Controlled Chaos teaches students to get down on the dance floor


Anna Bongardino | Contributing Editor

Controlled Chaos members and newcomers to the group dance at Tuesday evening’s “Anyone Can Dance” workshop.

By Rachel Saula, For The Pitt News

The term “controlled chaos” could refer to a slightly tame tornado, or a roller coaster that straps its riders in fairly tightly. Here at Pitt, the term is applied to an accomplished and highly selective student hip-hop dance group.

Though Controlled Chaos is typically a closed, audition-only group, it regularly offers workshops open to any Pitt student with a valid Oakland ID. The club hosted a workshop Tuesday evening in collaboration with Pitt Program Council titled “Anyone Can Dance.” Controlled Chaos also hosts open classes every Thursday at the Petersen Events Center, but workshops such as this are meant to encourage dancers of all levels to explore the art of hip-hop dancing.

In the assembly room of the William Pitt Union, members of Controlled Chaos talked and joked around while preparing for the class. Not too far away from the tight-knit group, however, sat students there to check out what Controlled Chaos was all about. As loud music bumped out of the speakers, the newcomers — some of whom had never taken a dance class in their lives — made their way onto the floor.

Monica Dinh, a junior accounting and economics major, had a dance background in tap, but had never tried hip-hop before.

“I’m kind of a little bit anxious right now, not going to lie,” Dinh said, laughing.

Though nervous, Dinh was also eager to accept the challenge of trying out a new discipline of dance.

“I’ve been saying yes to a lot more things recently, so I sort of forced myself to come,” she said. “I’m really excited.”

The class learned two different dances, starting with one led by the Controlled Chaos president, senior nursing major Elana Carr. Carr started out slowly, careful to exclude any dance terminology that less-experienced newcomers could be unfamiliar with as she moved across the stage with pointed kicks and smooth arm movements. At one point, she likened a dance move to “putting your hands in your back pockets,” a familiar phrase that was helpful to those without a dance background. As she and other instructors counted people in and retaught certain sections upon request, the inexperienced dancers became more comfortable.

Mistakes were a natural part of the process. If a certain dance move proved too difficult for someone, Carr encouraged them to change it and make it their own. Though she detailed where, when and how to step, she allowed dancers to improvise on smaller upper body movements. Here, they added personal touches to the moves, and by the end of the night each routine had its own personal flair.

One dancer altered a slightly difficult move that required their legs to move quickly to the music, opting instead to only move their arms. This change was welcomed by Carr.

“You guys can do whatever. I’m happy as long as you’re having fun,” she said.

The students often asked Carr to go over a certain move again or slow down. Carr loves this part of the learning process, when many students switch from nervous newcomer to confident dancer.

“When I see people who don’t know they can dance get really into it, it makes me really happy,” Carr said. “A lot of people are afraid to come out and dance by themselves, so when they come out and have a good time, I’m happy that we were able to do that for them.”

Once the group learned Carr’s choreography, dancers were put into what may have felt like a test at first — a small group performance. The dancers were split into two different groups and set to perform the choreography for the rest of the class. For the nervous, inexperienced dancers, the enthusiastic members of Controlled Chaos pushed them forward with encouraging comments.

Anna Bongardino | Contributing Editor
Participants worked through two separate choreographies at Controlled Chaos’ “Anyone Can Dance” class.

After the first dance number, Controlled Chaos switched instructors, allowing sophomore psychology and education major Mia Krawczel to the front of the floor to teach another bout of choreography. Switching instructors like this allowed the dance troupe to keep things varied.

Where Carr’s moves were more aggressive and allowed dancers to make it their own, Krawczel’s number brought a more controlled element to the floor, with the workshop attendees moving in perfect synchronization. The group ran through this number tirelessly, determined to get everyone in sync. Krawczel regularly choreographs for Controlled Chaos members, and is outspoken about how important dance is.

“It’s exercise, it’s activity and it’s something that’s completely judge-free. It’s totally based on you,” Krawczel said. “When we do dance in smaller groups, everyone hypes each other up, everyone’s really great about energy.”

Choreographing a number for those unfamiliar with the usual stylings of Controlled Chaos can prove to be challenging, but rewarding. For Krawczel, finding surprising music and bringing it to life with dance is all part of the fun.

“One of my favorite things about it is trying to find beats that people don’t usually hear,” she said. “But knowing what kind of hip-hop people are normally listening to is one of my biggest challenges.”

As the night wrapped up with the end of Krawczel’s dance, the energy in the room was an accomplished one. No longer were new dancers nervous as they thanked Controlled Chaos members for helping them learn the choreography. While she may have started out anxious, Dinh ended the evening with a smile on her face and plans to return.

“I feel really comfortable, and I had a lot of fun,” she said. “I might go to their class on Thursdays!”

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