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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Dance for a Cause takes center stage for Camp Kesem


Released Contemporary Dance Company hosts fourth annual showcase in support of nationwide organization

On Saturday, Feb. 10, the fourth annual Dance for a Cause showcase stole the spotlight at the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall, just north of UC Davis’ campus. The yearly fundraiser, put on by UC Davis’s Released Contemporary Dance Company, features 10 of the university’s dance groups as well as two special guest performances. The first and second-place winners, chosen by a panel of four judges, get $200 and $100 toward a charity of their choice.

Dance for a Cause supports and raises money for Camp Kesem, an organization that utilizes college students as counselors to put on free summer camps for children whose parents have or have had cancer. Camp Kesem not only allows these children to participate in a unique experience without the stress of financial costs, but it also enables them to have the opportunity to be a part of a community of thousands of kids going through the same situations in their own families. Founded at Stanford University in 2000, Camp Kesem has grown to reach over 100 different universities in 40 states across the United States, and over 100 UC Davis students are involved in the program as camp counselors.

This year, Dance for a Cause was judged by two Camp Kesem campers, a counselor and a former member of RCDC.

Junior director of RCDC Hannah Contois expressed why supporting Camp Kesem is so special to her.

“Dance for a Cause gives collegiate dancers the opportunity to perform for a cause greater than just themselves,” Contois said. “We are helping deserving children attend a life-changing summer camp for free, all while doing an activity that we are passionate about. There is nothing more rewarding than looking out into an audience of our friends and peers and knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of so many children and families.”

On top of supporting an organization that’s very active in UC Davis’ community, Dance for a Cause allows many of the university’s dance organizations to showcase the routines they have been diligently working on all year. The performances feature a diverse range of styles of dance, spanning from hip hop to ballet to hula.

In addition to performing in support of Camp Kesem, the participating dance teams put on their own shows throughout the course of the year. Fourth-year biological sciences major Brooke Neville shared warm remarks about her group, Na Keiki ‘O Hawai’i — UC Davis’ Polynesian club that specializes in hula and Tahitian dance.

“My favorite thing about this organization are the people involved and the sense of family — ohana — we have,” Neville said. “I always look forward to seeing everyone at practices and socials.”

Na Keiki ‘O Hawai’i’s dance chair, Misa Vasquez, a fourth-year human development major, also expressed her fondness for the program.

“For me, hula is therapeutic and a creative outlet, so I appreciate having a break from school, studying and internships,” Vasquez said. “I also love the people in the club. Everyone is unique and offers something different to the club, but one thing we all have in common is our love for dance. Giving back to the community is important to me, and it’s awesome that I can do what I love for a great cause.”

The event’s host group, RCDC, focuses mainly on perfecting the technical elements of contemporary dance and features dancers of many different stylistic backgrounds, including jazz and ballet. The group strives to bring the culture and beauty of contemporary dance to the Davis community. Fourth-year neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major and the company’s director Marisa Pedroso reflected on her favorite element of RCDC.

“I love the bond each and every team member has with one another,” Pedroso said. “I truly feel like we are all there for each other through different highs and lows, and it is such a cool thing to be a part of. We all share such a deep passion for dance, and I love that we all get to move together, laugh together, and just be together.”

Contois also shared her fond sentiments about RCDC.

“Without a doubt, my favorite thing about being in the company is having the opportunity to be around such a strong group of women,” Contois said. “All of our members are not only dedicated to the art of dancing, but also their academics, jobs, volunteer work, and other clubs […] they are a part of. Seeing how determined the women in our organization are encourages me to take on responsibility and work harder in all areas of my life.”

This year, Dance for a Cause raised over $3,000 for Camp Kesem, and Davis Ballet Company was given the first-place nod at the end of the night. Pedroso shared some final remarks about performing for a deserving cause.

“I just really love getting to combine my passion for dance with my passion for helping others, and I think that all of the amazing girls on my company feel the same,” Pedroso said. “We get to do our favorite thing in the world while raising money for a good cause; there really is no other feeling like it.”


Written by: Kennedy Walker — sports@theaggie.org



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