As the clock ticks toward 8 p.m. Sunday night, a horde of students converge on Schimmel’s Emitte Center.
They gather in a circle and get right to business – dancing the night away. Junior Elisabeth Doornink stands in the middle of the circle, instructing everyone to wear shoes at all times. She counts down from 30 as the crew scrambles to find partners for the first dance. From the middle of the circle, Doornink walks them through the individual steps of the dance – this particular night a form of the polka called the “La La La Polka.” The music is reminiscent of Oktoberfest (minus the accordion and the chicken dance). When the transition to a new partner partway through the song goes awry, Doornink pulls attention back to the center and asks for feedback.
“What do you think the problem is?” she asks. The music starts again, and things flow much more smoothly – there are even some clever improvisations on the original steps that liven up the polka even further.
It’s just another night at Perpetual Motion, Corban’s new student-led social dance organization. Doornink started the club in the spring of 2010
after the Caulkins Lectureship because she believed there was a lack of dance community at Corban.
“We don’t have a dance program at Corban,” Doornink said, “and I think [this club] is a positive way to grow the creative arts program.” Doornink filed the club under the creative arts label.
“It provides a sister club to Dramatis Personae [the theater club],” Doornink said. “Plus, associating the club with creative arts allows people to learn what it means to be a Christian in a field that is not typically Christian, particularly dance.” She said that she, and the current leadership of Dramatis Personae, “really feel like [the two clubs] have common goals in mind.”
One particular goal Doornink mentioned is dedication to growing the creative arts community on campus.
“We both feel a draw to develop an atmosphere that is safe and inviting, allowing people to explore what it means to be a Christian in the environment of the creative arts,” Doornink said.
Labeling the club as creative arts also means that at least part of the group must do two public performances during the course of the school year – a fact Doornink popped on Sunday night’s dancers as they took a break.
She talked about doing a group review, an event open to the public that would require a group of about 10 couples from the club. While the idea of forming a performance group is a bit daunting, the number of attendees on Sunday made the idea quite plausible.
“We have 60 people here tonight,” Doornink informed the crowd as the night wound down, a number that was about twice as high as the first week’s attendance.
Aside from public performances, though, Doornink doesn’t have any specific plans for the group just yet. Her hopes, though, are to find someone whom she can hand the club over to. “I’d love to find somebody to take over in a couple years, because I’m a junior,” she said. “I’d really like to find someone who could keep teaching.”
The teaching element is a large part of the club. In just one night, attendees learned two different polkas – the first the “La La La” and the second a variation on another polka. Both, however, had fairly simple steps and seemed to entertain the half of the room that sat out each time around.
Junior Emily Grahlfs said that she came to Perpetual Motion because she loves dancing. “I came the first time and it was a great experience getting to learn new dances,” she said. “It acts as an icebreaker activity where you get to know a lot of people, but it’s not awkward because everyone is doing the same thing.” Grahlfs said that the first night there were only three boys, so most women ended up with female partners, but when they have ended up with several guys, she said, “Sometimes you get crazy boys who make up their own moves.”
First-time attendee Tabor Tingstad, a sophomore, said she came because “I like dancing.”
Another first-timer, junior Cori Lydic, stuck around the sidelines toward the end of the night. “I came to experience what it’s like to dance with a bunch of people,” she said.
And the experience certainly is unique, Doornink explained, because “well, one, it’s dancing at a Baptist college.” She said it is also broadening the horizons from a similar club that existed during the 2007-2008 school year called the Swing Kids. “But they just did swing,” Doornink said. They also did not have a teaching element, which Perpetual Motion does.
Along with teaching, she said the club is simply a great way to join together as the Corban community and participate in something new and unique to campus.
“I wanted Perpetual Motion to be a way to express that side of the nature of God that we possess, being made in His image,” Doornink said. “It really surprised me how fast we’ve grown. Getting off the ground was a worry for me, but [the number of attendees] confirms that it was something the campus needed.”
So now that Perpetual Motion is established, what’s next for the club?
Doornink said she would love to bring in a swing teacher to do workshops, as well as starting early on Sunday nights before the main event for those interested in being part of the performance group.
Above all, Doornink hopes to build a culture of excellence. “I really would love to see it as a place where we can not only have fun and learn some awesome dances, but interact with the concepts of serving God in all that we do,” she said.