For my first seven semesters at Middlebury, there existed a beloved, clandestine spot tucked into the ground floor on Proctor Dining Hall. Affectionately known as “Proc Basement,” this space provided a haven for dancers across campus to hold formal rehearsals or casually work on choreography. The only other studio spaces on campus with a full mirror — the Mahaney dance studios and the boxing gym in the athletic center — exist on the margins of campus. (The availability of those spaces is also fickle; the former is prioritized for the Dance Department and the latter is often utilized for PE classes.) Proc Basement, however, was a centrally located and communal space that provided a creative outlet for anyone who sought it out.
That is, until now.
At the end of the fall semester, Proc Basement as we knew it was shuttered for good. The door was locked, the mirrors were covered and a sign reading “Reserved for Testing” went up. As far as I know, no student groups were asked about this or given a chance to voice the importance and sanctity of this space. Out of all the rooms on campus that could have been employed and designed for exam-taking, this was a space that was seen as inoperative and disposable. But every dancer on campus will tell you that Proc Basement was far from that.
Though we may have complained incessantly about the dusty floors that made floorwork unsavory or the giant pole in the middle of the room that many limbs narrowly missed crashing into, this was still a place that was characterized by a profound appreciation for dance and for each other. On any given evening, the sounds of a booming speaker, voices of choreographers counting out music or tap shoes ricocheting across the floor echoed throughout the building.
Now, for student groups such as Evolution Dance Crew, Midd Masti, On Tap and RIDDIM World Dance Troupe, the already-difficult task of finding available rehearsal spaces has been exacerbated. For example, many dancers in RIDDIM will have up to 20 hours of rehearsal in a given week. And though this time commitment rivals that of varsity sports teams, it's hard to imagine any athletic practice facilities being repurposed for testing.
Dance groups on campus have consistently been negotiating for more studio spaces to be made available; Evolution Dance Crew recently received mirrors for their Forest Basement rehearsals, which they have lobbied in favor of for years. Though this change made it seem like Middlebury was beginning to take the dance community more seriously, the closure of Proc Basement nullified this hope.
Ultimately, the consideration of Proc Basement as an unused space ripe for reappropriation implies that dancers are expendable and less valued than other groups on campus. It also undercuts the hours of work that have gone into providing many sold-out shows, workshops, and showcases for the campus community — which Proc Basement helped make possible.
As a result, we ask that other rooms on campus be utilized for testing so that Proc Basement can be made an open and communal studio space again. And as plans for a new student center in Proctor emerge, we hope that the needs of arts groups and performance-based organizations will be valued and prioritized.
Lily Laesch is a member of the class of 2023 and the Campus’s Editorial Director and Senior Opinions Editor. She is the secretary of RIDDIM World Dance Troupe.
Lily Laesch '23 is the Campus’s editorial director.
She previously served as an opinions editor and a layout editor.
Laesch is joint majoring in Geography and Political Science with a minor in History, focusing specifically on foreign policy, border relations, international migration flows, and immigration law.
Outside of the newsroom, Laesch plays on the women’s ultimate frisbee team, dances with RIDDIM World Dance Troupe, and leads outdoor orientation trips.