, not a virus nor my own self-doubt, can make me forget this.

So thank you Eclectics. Thank you for letting me join the familE. Thank you for instilling a new passion to master. Thank you for teaching us what it means to be human — our desire to help one another, our social bonds, collective rituals and shared myths. And thank you for these few short years of sacrifice and joy that, though cut short, will never be forgotten.

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