Each Tuesday starting around 7 p.m., rap and smooth R&B music echoes loudly through a hallway packed with the 17 members of Ryerson’s Urban Hip Hop Union (UHHU) competitive dance team.
They’d rather be in a spacious studio. Instead, they’re stuck in a corridor of Kerr Hall West between the nutrition lounge and the lower gym.Their biggest competition of the year, Ontario Universities Competition for Hip-Hop (OUCH), is less than two weeks away and the team hasn’t been able to secure a place to practise.
Scoring rehearsal space is a bureaucratic dance with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and the Recreation and Athletics Centre (RAC). The only professional dance venue designated for RSU student groups at the RAC is Studio 3.
To book the studio, student groups first file a form to the RSU. The union then contacts the RAC for studio availability and, after getting a response, tells student groups whether the booking is successful or not.
It’s that middle step that tangles the studio-booking tango.
Larisa Bodiu, UHHU’s president, says her group is fed up with the lag time caused by the RSU’s communication with the RAC.
But the RSU’s vice-president of student life and events, Danielle Brogan, says the process for booking a studio in the (RAC) is set by the university, not the students’ union.
“When it comes to university bookings, it’s more of a bureaucratic process,” Brogan says, adding that the long response times student groups are complaining about are a result of the students’ union waiting on the RAC to confirm booking.
“It’s almost out of our hands. We can’t speed them up in any way,” she says.
Although Anthony Seymour, manager of recreation for the department of athletics, acknowledges the heavy “email traffic” in the booking process, he understands why the RSU wants to be the mediator.
However, Bodiu says she believes eliminating the RSU’s middle-man role in booking studio space would allow groups to immediately know their availability. A dance studio, she says, is essential not just for its space, but for safety.
Seymour says an electronic system could speed up the studio booking process, but added that the he understands “where the students’ union is coming from.
“They have to ensure there is equitable use of the space.”
Bodiu says she believes eliminating the RSU’s middleman role in booking studio space would allow groups to immediately know their availability. A dance studio, she says, is essential not just for its space, but for safety.
“If we were in the RAC and had the studio space we would feel more secure,” says Bodiu.
She adds that UHHU started using a “buddy policy” when using washrooms during late rehearsals after team members said they felt unsafe walking alone.
The search for dance space isn’t unique to these three groups.
Other groups like the South Asian Alliance’s (SAA) dance team, as well as the troupe from the Tamil Students’ Association (TSA), have also had booking issues.
“We went through the process of filling in the form (for Studio 3), but it’s very hard to get a response and we can’t be waiting on that,” says Gurpreet Saggu, head co-ordinator of the SAA’s dance group.
Saggu says she’s starting to see other associations pop up in hallways because of the delayed room booking response.
They’ve resorted to dancing in whatever open spaces they can find on campus, she says, such as Kerr Hall West, the Student Campus Centre and “the dungeon” of Kerr Hall North.
A year ago the team received one studio booking through the RSU, the night before OUCH. They submitted that request in September, two months before their competition.
“This year we got nothing from the RSU,” says Violeta Martinez, vice-president of UHHU.
Dance groups without proper practice space also have to learn choreography without mirrors, which isn’t as effective. The UHHU team uses doorway reflections when possible, but even then there are distractions of people walking through and interrupting.
Sometimes they can watch themselves dance by hooking up a laptop to a projector and then using its webcam, but that’s only possible if the room has a projector and laptop hookup.
Martinez says that UHHU intends on making a formal complaint to the RSU for its lack of timeliness in responding to studio space requests.
The RSU currently has no policy on the maximum time that can pass before they must respond to a booking request.
“They’re supposed to be helping student groups with this, but they really aren’t helping at all,” says Martinez.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 13, 2013.