Spotlights

Women’s History Month: Celebrating Duke Women & The Arts

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As many people may know (due in part to the Snapchat filter on International Women’s Day), March is Women’s History Month. There is no better time to recognize women in the arts on Duke’s campus, especially as Out of the Blue and Momentum, two of Duke’s premiere female a cappella and dance groups, respectively, are releasing a collaborative music video.

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Han Kang featuring Out of the Blue


Out of the Blue was founded in 1980, making it the oldest female a cappella group on campus. Consistently recognized for its albums and recordings, Out of the Blue is also Duke’s most award-winning a cappella group.

“Our main focus is recording. We are really proud of our albums and are always excited to represent Duke at the highest level of collegiate a cappella,” said senior Sophia Santore, Out of the Blue’s Music Director.

OOTB produces albums every two years, and three of the last four have won best female collegiate a cappella album in the country. Their other awards have included best arrangement and best original song.

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Tim Walter featuring Momentum Dance Company


Founded in 2011, Momentum is a newer group. It is committed to learning and performing multiple styles of dance, and is made up of dancers from all backgrounds, including ballet, contemporary, hip hop and modern. Each year, the dancers prepare 10 original pieces choreographed by company members, which they perform throughout the year in shows such as Awaaz, the Homecoming Ball, and Countdown to Craziness.


One of the best parts of OOTB is how, despite being a competitive sport, we have found a lot of support for each other and also within the broader community. It can be harder for women to find that in general, especially in the performance arts.


As Momentum’s Co-President Rachel Zacharias explains, “Our year culminates in our annual spring showcase, which includes all of these pieces, a music video and guest performances by other arts and dance groups on campus.”

While many a cappella and dance groups on campus are co-ed, both OOTB and Momentum take pride in being all-female performing arts groups.

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Han Kang featuring Out of the Blue

“One of the best parts of OOTB is how, despite being a competitive sport, we have found a lot of support for each other and also within the broader community. It can be harder for women to find that in general, especially in the performance arts,” said Sarah Bender, senior and President of Out of the Blue.


Our dance group brings together women with diverse interests on campus, from different majors, dance styles, and interests outside of dance. We’re connected by our love and passion for dance.


“In a place [Duke] that can be very competitive, Momentum is a great place to celebrate each other,” said Elena Baldwin, Momentum’s Vice President.

The women in Momentum chose to make the dance group all-female. Being an all-female group presents them with unique opportunities both choreographically and personally. Rachel explains, “We’ve been able to foster a really great community not only for dance but also in general. It’s really cool to have a tight-knit community that has a sense of trust that goes beyond just what you do in the studio.”

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Tim Walter featuring Momentum Dance Company


“I wouldn’t have met all of these amazing girls if it wasn’t for Momentum.
Our dance group brings together women with diverse interests on campus, from different majors, dance styles, and interests outside of dance. We’re connected by our love and passion for dance,” said junior Natalie Lubin, one of Momentum’s choreographers and directors for the collaboration music video.

Out of the Blue has performed for countless audiences, from Duke’s campus to overseas. However, based on performances alone, outsiders might not immediately recognize the extensive time and effort invested in the group.

“There is a ton of artistry and innovation behind the scenes,” said sophomore Julia Medine, the group’s Assistant Music Director. “We take pride in the music and in becoming better musicians.”

“There’s a lot that goes into it besides just showing up at rehearsal,” added Sarah.

OOTB arranges all of their own songs, which can take anywhere from several hours to nearly a month of continued work, depending on the song’s complexity. The best of these arrangements are then recorded for the group’s albums.

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Creating the album is no simple task. The members must find a way to tell a story, showcase their soloists and background singers, hit across different genres, and use different arranging techniques. Each song in the album serves an important purpose to the final product.

“The great thing about collaborating with Momentum is our shared dedication to the craft as well as the performance,” said Julia.

Each piece that Momentum performs is choreographed by someone in the company to a song of their choice, and the group tries to maintain a balance between the genres of music used. The group tries to have a mix between songs that you’ll hear on the Top 40 list with other songs that can expose different artists and genres.


The arts is an incredible outlet, and I think Duke should encourage people to pursue arts as their passion even if it’s not something they will do professionally.


The arts are a great way for people to express themselves outside of the classroom, and both groups hope that more of the campus and community will choose to become involved in the incredible arts programs Duke has to offer.

“I think the arts provide Duke with a unique perspective,” said Momentum senior Co-President Elizabeth McGlamry. “Something that Duke can do to further the arts community is to make the arts more accessible to people that maybe think the arts aren’t for them. The simple pleasures of the arts are something that a lot of Duke students don’t realize could really benefit them.”

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Tim Walter featuring Momentum Dance Company

The women of both groups also feel that their organizations have served as great ways to stay involved in the arts while focusing on other passions as well. “The arts is an incredible outlet, and I think Duke should encourage people to pursue arts as their passion even if it’s not something they will do professionally,” said Sarah.

While Duke doesn’t currently fund competitive arts organizations, Out of the Blue has done an incredible job fundraising in order to produce their albums. Producing one of their award-winning albums costs Out of the Blue upwards of $10,000, which they fund through performances, album sales, and their tours each year.

Sophia added, “Out of the Blue is as much a performance group as it is an entrepreneurial venture. In order to maintain the high standards we set for ourselves, we’ve had to step up both as performers, but also as businesswomen.”

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Tim Walter featuring Momentum Dance Company

Both groups praised Duke’s recent steps to better support the arts community on campus. Artstigators, for example, is a group dedicated to building the arts community and supporting existing arts communities on campus. Additionally, construction has begun on a new campus arts center, which will include dance studios, performance theaters, visual arts studios and more. “I think one of the amazing things that is happening at Duke is that it’s really praising the arts,” said Elizabeth.

Be sure to check out the new Out of the Blue/Momentum collaboration music video, and to go to the Out of the Blue spring show in Nelson Music Room on March 25th at 7 pm! Momentum’s 6th Annual Showcase is Saturday, April 23rd at 7 pm in Page Auditorium.

Out of the Blue’s albums can be found on both Spotify and iTunes, and both Out of the Blue and Momentum can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


Credits:

Editors Raina Bisson-Orr & Vivian Zhang
Photographers Tim Walter & Han Kang
Web Katherine M. Zhou

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