Vanessa Washington (COL ’08) is no stranger to groove.
After eyeing Groove Theory before she even arrived as a student on the Hilltop, Washington is now a member of the group’s management team, developing and choreographing the group’s dances at many of campus’ most popular events. As the group prepares for its annual “Thriller” dance on Halloween and for Urban Fare the following night, Washington discusses her involvement, the group’s history and provides some insights into Groove Theory’s original choreography.
How did you get involved with Groove Theory?
My freshman year I tried out for Groove Theory and was fortunate enough to make the team. I actually knew about Groove Theory before I came to Georgetown. I came to visit my junior year [in high school] and was lucky enough to stay with someone who was on Groove Theory. I got to hear all about the team, and I watched a video of practice and performances. I got to go to practice. I applied to Georgetown hopefully knowing that I would get onto the team. I wrote my essay about wanting to be on Groove Theory. It probably got me in.
Did you have a background in dance?
Yes, I danced when I was a little girl. I danced in Harlem in New York City, and then I went to boarding school in Massachusetts. I was very involved with the dance program there. I took tutorial level ballet, modern jazz and tap. I have been dancing since I was three and have always loved hip-hop.
Now that you’re a senior, do you feel that you’ve gotten everything that you expected from your time with Groove Theory?
Yes, I have gone from being a freshman on the team, where I wasn’t as involved with the creative process, to my junior and senior year, where I am a member of the management team and very much involved in the creative process, with the choreography, the themes, concepts and ideas. I have grown with the team, and I have seen the team evolve a lot. I am happy to have been a part of that.
How does the management of Groove Theory come up with the concepts and routines?
The choreography really depends on the type of event. The management team will get together a month prior to any performance and decide what kind of choreography we are looking for and what themes and concepts we are looking for. For something like Midnight adness, we use general songs that people want to hear. For more focused events like Urban Fare, we like to go for the themes. We brainstorm a concept and then tailor each piece to fit that concept.
Is the choreography for each event unique, or do you have prepared routines for any of them?
Everything is created for the event; we don’t really use stock routines. We generate new choreography for each event. “Thriller” is the only one that stays the same every year. You will never see a Midnight Madness that is the same. It is always changing because that is what the audience wants. That’s something we have to our advantage: Every time we come out, we have something new.
What are Groove Theory’s plans for Urban Fare on November 1?
The theme for Urban Fare is “it’s bigger than hip hop”. We’ll be using a lot more artistic themes that relate to the larger urban community. We’re putting a new artistic spin on an old theme: male-female relationships. We are really doing something unique and everyone will have to come to Urban Fare to see the new artistic theme.
How were your recent performances over the last two weekends at Midnight Madness and at the Coolio concert?
Midnight Madness was a huge success. We had been preparing for about four weeks. We had auditions the first weekend in September. idnight Madness is kind of a preview to show the community what we have been working on and to show them what they can expect throughout the year, which is high energy, dynamic, creative, unique performances. It is also the debut of our new team. It was a successful recruiting season, and the new members that we got are very talented.
The Coolio concert turned out to be a little chaotic in terms of crowd control, but the turnout was amazing; the audience was very receptive and they loved the performance. It was packed; it was a success.
Do all new members have backgrounds in dance?
No, not at all. A lot of members tell us that they have not danced before but have felt very comfortable with their movements and the way their body moves and that they are comfortable dancing at parties, but they are not necessarily professionally or technically trained.
How has Groove Theory evolved over the years?
Groove Theory was founded in 2001. It was very informal; it was just a group of people who got together on Wednesday nights because they liked to dance hip-hop. Now it has evolved into a performance team. Each year it has gotten more professional and more competitive. Every year you are pushed to new levels as a dancer.
Do you plan to continue dancing after Georgetown?
I will always be taking classes and learning choreography; I don’t know if I will do it professionally. Hopefully, in whatever career I choose I will be able to do dance on the side and perform with a group. I definitely plan to keep dancing throughout my entire life.
– Interview by Jimmy Wade