Hope College is famously rich in tradition. Whether it be small things like the “Brinner” held every exam week, sports events like the Hope v. Calvin rivalry game, or campus-wide events like the Pull, students revel in the many traditions, times they can look forward to year after year. For ladies especially, Nykerk holds a special place among Hope traditions, a yearly competition based not on intimidation but on love. Each year, freshman and sophomore girls can sign up to be a part of Nykerk song, play or oration.
Throw on a pair of white gloves, a beautiful dress or a costume with boldly drawn lines on your face and come express yourself through your voice, your acting or your words. I speak solely from my experience in Odd Year Song, but Nykerk truly shaped my experience at Hope. For someone who struggled in the beginning of freshman year, Nykerk gave me a community with a common goal, which only flourished in our second year together. Here are four reasons why I would encourage every single girl in Even Year Nykerk to return next year, and why we should all encourage the incoming class of 2023 to join this tradition:
Practices evenly balance seriousness and fun.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I sometimes dread going to class or work. But regardless of how stressed I am, I have never dreaded going to Nykerk practice. In fact, oftentimes I’ve found that the time commitment of Nykerk keeps me grounded and joyful within times of stress. This year, with a packed homework schedule full of hundreds of pages of reading per night, as well as working three jobs, I’ve found myself looking forward to Nykerk above everything else, a few hours every night to lose track of my anxieties and do something I truly enjoy. Of course, Nykerk involves a lot of hard work, memorization and crisp, perfect timing. Despite this, practices are full of joy; my cheeks often hurting from laughter at the end of practices. Inside jokes, morale boy skits and constant laughter keep practices light and fun, so even the longest and most repetitive of rehearsals create new Nykerk memories.
Nykerk is a community of support.
The concept of “Nykerk love” is real. Within Odd Year, girls form bonds with the people in their row for song. In fact, I met one of my best friends bonding over our song in freshman year. Play girls are so close, they’re practically family. Oration coaches become like mothers to their orator. Moralers provide support to their girls by giving gifts suited to their interests (for me, Reese’s cups and SpiderMan), moving sets or leading song girls to their rows on Nykerk night, and performing skits like a talentless talent show, a murder mystery or a funeral service for a gourd to make us laugh and relax at the end of practices. This community of love is not just within your year but extended to the other year as well. Song girls have what are referred to as “Secret Sisters,” where one sophomore girl will anonymously buy a freshman girl small gifts and make supportive posters and notes. My secret sister in freshman year, who I happen to still be friends with, left notes and gifts like slipper socks outside my door. She reached out to me before and after Nykerk to wish me luck and to congratulate me, helping to ease my nerves. I tried to imitate her when moraling my girls, making sure they knew that even though we were from opposite years, I was rooting for them. The girls of Nykerk show that competition doesn’t have to be bitter and intense; in the end, everyone is supportive, regardless of who wins.
It is exciting and rewarding to perform.
Performing in front of a packed DeVos Fieldhouse sounds terrifying. As one of the most well-known traditions at Hope, it can be a lot of pressure to remember crisp motions for song, loudly and expressively act for play or fluently speak for oration. When Odd Year performed “Mamma Mia” my freshman year, my hands shook under my white gloves throughout the entire performance. This year, performing seemed even more surreal, not only because we stood on stage longer, but because I knew it was the last time. It’s nerve-wracking to perform in front of so many people, but it’s also thrilling. Hearing the roaring cheers from the audience as we perform traditional moves and hold up an orange and blue H at the end of the song is a feeling like no other. By the end of the performance, the smiles plastered on our faces for the duration of the three hour show are no longer fake or exaggerated; they’re real and full of pride.
You become part of something bigger than yourself.
Nykerk isn’t about one person. It’s about hundreds of girls coming together to create a show that entertains and shows off the talent and dedication of Hope’s ladies. Though Odd Year Song started rough this year, with only about 30 girls, a couple of morale boys and no piano player, together we persevered through obstacles and threw our whole hearts into our medley. Nykerk, from the beginning of practice to the final performance on Nykerk night, is a community effort. It is a spirit throughout this campus, a spirit of support, determination and joy. Unfortunately, the girls of Odd Year must hang up their nunfits, but we now get the chance to pass the white gloves to the next group of girls. Ladies, if you want to be part of a community of support and love, consider joining Nykerk next year, a tradition to make your voice heard.