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Uniting through dance: Project Fresh and diversity

| Thursday, February 21, 2019

When I came to Notre Dame, one of my passions I knew I couldn’t live without was dance. My freshman year, I decided to join Project Fresh and I found more than just a dance group — I found a family.

Project Fresh (PFresh) is a hip-hop dance group founded in 2006 by Eddie Song. Our members make up the group’s comprehensive range of races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religious beliefs. I think our team became so diverse because of our motto: dance to express, not to impress. To me, this philosophy means that we don’t care to be the “best,” (even though I think we are) but we care more about our shared experience. This week, I asked some of our members what PFresh and dancing means to them.

Alexandra Lopez, our co-vice president from Puerto Rico, said, “Back home, the members of my dance team are my second family. I would spend almost as much time with them as I would with my parents and brother. At ND, PFresh is definitely one of the things I am most thankful for, as my college experience would not be the same without it. Its members are now some of the most important people in my life.” For Ale, being part of a dance group is about the people around her. Though we all come from a variety of backgrounds, we feel a very strong sense of community through PFresh.

Miho Koshi, a sophomore from Japan, said she joined PFresh because she “wanted to meet people who love dancing but come from different backgrounds.” She also wanted to try something different than her dominant dance style of J-Pop. Because PFresh holds no auditions and welcomes everyone, our members have come from experience in ballet, contemporary or K-Pop to no experience at all. We allow anyone to create choreographies for the team, which has made our style of dance so refreshing. Each choreography has some distinctive stylistic elements in it.

Last year’s president Monica Bell, who is black, Hawaiian and Japanese, says that she joined PFresh because it seemed to be “the most accepting and fun dance group on campus.” I think each of our members shares this feeling. Our culture of acceptance contributes to fostering a strong sense of community and inclusion on campus, one of Diversity Council’s main goals. I actually joined Diversity Council because I was nominated to be PFresh’s Diversity Council Representative last year.

Diversity Council is comprised of multicultural and minority clubs, yet PFresh is one of the few clubs on the council that do not explicitly carry this trait. I think that says a lot about our group’s composition. We represent the natural blending of various minority and non-minority students.

George Timmins, the vice president of Prism and the PFresh show commissioner, is in two other dance groups besides PFresh, but what he loves about PFresh is being able to do what he loves with “non-judgmental, fantastic dancers.” When he dances, “the world melts away and all problems are silenced and the horror and injustice of the world can’t hurt.” Though some of us may experience discrimination or micro-aggressions on campus, we feel safe in our little dance room surrounded by our PFresh family. We spend one to two hours just thinking about the music and the movements (and the occasional jokes in between). All our stress and the world outside just fades away. We get the chance to express ourselves through dance and share those expressions with each other. It’s a really fulfilling feeling to see your unique choreography performed by people so different from yourself.

Though we come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, we dance under the combined identity of PFresh. The essence of PFresh would not be the same without our diversity of students, and I am so grateful to perform alongside such talented individuals.

Tati Pernetti is a sophomore from Miami, Florida majoring in Management Consulting and Political Science. She currently serves as the Public Relations Director for Diversity Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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