So an Italian, an Indian and an African American walk into a studio. No, this is not the beginning of a really bad joke, but merely a taste of the diversity within Deja Vu Dance Troupe.
What started off as a hip-hop dance team, evolved into a fun, multi-cultural outlet for students at Stony Brook University to relieve stress, make lasting friendships and do what they love most—dance.
“We all have our differences, whether it be our major, age, background, dance style, but the one thing that brings us together is our love to dance,” said Diksha Joshi, 21, a junior at Stony Brook University.
Deja Vu was founded on the Stony Brook campus in 2003 by a group of students passionate about hip-hop and R&B dance and music. As more students joined the team, different dance styles were introduced and adopted into its routines and dance shows.
“We incorporate so many different styles of dance,” said Malik Hughley, Vice President of Deja Vu Dance Troupe. “Ranging from reggae to hip-hop to pop, to even things like, we’ve had classical and jazz in a few sets.”
From people who dedicated years of their lives in a studio, to those who have only danced alone in their room, Deja Vu welcomes everyone to tryout.
“We only have one request,” said Joshi. “That is to bring your passion to dance.”
But, despite the fun atmosphere, the team is very competitive and, unfortunately, passion is not enough.
“The tryout process was nerve racking because it’s quite intimidating with all the Deja members sitting in front of you,” said Joshi. “You learn two dances in the span of two hours and then you audition it the same day and time. It was fun and people were very helpful. They were willing to help.”
Between participating in dance competitions and hosting annual galas, the team showcases its talents in front of an audience quite often. So naturally, talented dancers are required.
“It’s very competitive to be on the team,” said Ahlyjus McPherson, President of the Deja Vu Dance team. “We usually get 45-70 people try out every semester. Everyone is usually at their top, their A-game, so it is very hard to get on the team. We try to only take 10-15 people from those who try out.”
McPherson’s love for dance emerged from a very young age, when he would spend hours watching videos of Michael Jackson. He has been part of the Deja Vu family for three years and stepped into the president role this semester.
“Being president is a lot more difficult than being a regular dancer,” said McPherson. “You have a lot of duties to take care of. You have to make sure everybody’s on top of their stuff on the team and make sure everything happens successfully in the team.”
During the weeks before a show or competition, the team meets three or four nights a week. Practicing dances, precision and spacing, members of Deja continue dancing into the early morning hours.
All this time spent together has created a sense of belonging among the dancers.
“We’re all a big family,” said Joshi. “We all come together and we all just have a good time, and we just dance.”
Joshi is an international student from New Zealand. During her freshmen year at Stony Brook, her desire to learn reggae dancing inspired her to try out for Deja Vu.
“When I saw them perform I liked what styles they did. They were very good and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Joshi.
Dance is a vessel to express emotions and convey a message, and during college, students will look for every opportunity to do so.
“I dance because it is a stress reliever for me. I feel like whenever I dance I’m able to get out all the stress from school work and just like relax,” said McPherson. “I feel like its a perfect way to relieve it—dancing is a perfect outlet.”
Between building the bonds of lasting relationships and the diversity of its members, Deja Vu Dance Troupe considers itself to be a unique group.
Stony Brook University is home to a wide variety of dance clubs and teams for students to immerse themselves into. From the Stony Brook Dance Team to the belly-dancing club, there are many ways for college students to unwind.
“Deja is special because it’s a dance group that welcomes any race and dance style,” said Joshi. “We’re a melting pot of multiple cultures and dances that we teach each other and learn from our peers.”