Dancing’s Our Poison, more commonly known as DOP, is a non-competitive dance crew at Virginia Tech. Initially founded in 2009, this dance team was originally called Documenting Our Progress.
“Over the years, it has changed to Dancing’s Our Poison, the poison being our love for dance,” said senior computer science major and DOP promotions chair James Jung.
DOP is currently in its 11th season. Each season begins once tryouts have ended, and, DOP recruits new members at the beginning of each fall semester.
Tryouts are a week long and the directors of DOP choreograph two pieces — one focuses on cleanliness and technicality, while the other emphasizes musicality and performance. The Tuesday of audition week, musical pieces are taught during a mandatory audition workshop,which also happens to be open to the general public, for those who aren’t even auditioning.
The following day, one-on-one interviews are conducted, allowing current members to get to know the potential members. The Thursday of audition week, there is an optional review of the music pieces in which directors reteach choreography and answer any questions.
Finally, on the last day of audition week, the pieces are presented. There is also an extra credit portion of tryouts in which dancers are encouraged to freestyle and show off any other dance skills they may have. This semester, DOP has added 12 new members to its dance crew.
DOP’s executive board, or E-Board, has 10 members, led by three co-directors: Emily Hwang, Nicole Tien and Roxanne Smith. The directors are responsible for planning practices, making the rehearsal schedule, managing the budget and making sure everything in the crew is running smoothly.
“For me it was a big jump because I just joined (DOP) last year. I was a general member and it was great,” said senior neuroscience and psychology major Nicole Tien. “I chose to be director because it’s my last year. I’ve gained so much from DOP. I’ve become more confident and a better person because of it. Being director is the opportunity to give back to my team.”
The other members of the E-board include secretary Shay Cruz, treasurer Nikki Tsutsumi, promotions chairs James Jung, Minakshi Seth, and Stephanie Luo, and fundraising and hospitality chairs Elina Kim and Jed Osei.
“Being on E-Board is not just doing the assigned job, which for me is videos, like DOP workshop videos every week or concept videos outside of that, but also taking a leadership position within the team itself,” Jung said.
Rather than focusing on competitions, DOP’s mission is to not only improve as individual dancers, but also share their love for dance with the surrounding community.
“We work hard to ensure that we ‘spread our poison’ throughout the community and provide free opportunities to express yourself,” Tsutsumi, a junior biological science major, said.
One way DOP interacts with the surrounding community is by offering workshops at The Weight Club every Thursday at 9 p.m. Although a few of these classes are taught by guest instructors, the majority are taught by team members who choreograph their own pieces.
“(Workshops allow) you to share a piece of yourself with others because it’s your choreography and the moves that you’re making,” Tien said. “Though the students are there to learn from you, I’m probably learning just as much from my students when they are executing whatever I give them the way that they want to.”
In addition to the classes, DOP has weekly practices every Tuesday. Depending on the upcoming showcases, one or two additional hour-long classes will be scheduled.
Another way DOP interacts with the community is by performing in two dance showcases, Coalescence at JMU and Momentum, which is co-hosted by DOP and Bamboom at Virginia Tech. For each showcase, dancers have the opportunity to choreograph original pieces.
“Nothing compares to when you choreograph yourself, and you actively listen to the music and you actively think of creative ways to express that through your movement,” Jung said.
While DOP’s particular style is focused on hip-hop and urban choreography, the dancers, both male and female, come from a variety of dance backgrounds.
“I have danced all my life,” Tien said. “I was very technically trained. I’ve done ballet and some modern/contemporary. From elementary school through high school, that was what I did. But, I wanted to try something like a different style, so DOP was just the right fit for me.”
While the members come from different styles, they all share their passion for dance, which is what brings DOP together as a team and a family.
“The thing I’ll miss most about DOP is the support from the team and the chemistry that we have supporting each other to grow, pushing each other, freestyling every Friday,” Jung said. “DOP was basically where I first found friends at Tech, and it’s kind of where I’ve been through my entire four years. It’s definitely made me grow as a person.”