Every Friday night, a group of students meet in the Fairhaven Complex lounge to cut loose, socialize and express themselves through an eclectic style of dance. This is Fairhaven Fusion.
The group formed in 2012 when a handful of students from Swing Kids, Western’s swing dance club, began meeting underground in a small dance studio in Stack One of the Fairhaven Complex.
As the group attracted more members, meetings needed to be moved to the larger Fairhaven Complex lounge. In 2014, they became an official Associated Students club in order to start requesting the space.
“People can just come here and be who they are and be accepted for that, which I really appreciate.”
Senior Hayley Gehman, president and original member of Fairhaven Fusion, was hesitant about joining the AS at first. Gehman said she felt her experience as a Swing Kids officer in 2013 required her to meet a lot of cookie-cutter expectations.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want [Fairhaven Fusion] to lose all of its soul and heart, that makes it what I love so much,’” Gehman said. “But it turns out we managed to become part of the AS without losing our personality, which I really appreciate.”
In the beginning, group members thought they were dancing blues because they didn’t know what to call their dance style. They soon discovered it had a name: Fusion.
“The idea is that a lot of dances, like swing, salsa, zouk or waltz, have a step or structure they follow. Fusion is more of a free-form improvisational dance,” Gehman said. “I really like it because it allows dancers from all different backgrounds to come into the same space; dance to the music we like and pick; and communicate with each other.”
Every week the club features a different DJ, lesson and teacher.
“Being a dance teacher is difficult because there’s a huge cloud of topics to try to pick from,” Gehman said. “It can be really scary because it can feel like there’s nothing at all to teach. What we end up doing is pick different aspects we feel the community needs help with.”
Past lessons have included improvisation in dance and having a deep connection with one’s dance partner.
Teachers are chosen from other Western dance clubs or venues in the area.
“We try to make sure other people in the Bellingham dance community get a chance to come and teach our students,” Gehman said. “The more instructors for dance the better because then you can get a lot of different perspectives.”
Gehman works hard to make sure the club is a safe environment for students.
“Every quarter we have something we call a ‘fireside chat,’ and basically ask questions like, ‘Do you like the music? Do you like the space? Do you feel safe?’” Gehman asked.
Senior Cory Briar, vice president of Fairhaven Fusion, supports the welcoming environment Gehman has created.
“People can just come here and be who they are and be accepted for that, which I really appreciate,” Briar said.
Briar has been involved in the club since he was a freshman.
“This is such a great community,” Briar said. “I’m a musician, so I express myself a lot through music, and I really like expressing myself through my body and reacting to the music with my body instead of playing it.”
Briar’s favorite memory was from one year when the club was dancing to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and halfway through the song the speakers cut out. After the initial groans of disappointment, some students started singing acapella and the dancing continued.
“We finished up the song that way, and we all just collapsed into this giant cuddle puddle at the end,” Briar said. “It was just so overwhelmingly amazing that it pulled together like that.”
Senior Connor Frendt joined the club after a friend convinced him. He had never danced before and wanted to try something new.
“It’s just a lot of fun for me,” Frendt said. “It’s a nice getaway from studying and school and whatnot, to hang out with friends too.”
Frendt likes the freedom Fusion allows dancers.
“It’s not necessarily freestyle where you go crazy, but you can pretty much do whatever you want,” Frendt said. “It’s nice to not be necessarily controlled, but you can go off in whatever direction you want, and you can take any style and incorporate it.”