A Personal Letter To Danceworks as My Time As President Comes To An End

“Congratulations, Tom, you are now officially the President of Danceworks Productions.”

Around a year ago today, I was inducted as President of the most incredible club I’ve every known about. For those of you who don’t know what this club does, let me briefly explain. Danceworks Productions is the largest organization at Hofstra University with over 150 member. It is also a completely student run organization. We audition choreographers and select 11-13 dance pieces which will be in our production. A few days later, we hold dancer auditions where these choreographers show their dances and select their casts after a four-hour process. As the semester continues, each dance has an hour and a half rehearsal once a week leading up to the show.  As all of this work is being done, we participate in multiple social events to build a bond amongst the club and the Hofstra community, as well as a handful of philanthropy events where we raise money for various charities. We, as a club, do this every semester (so twice per academic year). There is no other club on Hofstra University’s campus that does all of this – it’s truly remarkable.

From Fall 2015-Spring 2017 I served as the Publicity and Promotions chair. I promoted the auditions and shows through various mediums, as well as designed all of the apparel for those two years. Following this role, I had the privilege and honor to be President of this incredible club. At the point in time I am writing this, I only have around 24 hours left as President of Hofstra University Danceworks Productions President. As I reminisce about my time at Hofstra, Danceworks has been the heart and soul of why I’ve loved my time at Hofstra University.

I’d like to take the time to write a letter to Danceworks – more specifically the members of this club who I’ve grown from because of their footprints left on my heart. If you were in Danceworks anywhere between 2015 to Spring 2018, this one is for you:

Dear Danceworks,

I’ve dedicated three years of my life to you. I’ve sacraficed a huge part of my free time, missing family events, and breaks within the academic schedule to fulfil my responsibilities to you. I’ve been on call 24 hours/7 days a week for years to jump on any situation I may have to mediate or rectify. Yes, most of the time I’ve had to do things at the most inconvenient times when I wanted to do almost anything else, but in the end, I loved every minute of it.

When I started at Hofstra University, I was a commuter. I absolutely hated it and my first semester I wanted to transfer. I looked into it and started talking to friends who attended other schools around the nation. I knew it was best to finish out the year so I sat on the option of leaving to pursue a different experience away from home. When my second semester started, I decided to audition for Danceworks Productions. At that point, I hadn’t really danced since I was 10 years old; I danced like the Tin Man does when Dorothy first meets him at that first audition. I didn’t get into the show that semester, but I wanted to take advantage of the other 66% you participate in. I hung out with you alone at the first social event and from there, everthing fell into place.

Within a month I was offered a room in an off campus house occupied by your members. I couldn’t believe it and I jumped on the opportunity. I continued to participate in anything I could and I even helped with selling tickets at the shows. I knew this club was something I wanted to be part of regardless of what I was doing. This mentality led me to run for Danceworks Productions executive board as Publicity and Promotions Chair. Long story short, I was elected and then re-elected the following year.

As I mentioned before, I hadn’t danced in a while. I wanted to grow as a dancer, as well as a leader of this club. I practiced and focused a majority of my time at Hofstra to getting better and eventually be casted into the shows. After another semester of not being casted, I had the privledge of being selected into the Spring 2016 and have been since. Once I was casted, I focused my attention on diversifying my abilities away from only doing hip-hop dances to eventually also dancing in contemporary and jazz pieces as well.

A few weeks before the elections for my senior year, I decided to push myself even further and run for President. What? I met you as a below average dancer and now I’m going for President of a dance club? This was no where near what I thought my time in Danceworks would lead to. I wanted to create a higher meaning of this club for myself so this was the perfect opportunity. I worked hard on my speech as I did everything involving you up to that point which resulted in my election as Danceworks Productions President.

My time at Hofstra has taught me five things about myself which I would have never learned if I didn’t audition for this club back in 2015. They are:

DANCE

Like I’ve discussed, I didn’t have a thorough background or training in dance. I took the time to listen to my peers in the club and, from that, I gained a better understanding on how to dance and how to look at dance from a technical standpoint. Your members are among the most talented dancers at Hofstra and this made it easy for me to see how to dance properly through observation and immitation. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me how to connect my mind and body, which I’ve applied to all aspects of my life.

PERSISTENCE

Many members don’t get casted into your shows, especially their first semester or two auditioning. This is inevitable and dance is competitive, therefore I had to learn how to take the rejection and grow from it. Many people have problems doing this but when you do, there are many more pros than cons. I learned how to take a “failure” and make it a positive. I didn’t get into the show my first two semesters, one of which I was on the executive board for. I could have dropped the club and sought a different avenue to get involved, but, let’s be honest, doing just that shows immaturity and lack of character. I used this rejection to become an even better dancer than I would have if I stopped trying to get into the Danceworks show. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me that failure is an opportunity to be better than if I was successful in the first place.

COMMUNICATION

Being on e-board means we are responsible for the operation of a club of over 150 of your members. Inevitably, I have had to communicate with almost each and every person in the club every year for three years. As President, this duty only increased and I had to mediate hundreds of conflicts and situations. This was extremely uncomfortable at times, especially because I’m friends with most of these people. But my time on e-board has taught me to have those difficult conversations and deal with circumstances I didn’t feel comfortable doing. As I dealt with these particular conflicts, I grew to understand I am capable of having these tricky interactions and have an effective outcome. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me how to handle conflicts in a mature and effective manner, especially when it involves friends.

 PRIDE

Imagine auditioning for something you worked really hard on for a year and you got shut down twice already. You’d feel pretty defeated. Now imagine you go into the following audition and get casted into, not only one, but two pieces! I didn’t know it then, but the rejection only allowed me to experience exuberance I would have never felt if I wasn’t shut down beforehand. Taking a step away from focusing on the dancing aspect of the club: the kid who had trouble getting into the shows a few times was elected President his senior year. I know back in 2015, no one ever expected that to happen. As I’m creeping on 24 hours left as President, I am the most proud of myself I’ve ever been. I don’t think I’ve ever been proud of myself until this past year as I’ve constantly reflected on my journey in the club. I believe I’m the only male President of Danceworks in history of the club and I think I’m one of a few, if the only, President of a dance club that didn’t have significant training throughout my life. I’m usually humble but I’m unique in this aspect and that’s an honor to say. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me to be proud of myself.

CONFIDENCE

Confidence. I’ve been in leadership positions throughout my middle school and high school careers. I have even taken leadership in elementary school when the teacher was obligated to handle a more crucial situation. I know I am a type A personality, but I’ve never been completely confident. Through all I’ve accomplished and grown as a dancer, friend and leader, I’ve been more aware of my confidence as a person. These past few years have put me in the best and worst positions of my life, but I’m still breathing and after careful reflection, I realized that my confidence has sky-rocketed. I’m taking this confidence and I’m in the process of creating my own business. Without this club, I would have never learned crucial life lessons of rejection, failure, success and discomfort. Thank you, Danceworks, for giving me the confidence to set up my life for success and prosperity.

These are only a few things I’ve learned from participating in Danceworks Productions and working my way to eventually become President. You have given me so many opportunities to grow into the man I am today and I’m beyond grateful for the things I’ve learned through meeting such incredible and talented people along the way. The members of this club have pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve. This is something I will cherish forever and utilize as I take on the real-world post-graduation. I’ve watched this club become better and better each year and as I leave this organization in the hands of Morgan, I know you’re only going to get better. I cannot wait to see the club grow along with the members of this club. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, Danceworks, and continue to do so for as many people as possible.

With much love,

Tom Fraher

To the members of Danceworks who are graduating, coming back next semester or thinking of joining, you don’t know what you have until it’s (almost) gone. Be mindful of what Danceworks is giving you along the way and reflect on what you’ve taken away from this club. The more meaning you give the club, the further you will grow.

 

Danceworks Productions is More Than Just a Club

Starting college is like jumping off of a cliff into dark waters; you see the water but the water is a mystery. Is the water going to be fresh or salty? Is it going to be warm or cold? Is it deep or shallow? For me, I jumped in with my arms out and mind wide open. I hit the water and made a fantastic group of friends. From there, it’s been nothing but a deep, warm, fresh water lake. I’ve learned a lot about myself. However, I couldn’t have done this without becoming involved in Hofstra’s largest club on campus, Danceworks Productions.

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Me posing for a dance recital around the age of 7.

Fortunately, I had a mom who wanted me to do (almost) everything. She made me, my brother, and my sister do dance for at least one year. My brother dropped it after the first year, but I continued to learn how to dance. I dance for around five years (ages 4-9). It’s not that I lost interest in it, I actually was annoyed by another dancer in my hip-hop class and decided to stop. Although that was it for dance lessons for me, I never stopped dancing whenever I was listening to music.

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Dancing at my high school’s Battle of the Classes in 2013.

My first semester of college was the shortest amount of time I ever learned so much about myself. I was thinking about changing my major and figuring out how I’m going to leave my mark at Hofstra. My lab partner was a dance minor and got me to go to the fall 2014 Danceworks show. I had an amazing time in the audience; in fact, I went to both shows. Watching the professionalism of the students and the energy I felt throughout planted the idea that I wanted to be up there someday.

Just before the auditions for the following semester’s show, my lab partner texted me to remind me. We met up and both went to the auditions. This audition was much different than a normal audition; everyone created a welcoming environment and it was an amazing time. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it into a piece that semester.  However, Danceworks does more than just dance – it is also a social and philanthropic club. I went to hang out with the club members at their off-campus house by myself for a social event. Every member welcomed me with open arms. This was the start to how the rest of my college experience was going to pan out.

 

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Hanging out for one of the first times with Danceworks Productions!

I commuted my freshman year and I hated it. I loved everything about Hofstra, except for the fact that I had to drive 20-40 minutes one way each day. This prompted me to apply to be a residence assistant. I got through both rounds of interviews and was awaiting the email regarding the decision made. On February 24, 2015, I woke up for class with a Facebook message from one of the Danceworks members. The message read, “Hey Tom I was wondering if ud be interested in living in the DW house next year?” I explained how I would love to but have to figure out the finances and logistics of living there. She told me to just let her know as soon as I figure it out.

Danceworks has club meeting every Monday at 6:00 PM in the Student Center (room 142 to be exact). I had class until 5:55 PM, and on my way to the meeting, I had received an email informing me that I did not get the RA position. YES! I know – not a typical reaction to not getting something you interviewed and worked hard to get. The RA job would have given me free room and board, which I would have saved a boat-load of money. However, deep down, I really wanted to be living off campus. I entered room 142 and gave the girl who offered me the room in the house the thumbs up; she knew exactly why.

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The night I was inducted into Hofstra University Danceworks Productions’s executive board in 2015.

I continued going out with the club. I began to get to know many members and became an active member of the club. As the semester dwindled to an end, elections for executive board positions came around. At this point, I had decided on changing my major to marketing, so I figured I would run of the Publicity and Promotion chair. Luckily, I got elected which enabled me to become even more involved in the club. I served as the P&P chair for two years (my sophomore and junior years). My involvement in Danceworks has been nothing but positive and I am grateful for the experiences each member contributes to my college experience.  Because of that, I ran for and am now the President of Danceworks Productions at Hofstra University.

I couldn’t tell you where I would be right now if my lab partner was not a member of Danceworks and urged me to come to the shows back in 2014. I would not have the family of friends I do now, have had the opportunity to grow as a dance, and have the honor to part of such an amazing club.

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Me featured in Kevin William’s Danceworks Productions piece in April 2016.

 

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