Without Rehearsal Spaces, Loyola Hip-Hop Team SCORCH Burns On

Shuffling between hallways, back rooms and both quads, a collective of sneakers and sweatsuits tell a story extending beyond hip-hop — one of resilience.

Shuffling between hallways, back rooms and both quads, a collective of sneakers and sweatsuits tell a story extending beyond hip-hop — one of resilience. 

Situated in Damen Student Center’s Sister Jean MPR conference space, Loyola’s hip-hop dance team SCORCH preserved their high-energy swagger in a room better suited for a networking event. 

Dancing without a stage on concrete floors, the 24-person team bore enduring grins and tireless cheers during a Dec. 9 showcase — a testament to their collective resolve. 

SCORCH is one of many extracurricular dance groups displaced by maintenance on Mullady Theater in Mertz Hall, The Phoenix previously reported. The maintenance comes after a pipe burst in February 2023, forcing a remediation process that continues to affect the theater’s usability. The space traditionally held showcases and yearly performances of multiple student dance groups, according to Jayne.

For fourth-year Delaney Thompson, the social media chair for SCORCH, the experience was “intense.” While a few other dance groups were able to hold their showcases across various theaters downtown, Thompson said SCORCH “simply didn’t have the funds.” 

“It feels like a little bit more pressure, because you can see everyone in the audience,” Thompson said. “You can make eye contact with people, but it’s also difficult because you have to be like, ‘Oh, mom and dad sit on this side of the stage, you’ll see me for this part specifically.’”

A style of dancing meant to be executed through limitless, free-flowing movement — often referred to as street dance — has been caged by limited Loyola offerings. Roaming between locations throughout the fall semester, the team has rehearsed in any space they can find, according to SCORCH co-captains Ellie Jayne and Adriana Rodriguez. 

Loyola’s SCORCH hip-hop team has 24 members. (Hanna Houser / The Phoenix)

Rodriguez, who graduated in December, joined the team in 2020 after transferring into Loyola from Saint Louis University. Having started in baby ballet at age 3, the business management major said going to a school with a hip-hop team was the driving force behind her transfer decision. 

“I took one class and honestly fell in love with it,” Rodriguez said of her hip-hop career, which began at age 9. “I like the energy of it. It’s exhilarating for me.”

Unlike Rodriguez, Jayne, a forensic science major, said her 10-year competitive dance background featured nearly every genre besides hip-hop. Having stumbled upon SCORCH at a student organization fair, she said she pursued an experience rooted in creative license above technical intricacy.

“I think one thing I like about hip-hop is how free it can be, especially compared to other categories,” Jayne said. “There are a lot of restrictions and technicalities that I loved doing at the time but now at this point in my life, I wanted to experiment with something that had no bounds.”

Each year, SCORCH holds auditions for members of any background, regardless of hip-hop experience levels. In 2023 the group’s audition reviewed nearly 160 students for a team that had traditionally maintained under 20 dancers, according to Jayne,

Dancing to songs like “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas or “Like This” by MiMs, each number blends playful seduction with the fluidity of street dancing. The choreography process is entirely student-run with Jayne and Rodriguez each choreographing two of the four group numbers, while other team members can volunteer to choreograph duets or smaller group performances, according to Jayne.

“Mostly, honestly, it’s like girl power,” the 21-year-old said of SCORCH’s showcase themes. “So much of our music is empowering to women and we have a lot of female artists and I think that’s a general theme that we stick to.”

Among the fall showcase’s choreographers was Galvan, a second-year neuroscience major. Alongside second-year Danielle Omer, Galvan said she “snuck into” Halas’ dance space, where the pair taught themselves their duet — dubbed “Bang Bang Barbie,” blending songs “Bang Bang” by Jessie J with “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice and Aqua — in one day. 

According to Galvan, dance groups have been told they can’t access Halas Recreation Center’s dance room, which features full-length mirrors and proper dance flooring. At one point, they were advised to rehearse in a Damen hallway, according to SCORCH’s Campus Activities Network representative Bri Galvan. 

“In the spaces they’re offering us, I feel like it’s just common sense that that’s not somewhere you should be dancing in,” Galvan said. “A hallway is not a dance space, are you being so serious right now? We pay all this money and we can’t even use a dance studio when it’s unoccupied.” 

The choreographing process is one born out of different rhythms, individualized to the preferences of each dancer. Rodriguez said most of her choreography was finalized the night before practice. She said she is able to mentally arrange movements before knowing which song they’ll go to. Jayne, a self-described “type-A personality,” said she has each of her dances choreographed before school begins in the fall, synchronizing movements to a song that strikes her. 

“There’s a lot of time management,” Jayne said. “We have to think about formations. Once we create our team, we create formations of where people are gonna go, how the transitions are gonna work. It’s like a big puzzle that we have to solve.” 

In spite of limited rehearsal spaces, the essence of SCORCH — one of camaraderie — is maintained through the steady bond amongst all dancers. 

Thompson said she joined SCORCH in 2020 while campus was closed due to social distancing policies amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As a fourth-year nursing student, she said she was eager to meet people outside of her major. During one of the group’s team bonding activities, she said she became certain she had found her “sisterhood.” 

The team is currently preparing for their Feb. 25 halftime performance during the women’s basketball game. (Hanna Houser / The Phoenix)

“I remember being so nervous to go to my first one, but it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in my college experience,” Thompson said. “I felt like I belonged somewhere.” 

As a captain, Jayne said she makes it a priority to cultivate a positive environment, ensuring new members feel welcome through regular social events and ice cream trips. 

“You’re not with those friends you’ve grown up with and had to become friends with,” Jayne said. “These are the friends that you choose to be with throughout your college career and the rest of your life.”

Thompson said she anticipates the group will continue to search for new spaces each week across the spring semester, while holding their spring showcase in the Sister Jean MPR. 

Despite the added toll of limited rehearsal spaces, Jayne’s passion for SCORCH is as fiery as ever. 

“Although it is really stressful, it’s a passion,” Jayne said. “It’s kind of a non-negotiable. If I did not have this outlet, I don’t know what I would do with my time.”

As the group looks onward to the spring semester, Jayne said she feels “motivated” by working in mirrorless rehearsal spaces, with showcases absent of a stage. Alongside their end of semester performance, the group performed at both women’s and men’s basketball games. Jayne said being viewed from all angles builds confidence in the group, forcing them to work their hardest.

For those looking to catch a SCORCH performance, the group will be dancing at halftime during the women’s basketball game Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.

Featured image by Hanna Houser / The Phoenix

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