A Family Experience

SWYPE Dance Group Offers Students a Home Away From Home


Photo by Mark Maddaloni

According to member Nerielle Legaspi, SWYPE is a vital part of her UofSC family. The dance organization, which began in the spring of 2011, is “no dance experience necessary,” opening up the floor to students of all types, from all places. The choreography is designed by a smaller group of students in order to accommodate differing skill levels, so that even those who have never danced before can try.

The dance executive team, comprised of a few experienced students, is responsible for choreographing one showcase and multiple minor performances each semester. To the dance executive team, diversity is the name of the game, and that diversity begins with the personal style of each dance leader. Memories, interests, and cultural backgrounds all join together in the showcase. Each member also has the opportunity to audition a piece to teach and perform at the showcases, achieving the kind of member involvement that many on-campus organizations have difficulty incorporating into their productions.

The group isn’t just about incorporating personal diversity, but also about setting an example of philanthropy for the rest of the community. At the beginning of last year, SWYPE partnered with St. Jude’s on-campus organization in order to raise support for discovering cures to debilitating children's diseases, a partnership that has continued into the current school year.

Legaspi, a junior and member of SWYPE, first wanted to join the group in middle school. Her older brother was one of the first members, and she saw it as an opportunity to try out new styles of dance. More than anything, Legaspi recognized the group as a sort of family. When asked what the group hopes to communicate through their performances, Legaspi says: “We all come from different backgrounds, and dance brings us all together. We really hope our sense of community shines through in our performances.”

The group champions a diversity extending far beyond individual dance styles; many of the students in the group are from US minority backgrounds, and several are from other countries altogether. Wilson Wong, a 2018-2019 exchange student at UofSC and member of SWYPE, cited the group as an easy way for him to connect on campus when he arrived. 

Wong, extremely extroverted and skilled at making new friends, categorizes himself as atypical compared to other international students, who often find it difficult to connect to campus life and American culture. Combined with differing levels of language barriers, these factors often prevent international students and American students from developing friendships outside of the classroom; SWYPE is breaking those barriers and welcoming international students into our UofSC family.

In particular, Wong joined SWYPE because he took initiative to blend in with other UofSC students. He has danced since he was in high school and knew several members of the group prior to arrival in Columbia from the IBC program. Some of Wong’s favorite UofSC memories come from SWYPE: performing at a scientific fair, an Indian dance competition, and two showcases in the Russell House Ballroom. From these experiences, he felt like any other member of the student body, a feeling that unfortunately, many international students never experience during their time on campus.

The group is just beginning their practices for the current semester, so it’s not too late to join! Practices are held Sundays and Tuesdays in Strom 127 from 9:00-11:00 PM, with the first showcase held on November 17th.  Anyone interested in trying something new and meeting new people on campus should give the group a try. Who knows, you might be the next SWYPE success story.