Commentary: Paving Way for Performing Arts

E.Song/The Phillipian

One of the greatest benefits of attending an institution like Andover is the number of resources it provides for us, academically and beyond. We have over 300 courses and 220 teachers devoting time and importance to every subject. Even outside the classroom, the school claims it strives to help all students develop their extracurricular passions, whether they are athletes, dancers, or music lovers. The reality, however, is that the dance and music departments don’t usually get the resources and attention they deserve.

I’ve been doing Chinese dance for nine years. Since I came to Andover, I have also started doing modern and ballet, and I recently joined Footnotes. I’ve always been grateful for the two dance studios we have in Borden Memorial Gym. Nevertheless, being grateful doesn’t necessarily mean we are completely satisfied. Because of the limited space and number of dance teachers, we can only have three levels of dance classes, while professional dance studios usually have six. Dancers usually have different techniques that we each need to work on, so having more levels could help us get more individual tutoring and have more efficient improvement.

The conditions of the studios also inhibit dancers’ improvement. There are no markers or whiteboards, so the teachers have to write technical terms on the mirror. Additionally, the floors are sticky, so we find it difficult to do pirouettes barefoot, and easy to slip while wearing slippers. During our tech rehearsal for choreography class showcase, we were supposed to dance barefoot, which would have fit better with our costumes. Our feet, however, suffered so much from trying to run the routine even once without slippers, so we abandoned that idea. I also have to be very careful while doing kicks in modern class, in case I slip on the floor and break a bone.

As for the music department, the main issues are the inconvenient location of Graves Hall and the insufficient attention and support from other students and faculty. When I first came to Andover at the beginning of this year, I discovered that the long walk to Graves was notorious among returning students. This is particularly true for non-required music activities. People usually don’t want to walk for ten minutes just for a 30-minute music lesson or rehearsal, especially in the winter.

Music groups like band and orchestra also do not get the recognition they deserve. Most of their performances only have about 30 audience members, including the many students who have to attend concerts for credits. As I was leaving Graves after music class one day, my friend, who is in band and orchestra, said to me, “I want to quit band and orchestra at school. It takes us tons of time to practice every week, but we never get a lot of people to come watch our concerts.” She has participated in these groups throughout the year and enjoys it very much, but she is considering quitting anyway because of these problems.

The problem of attendance stems from the way music events are advertised — or, rather, not advertised as a legitimate event on campus. I was shocked when I first saw emails from the athletic department informing the whole student body of upcoming games and current scores, because I have never seen an email like this from the music department. A single spot at the bottom of the Weekender is just not enough to attract people to watch these talented music students. At dorm meetings in Double Brick, where I live, people give lots of shoutouts about setting personal records or performing well in athletic competitions. Around campus, I always hear people inviting their friends to watch varsity games together. When it comes to music, however, I’ve hardly heard people say things like, “Let’s go see the concert together.” Many people don’t even know where the concerts and recitals are.

Fortunately, the construction of the Pan Athletic Center, which includes new dance studios, is underway. These new facilities will enable more accepted students with passions for dance to participate and polish their skills. I really appreciate the school’s building these new dance facilities and hopefully they will be of higher quality than the current studios.

As for the music department, however, no plans for more convenient, higher quality music facilities have been made — or, if they have been made, they have not been disclosed to the student body. The school may have certain concerns with the process that students are not aware of, but if that is the case, they should make these concerns more transparent.

Andover must do its best to provide us with the dance and music facilities that we need. As for students, we should try to give more encouragement and show more support to our fellow dancers and musicians. Let’s put down our headphones and go to some of our peers’ concerts. Every student, no matter whether they are into sports or dance or music, deserves an equal chance to shine and prove themselves.

Candy Xie is a Junior from Shenzhen, China. Contact the writer at