Open doors to dancers’ success by opening more practice rooms

Neha Dronamraju

If you’re looking to join a dance team at UT, you can choose from 46 options on HornsLink. If you’re looking for a dance room to practice in, you have approximately one tenth of that number to choose from. If you’re looking to reserve one of those rooms, you have up to three chances per semester to do so. Let me simplify the math — it doesn’t add up. 

Student dance organizations at UT are short on practice spaces, and the limit of three reservations per organization each semester doesn’t help. UT caters to a massive student body, and the UT Recreational Sports Center cannot dole out unlimited spaces to all dance groups on campus. It should, however, reorganize its system to increase the number of times organizations can reserve spaces in the buildings under their purview. 

Mechanical engineering senior Jose Tello is the social officer and dance coordinator for the Korean Music Association, a student-run organization. He says he spends a significant chunk of his week staking out rooms for group’s dance practices.

“We perform anywhere between five to six times a semester, which means our groups need to practice at least once a week,” Tello said. “We want to save our reservations for closer to the performances, so a few times every week, I have to find a room in either (Gregory Gym), Belmont (Hall) or the (Recreational Sports Center) three hours in advance to beat other dance groups.” 

Tello said that despite such arduous efforts, groups often have to resort to practicing in “some random hallway” with no mirror. 

Jennifer Speer, senior director of UT Recreational Sports, said the RecSports Committee developed the three reservation policy based on student, faculty and staff input many years ago. At the time, they had enough multipurpose rooms for dance groups and other athletic organizations to use without conflict.

“In the past two years, we’ve seen the number of dance groups explode on campus, and we’re finding that our student groups are trying to use every space we offer for their purposes,” Speer said. “While the number of dance clubs has gone up, our inventory has not grown, and that’s why we have the three reservation limit. But if there are extra rooms empty, we try to accommodate everyone to the best of our ability.” 

Speer also said UT RecSports isn’t currently looking into building new spaces or converting old ones, as there isn’t enough
availability on campus.

Physical expansion of these spaces is not a feasible option, but this problem can still be addressed simply by putting the full inventory of athletic space to use. 

Tello said unreserved dance rooms are only available late at night, usually after 9 p.m. and in many cases, empty rooms are locked. 

“When I’m on the hunt for rooms, nobody else besides other dance groups are really in the buildings, and I notice that some rooms are empty, but they’re locked,” Tello said. “More of us could definitely be accommodated if they were open.”

Between inaccessible rooms and limited reservation opportunities, UT RecSports isn’t helping student organizations fully avail its physical spaces. The fix can be as simple as unlocking vacant practice rooms, which could create an opportunity to increase the three reservation limit, thereby opening doors to dancers’ success. 

Dronamraju is a public health sophomore from Dallas.