As a sophomore last year on the UW-Madison campus, Jeffrey Vinokur decided he'd had it with dancing alone.
So Vinokur, a biochemistry major from New Jersey with a talent and passion for the hip-hop subspecialty called "popping," rallied student dance groups from every genre and every corner of campus.
"It seemed like dancers (across campus) didn't have much interaction, even though we share something powerful," he said. "I wanted to create a more cohesive community."
So he began pairing student dance clubs for style-bending collaborations over several months, capped by a one-day Madison Dance Conference. The idea was such a success that this year's Madison Dance Conference stretches over a full weekend, with free dance workshops for the public Saturday and Sunday and a two-hour dance performance and social dance Sunday evening in the Memorial Union's Great Hall.
The range is broad and the match-ups intriguing: Bhangra Indian dance mixed with Salsa. Irish step-dancing teamed with breakdance. Vinokur's group, Rhythm Per Second Dance Crew, has partnered with the Korean American Student Association Dance Team — for freestyle popping set to traditional Korean drums.
"It was just too much fun when we got together," said Carlyn Pitterle, a dance major and coordinator of the Trinity Irish Dancers-UW Chapter, which collaborated with the UW Breakers for a joint performance Sunday night. Over the weeks that the dance groups met and created their piece, both learned from each other, she said.
"As a dance major, we don't get to interact that much with other groups on campus, and there are so many of them," she said. "Now if we want to do a collaboration in the future, we have those connections."
Sunday's performance — interspersed with chances for the audience to join in — will showcase around 120 dancers from 14 groups, Vinokur said. The weekend also is marked by the UW-Madison Dance Department's fall concert, "Upswing," held at the Union Theater Friday and Saturday.
"This is the spirit of students that we like," Dance Department chair Jin-Wen Yu said of the conference. "They love dance. So it makes sense to get together and have a larger voice. There's a collective energy. The more people who dance, the better."
Which is why at Sunday's evening event, there will be few chairs in the Great Hall, even for the audience.
"We want people dancing," Vinokur said. "If we had chairs, people would just sit."