Beyond the Spotlight: Peeking Behind the Curtain of Hope’s Performing Arts Communities

Beyond the spotlight’s glow and the curtain’s rise lies a community of performers whose stories often remain untold. While the performing arts often unite audiences, it is the intricate tapestry of camaraderie, competition and collaboration among those on stage that truly reveals the community of those who perform. I talked to two performing arts minors and uncovered the unique community that people may not see when sitting in the audience. 

To better understand how instrumental community is in bringing the shows we love to the stage, I talked to Aleya Bierma (’27), who is a freshman at Hope pursuing a dance minor. First, I asked her about how she was able to cultivate friendships through dancing, and she told me how the long hours in classes together helped to form physical and emotional bonds. “Last semester I would spend about 12 hours a week with some of the people in my dance classes,” Bierma recalled. “Dance is such an emotionally invested art form, and friendships tend to move quicker than in other areas because there’s a more physical aspect of dance. For example, I’m in an improv class, and there’s a lot of physical contact– and that expedites friendships because you have to be comfortable being close to each other.”  

I then asked Bierma about how a shared passion for dance contributes to this performing arts community. “Dance is just such a beautiful and incredible art form that unites people because all have such a passion for it,” she said. “We all chose to come to college and continue dancing. We all want to be here; we all love to dance so much. The individual people and the collective passion for dance, combined with the joy and movement we get from dance is really cool to see.” 

Similarly, I spoke to Emma Shulz (’25), who is a junior pursuing a music minor at Hope. She commented on how being a section leader advances her connections within her performing arts community. “I think that as a section leader, you not only have the responsibility of making sure that your section is prepared for a concert, but also that your section is able to work together really well,” Schulz said. “Because we do have so many flutes, we have to make sure we are right there with each other. It’s such a weird thing, the better you know somebody, the better you’re going to play a song with them. That for sure has really impacted the connections I’ve made among my section.” In a similar way, Beirma reflected on being on the receiving end of leadership and how it has helped her form connections. “All the upper-classmen have been so amazing in the dance department; I have been so supported by all of them. Coming in as a freshman you don’t really know what to expect. . . they’ve all been amazing mentors.” 

In addition, I spoke to both women about how trust is an essential part of creating connections with those they perform with. Birema told me about how the vulnerability of dance requires the cultivation of trust. “Trust plays a huge part in dance and in performing with other people. Not only in trusting in physical aspects like lifts and holding each other up, but also, dance is so vulnerable,” she noted. “We really, really have to trust each other to share our vulnerability and our struggles . . . holding each other up, figuratively and literally is so important, and to do that we have to trust each other.” Schulz spoke about how collective effort cultivates trust in music. “It takes a lot of trust to play along with people. . .I think that you have to trust that your section is going to hold up their accountability. . .You have to trust everyone’s preparation and trust that as we play together in a performance everyone is playing to the best of their ability to make the ensemble sound better.” 

Lastly, I asked both interviewees about what makes the performing arts communities at Hope unique. Bierma shared, “I think that Hope as a whole is such a special place. Truly, there is something different about Hope that people can’t put their finger on. But I think that “difference” whatever it is. . . really extends into the dance program. I think that maybe other dance programs are focused on the end goal. . . and while the Hope Dance program is good at this goal too, they focus more on the process, and cultivating that community. So I think that the Hope Dance department is different in that way because they focus more on the process. . . the professors are so invested, and the community is so close-knit.” Schulz illustrated how the music community at Hope has exposed her to other communities on campus. “At Hope, people have so many different friends from so many different things they’re involved with. By bringing all of these different personalities together in ensembles, it’s really great to meet people and get to know people that you otherwise wouldn’t. I think that ensembles here really bring people together– it exposes you to different things on campus.”

The testimony from Beirma and Shulz illustrates just how much community plays a part in bringing performances to the stage. Shared passion, leadership and trust unite performing arts students together to create a community that extends beyond the spotlight. By creating an environment where process is valued and different people come together, Hope College cultivates a unique kind of affinity among those who perform. 

(Featured image credit: Hope College website)

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