HOP Visiting Artists Riyaaz Qawwali Perform for LLC Students

On January 18th, ten musicians from the the ensemble South Asian Riyaaz Qawwali joined Living Learning Community students for a lively and inspiring evening of music and conversation. Qawwali is a music tradition that emerged in the 14th century when Sufi Poet Amir Khusrow wrote a series of musical compositions dedicated to his teacher, the saint Nizamuddin. In 2006, these ten South Asian-Americans, then college students at the University of Texas at Austin, joined together as a group and began to reinterpret Khusrow’s tradition in a modern context.

The founder and lead vocalist of the group is Sonny, a 31-year old who hails from Houston, Texas. The other ten musicians are also native Texans and play a combination of instruments, including harmonium, dholak, qawwali tabla, violin, tambourine, pianikia, and cajon, in addition to singing.

Their performance in Occom Commons was mesmerizing, and over thirty students enjoyed the unique and eclectic sounds of the group. “Qawwali tradition is supposed to be a practice of ecstasy,” Sonny once explained in an interview for The Huffington Post, and the student audience at Occoms Commons sat on the carpet with rapt expressions which made it clear that the group’s music had achieved its intended affect.

What is unique about Riyaaz Qawwali, as we discussed in our conversation after the performance, was that the group’s members hail from from numerous religious backgrounds. Musicians in the group practice Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity, and some are atheists and agnostics. The group is a testament to the power and importance of working across divides and differences of opinion.

After the performance and conversation, Living Learning Community students sat at six tables with each of the Riyaaz Qawwali artists interspersed throughout the tables. The evening was a joyous celebration of the power of music to bring diverse groups and cultures together.

Rov Arquiza '20 Teaches "Breaking 101" Class

On January 8th, Rov Arquiza ’20 led Living Learning Community students in a “Breaking 101” class. Breaking, the correct term for what is more commonly known as “break dancing,” is an exciting form of alternative exercise, and Rov was an awesome teacher! We interviewed him to learn more about his experience with breaking and his Dartmouth student experience in general.

How did you become interested in breaking?

I started out primarily as a free style dancer when I was in elementary schools. At school dances and weddings, I felt comfortable dancing and didn’t care what people thought. I would just go to the dance floor, and eventually, I learned how to do more than just flail my arms around then. I didn’t know how to “break” back then.

Then, in middle school, I learned some beginner’s breaking moves on YouTube. I learned basic stuff like the Worm and the Coffee Grinder, and throughout high school, I continued teaching myself as much as I could through online lessons.

When I got to Dartmouth, I became more serious about breaking. Before I joined Street Soul last year, the group used to have an instructor who was a grad student named Kartik Pawar. He was a great breaking teacher, and he had been part of a college crew at Duke. Now that he has graduated, the members of Street Soul are self-taught. The members of the group are constantly motivating one another to get better, perfect their moves, and push themselves. Many of my closest friends are in Street Soul. We perform at dance competitions called “jams,” which I find are a great way to improve my skills.

What has your experience been like living in a Living Learning Community?

I was a member of T3 (Thriving Through Transitions) last year, which was a really tight-knit community. I attended most of the floor meetings and other events. In the fall of 2017, I even organized a T3 Reunion at Professor Washburn’s house. The purpose of the reunion was not just to bring the former members back together, but also, to impart wisdom to the current members of the Living Learning Community.

I now live in La Casa, which is also an awesome community. I consider myself an intermediate Spanish speaker, and I definitely have plenty of opportunities to improve my Spanish through La Casa.

What House Community are you part of?

I am a member of North Park. I think that the College is doing a good job providing social opportunities through the House Communities, and that the communities are off to a great start.  I think that it would be great if the House Communities provided more opportunities for student groups like Street Soul to perform.

Rov, member of the Dartmouth Class of 2020, is a premed student from Nashua, New Hampshire who is considering pursuing a Math major.

Humanities LLC Ventures to New York

On Saturday February 25, 2017 at an early, dark 6:30 a.m, twenty residents of the Humanities LLC departed for New York City alongside Faculty Advisor Professor Marlene Heck and UGA Ariel Klein.

After arriving just before noon, residents visited Times Square and ate lunch, basking in the touristy sights of the big city - unlike the small town atmosphere of Hanover to which they had grown accustomed.

In the afternoon, they departed for the Museum of Modern Art, where they spent several hours exploring the museum's vast collection of art. Then, they watched a special showing of the documentary Las Letras (The Letters) directed by professor and social activist Pablo Chavarria Gutierrez.

After dinner, the students went to Broadway to see Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, an electro-opera interpreting part of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace which won two Tony awards since the Humanities LLC saw it in New York. Some reviews of the play from residents:

EJ Abass '20: I loved it so much. By the end, I was crying.

The next morning, the student woke up early to have breakfast in Grenich village before spending some tame wading through the sea of modern art held at the Whitney Museum. After poring through the museum's collection, students had lunch at Chelsea Market, experiencing an eclectic mix of foods ranging from artisan pot pies to authentic gelato.

Around 4 pm, the students departed New York City, leaving behind them a trip and city that would live in their minds for many days to come.