Skip to main content
Spring 2023

Dance Like the World Is Watching

Northwestern students find their groove by embracing regional moves from across the globe. By Diana Babineau

Image: Courtesy of Dale Duro


Latin America  

Salsa, bachata, cumbia and merengue are just a few dances in Dale Duro’s repertoire. Celebrating a variety of Latin dance styles, the group’s choreographies are often set to modern pop music. “This year, we have three Bad Bunny dances from his new album,” says Dale Duro vice president Nicole Constante, a junior majoring in biology and global health. “Last year we had a Brazilian funk piece, and this year we have champeta, an Afro-Colombian dance style. Dancing is a great way to get moving while also connecting with your culture. Whenever I dance, I forget about all my problems and just immerse myself in the music.” 

afrothunda image
Jabulani 2018, Courtesy of Afrothunda



Afrothunda performs dances originating from Ghana, Nigeria and other African nations, says Claribel Osei, a sophomore biological sciences major and co-president of the group. “My favorite is azonto because it is not a set dance, meaning it changes slightly depending on the beat of the song,” says Osei, who choreographs about half of Afrothunda’s dances. “I listen to a lot of Afrobeats music, and I use the beat to guide my dance moves. Then I refine it using choreography inspired by the music videos for those songs. I love being able to showcase African culture and highlight the unique complexity of it by telling stories through dance.” In February the group performed at Jabulani, a show hosted by the African Students Association to cultivate a deeper appreciation for African culture.

typhoon photo


China and Southeast Asia  

Typhoon performs traditional Chinese cultural dances as well as routines that blend the traditional with hip-hop, jazz, K-pop and other modern styles. This past fall Typhoon’s artistic director Shushan Wu developed a Chinese jazz dance routine set to the Cantonese song “Dangerous Lover” by Fang Shier. “The choreography is originally from a talent show in China,” says Wu, an environmental engineering doctoral student. “It’s a complicated performance featuring elements of jazz, Latin, and ’80s and ’90s Chinese pop dances. It requires flexibility, body control and facial expression to draw you into the beautiful love story of the song.” 

Wu says her most meaningful performance was a rendition of “Flying Apsaras” by Chinese rapper Lay Zhang. The original music video choreography “combined Chinese traditional dance moves with krump and urban dance,” Wu says. “I re-choreographed it into a group dance for four people. The song’s namesake is a wall mural in Dunhuang, China, so I invited fellow student XiaoXuan Zhang to add] graceful elements of Dunhuang dance,” says Wu. Typhoon performed the dance at Celebrasia 2022, a large, annual cultural show at Northwestern. “As a Chinese student, I am proud of our rich tradition and culture,” Wu says. “I like combining Chinese classical and ethnic dance moves and music with popular dance.” 

kdance separator


South Korea  

“Coming to college, I didn’t expect to find people who like K-pop here,” says Michelle Lee, a senior psychology major who grew up in Taiwan. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Korean pop music, or K-pop, has become a global phenomenon thanks to its catchy beats and mesmerizing synchronized dance videos by popular artists such as BTS, PSY, Girls’ Generation and BLACKPINK. Now president of K-Dance, Lee heads up one of five subgroups, affectionately called “families,” who band together based on their fandoms (favorite K-pop performers) and learn the choreographies to their favorite music videos. 

bhangra separator
Image: Courtesy of @nubhangra


Punjab Region of India and Pakistan  

Bhangra, a traditional folk dance and music, encompasses a variety of styles. “Jhumar is done with very light steps and flowy hands,” says Northwestern Bhangra president Anika Trehan, a sophomore economics and sociology major. “On the other hand, dhamaal is done with the constant lifting of the legs at a 90-degree angle and arms held wide. … Dancing and choreographing bhangra, especially to the Punjabi music I grew up listening to, has been very rewarding. Many of my family members and friends have done bhangra, so I wanted to learn it, too, in order to better connect with them and to meet other South Asian people at Northwestern.” 

ahana separator


India and South Asia 

A Bollywood fusion dance group, Ahana draws inspiration from the Indian film industry famous for its elaborate dance choreographies. “Almost every Bollywood song has choreography that goes along with it in a movie,” says Mehul Mittal, a junior biological sciences major and one of Ahana’s dance captains. “In Indian culture, children grow up dancing at weddings, festivals, events,” he says. “I was very connected to my culture at home, but when you go to college, you lose that connection a bit. Ahana drew me back in, and it’s been a great way to meet new friends.” The group is noncompetitive and performs Bollywood fusion and hip-hop routines, as well as traditional dances such as kathak, an elegant, storytelling dance that originated in northern India. 

Share this Northwestern story with your friends via...

Reader Responses

  • Wow! K-DANCE group is also in Northwestern? I haven't met my undergraduates or juniors since graduating from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, and I hope to have that opportunity soon!

    I have been driven by a fervent desire to enhance people's lives. I strive to promote Korean culture globally through entertainment, cultural initiatives and various platforms.

    Byungha Lee ’19 LLM, South Korea

  • It's so great to learn about some of the dance groups at Northwestern! I'd love to know when and where I can see them perform, and if any of the groups ever host classes or workshops. It would be helpful to add links for that info here.

    Chelsea Dvorchak Chicago, via Northwestern Magazine

Submit a Response