Bad Company dance group performs at Kappa Delta’s philanthropy event on Feb. 28, 2023 in Baker Hall. Other dance groups like the Lehigh Dance team and Tumbao choreographed and performed at the competition. (Julia Contino/ B&W Staff)

Shaking off the college stress with Lehigh’s dance community


Students strutted down a runway two-by-two, striking a pose every few steps, as hip-hop music resonated throughout the room. When Sadie Stein, ‘23, sauntered down the aisle, all she could hear were cheers of her name. 

Stein said this was one of her favorite days in her hip-hop class taught by Professor Samuel Reyes, and with each step down the runway, her confidence grew. 

Stein’s class is one place among a diverse variety of clubs, courses and teams where students can follow their passion for dance. 

Another is Leela Dance, an Indian fusion dance team made up of 16 members. It aims to connect with Indian culture while exploring new dance styles and techniques. 

Team captain Nandini Yellamelli, ‘23, said Leela introduces Indian dance to the Lehigh community, fusing them with Western styles to create a unique artistic perspective. 

Beyond dance, Yellamelli said Leela fosters a strong sense of community and lifelong friendships. 

“I am connected with every single one of (the Leela members), even the ones who have graduated,” Yellamelli said. “They’re honestly like my sisters. I can’t even bring to words how meaningful being part of Leela has been for me.”

She said her involvement in Leela, specifically as captain, has taught her valuable leadership and teamwork skills.

The team practices twice a week for two hours, and while auditions are required for the performance team, Yellamelli said all are welcome to participate in their weekly practices.

For students interested in exclusively hip-hop, team captain Lauren Workosky, ‘23, said Bad Company offers an exciting environment to grow as a dancer. 

Workosky said the audition-based team, which is composed of 17 members, aims to spread positivity through their performances and offer members an outlet for stress relief.

“No matter what songs we pick, we just try to keep the crowd hype and get everyone smiling and laughing,” Workosky said. “We want to spread hip-hop and teach people more about that style of dance.”

While the team usually practices once a week, they add extra practices leading up to big events or performances.

Helius, another dance group, offers a space for their 35 members to showcase their skills and connect with their Chinese heritage. 

Team captain Sallie Wang, ‘23, said one thing that sets Helius apart from other dance clubs is how it honors traditional Chinese elements by incorporating them into its modern choreography. Members often use props like fans or incorporate kung-fu elements into their work.

Beyond the cultural aspect, Wang said Helius is a tight-knit community that sees dance as a craft. 

“It’s an opportunity to work towards something collectively, to put on a good performance or create a great dance cover,” Wang said. “(It’s) an art and something to show to the Lehigh community.” 

Wang said Helius performs at various campus events throughout the year. 

Annual events like FUSION and Dancefest bring Lehigh’s dance clubs together, featuring performances from each group.

In addition to on-campus opportunities, some groups also participate in outside events. Yellamelli said Leela performs in the Moravian International Dance Festival.

According to Lehigh Involvement Connections, the other dance groups on campus include Belly Dance Club, Swing Dance Club, K-Pop dance group JM Entertainment, African Renaissance, Tumbao, Lehigh Dancin’ and the university dance team. Students may also take dance courses, including hip-hop and Bollywood dance, which accept students of all skill levels.

Stein said she chose the hip-hop course because the genre of dance was most “her style.” She hoped to learn technique and about hip-hop’s history. 

“I felt like I was lacking in my cultural understanding,” Stein said. “I would do a TikTok dance to a song but not know how hard it was for these people to have their music out there. This class gave me the understanding to make it more special.”

She said the class was a good escape from her other studies, and the exposure to the dance community and culture gave her a new perspective.

Swapna Suresh, an Indian Bollywood dance professor, said whether students have years of dance experience or are just starting out, there is a dance club that will offer them a chance to grow, learn and connect with others who share their love of movement and expression.

“The way that I see dance is it’s like meditation — it is so relaxing,” Suresh said. “It is good for your body and improves your energy and stamina,” Suresh said. “It keeps you engaged…and I think thats the best thing that comes to any art form, you lose yourself to the music.”

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