Club-goers and fans of Ann Arbor’s dance scene eagerly await one specific event all year. As dancers take to the center of the floor, they shake hands with the 500 person-strong audience, composed of friends, significant others, club regulars and maybe even University of Michigan hip-hop team super-fans. The dark space suddenly illuminates, and Dance2XS Michigan, a long-standing co-ed hip-hop group, is announced. They command the attention of a roaring audience for six minutes, and after the performance, the student performers briefly become campus celebrities.
This widely anticipated show, dubbed “2XS Barnite,” is the University dance scene’s most elusive yet coveted event. The oddly secretive talent showcase, advertised only with a few social media posts and YouTube recordings, is comparable to a huge dance party at Ann Arbor’s very own Necto Nightclub. For over 10 years, Barnite has showcased the best of the Midwestern urban dance scene, including both popular student dance groups like EnCore and FunKtion and professional hip-hop groups like Detroit’s Melodic Nocturne.
Dance2XS Michigan is one of the University’s premier dance groups, born out of the internationally recognized, multicultural dance collective Dance2XS, which was founded in 1998 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Since its founding, Dance2XS has expanded across midwestern universities and into Europe, South America and Australia.
During a phone interview with The Michigan Daily, Kinesiology senior Rowan Janusiak, 2XS Michigan director, compared 2XS Michigan to a “family” who “has each other on our bad days.” Rowan called the international 2XS collective “an international community.”
Barnite also marks the start of the hip-hop performance season, in which the University’s various dance groups travel to perform and host their own events. The University’s top hip-hop groups prepare for weeks to start off strong.
“The week leading up to Barnite … We call it ‘Hell Week,’” Kinesiology senior Jocelyn Kahn, president of EnCore, said with a laugh in a phone interview with The Daily. EnCore has performed at every 2XS Barnite since its founding. “We basically stay at practice until it’s done, or until it looks good, or until we can’t dance anymore,” Kahn said.
Once the event starts, it feels like another electric night at the club, but replace fist-pumping with stunningly coordinated dances.
“It feels like you’re onstage because there’s lights and everyone’s watching you, but it doesn’t because you’re on the same level as everyone,” Kahn said. “So it’s honestly just like a really fun practice. It gets you to go all out and crazy.”
For dancers, Barnite is a chance to let loose, bond with teammates and show off hard-earned skills in a five-minute routine. No single member shines more than the others, and they all create a cohesive moving being in which every part fits into place.
The ability to move as one is key for these tight-knit campus dance groups. Dance2XS hosted their last Barnite in February 2019. The pandemic stopped all on-campus dance groups from meeting, and the recent return to group rehearsals makes Barnite all the more monumental for dancers like Jocelyn.
“Being back, it’s truly a different feeling. It makes me really happy every time,” Kahn said.
As the world reopens and Necto unveils the dance floor to the Midwest’s top talent, Dance2XS Michigan members open their doors to friends from other chapters and clubgoers anxiously wait in line for hours. Dance2XS’s routine will appropriately be themed “Comeback.”
2XS Michigan is “just excited to be one of the first performances back following COVID and restart that energy,” Janusiak said.
Daily Arts Contributor Kaya Ginsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.