Extracurricular activities help BFA students thrive at USC

November 16, 2020

Jona Huang dancing with other students at USC's McCarthy Quad

Jona Huang (right) dances with classmates Davon Farmer and Christian Smith at Dance On! at Open Floor 2019 | Photo by Mary Mallany

The University of Southern California offers BFA students a wide array of extracurricular activities. Students can explore interests and opportunities outside the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance to enhance both their academic and social experiences at USC.

Chaotic 3

Jona Huang (BFA ‘22) took his passion for dance and found an extracurricular activity to expand his training outside of USC Kaufman. He joined the hip-hop dance team Chaotic 3 in the spring semester of his freshman year. The team emerged as an artistic outlet for members of the USC Chinese American Student Association. Now, it has evolved into a space that welcomes dancers of all backgrounds and skill levels.

Huang describes the Chaotic 3 culture as family-oriented and full of camaraderie. They practice together for the first three months of fall semesters to prepare for competitions. In the past, these have included Prelude SoCal, Bridge Dance Competition, Maxt Out and Fusion Dance Competition.

“We spend so much of our time together in the parking lots perfecting the routine for three months, and no matter how tired we are, how hungry we are, or how dirty the parking lot is, we are all in the process together working towards a common goal,” Huang said. “That really brings all of us together.”

Despite the virtual semester, Chaotic 3 has continued to meet on Zoom. Since they can’t dance together, the group has been meeting to learn the history and foundations of hip-hop including House and Vogue.

Group photo of students wearing colorful clothing

Chaotic 3 members pose for a photo | Photo courtesy of Jona Huang (BFA ’22)

Musical Theatre Repertory

Similar to Huang, Zach Manske (BFA ‘21) also found an opportunity for expression outside of USC Kaufman. He is a part of Musical Theatre Repertory (MTR), an organization focused on creating musical theatre for students by students at USC. Manske is on the board of MTR as the dance coordinator, and he oversees all the dance elements of their performances.

Growing up, Manske had a passion for musical theatre. He saw MTR as the perfect way to get back involved while training at USC Kaufman. Since joining, he has helped execute two to three shows a year with the club and has learned along the way how to collectively put a production together.

“We’ve been trying to shift our focus into being more of a producing body, so everybody on the board of Musical Theatre Repertory is helping out to produce shows,” Manske said. “We’re now having students pitch shows to us so we’re involving more of the USC students’ voices.”

Zach Manske performing at the opening of the USC Village

Zach Manske (BFA ’21) performs in the USC Village Opening dress rehearsal | Photo by Carolyn DiLoreto

The broad appeal of MTR

Manske enjoys the collaborative process of MTR and appreciates how it attracts students from all across USC to the common love for musical theatre. As the only USC Kaufman student in the organization, he enjoys interacting with students from other majors.

“We have people in the USC School of Dramatic Arts, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the Marshall School of Business, and USC Annenberg,” Manske said. “We all have a passion for musical theatre. We’re able to bring our different kinds of knowledge around USC to make our productions entertaining and exciting.”

MTR has continued meeting over Zoom this semester. They pivoted their performances to the online space and produced A Long Story Short Volume 2 on their Instagram. Students pitched original songs and recorded them to post on MTR’s social media, Manske explained. MTR has also been hosting a workshop series. Industry professionals have spoken to the group about stage management, choreography, casting and more. Erika Henningsen, who originated the role of Cady Heron in Mean Girls on Broadway, also spoke to MTR this semester.

Greek life

Ava Noble (BFA ’23) looked to Greek life at USC to interact with students outside of her USC Kaufman cohort. In the spring of her freshman year, she joined the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma.

“Going into USC Kaufman, we knew a lot of our classmates through the dance world,” Noble said. “There are so many different majors in Greek life. I saw it as a way to meet people that I never would have met before.”

Even though her sorority holds events online this semester, Noble explained that she still meets new members in each meeting. Despite social distancing, Noble says the philanthropy aspect of Kappa Kappa Gamma has continued throughout the semester. Members have taken to social media to raise money for their chapter’s philanthropy partnerships. This includes Swim with Mike, a scholarship fund for physically challenged athletes.

“I think it’s important to meet people outside of the dance major,” Noble said. “We don’t have too much time outside of the studio. In the time we do have, I think it’s important to branch out. I knew that was something that I wanted to do.”

Ava Noble posing with her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters

Ava Noble (right) celebrates Bid Day with her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters | Photo courtesy of Ava Noble

Balancing BFA studies with extracurriculars

Noble, Manske and Huang all agree that the BFA schedule is rigorous and sometimes making time for extracurricular activities gets tough. But, they all can attest that joining these organizations has only improved their USC experience. Huang credits Chaotic 3 with building his community outside of USC Kaufman, despite the long hours it may have entailed.

“Sometimes I was dancing 10 hours a day and even up to 16 hours a day, but I would do it all over again,” he said, “Dance is about connecting with communities, and that describes how my experience with C3 has been. I have made so many life-long relationships with people that I would not have if I had not gone outside of USC Kaufman to dance.”

By Brigid Murphy