On a typical Monday night, at 6:50 pm, the halls are empty, all of the teachers have gone home and classes have concluded for the day. The silence is disturbed only on the second floor where there is laughter, talking, singing and loud music that fills the space, changing an empty abyss into a dynamic, judgment-free space full of energy.
In a small little corner upstairs is a room full of students ready to dance, as Siam Shimul, the choreographer/secretary of Cobb Dance Club starts a warm-up for fellow dance members.
“Get ready to sweat,” says Shimul, walking to the center of the room with confidence. “A little more energy please,” he says, counting with the music to the moves in the warmup. The warmup includes toe touches and leg, back and hip stretches.
“Whenever he’s there, he brings in a lot of energy, and even when he’s not choreographed something, he’s either doing a warmup or stretching. He’s always valuable,” said Alissa Edjacin, a long-time friend and co-president of a cobb dance club.
Open windows in a joint effort with a fan fill the room with cool air as the sweaty dancers finish their warmup with Shimul.
“ I think he brings a lot of energy to the club,” said Elisabeth Grack, a member of the Cobb Dance Club. “He’s super supportive in that way,” she said.
This was the first practice of the spring semester for the dancers. After the warmup, they all sat on the floor and introduced themselves along with their academic path at Concordia and why they love to dance. Most had similar answers on why they love to dance, ranging from the joy of dance to being into the vibe of the Cobb Dance Club.
“Dance is my language of expression,” said Shimul.
Siam Shimul is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has been in the United States since 2018 and is currently a sophomore at Concordia with a major in communications and a minor in business.
His passion for dance started at six years old, and he finds dance as a tool for coping with strong emotions like stress and anxiety or bright moments of joy.
“Since childhood, [dance] is how I express how I feel about different things, or just even just a fun thing to do, and dancing has also been a struggle,” said Shimul, “growing up in a Muslim family, your parents definitely don’t want you to dance, because it’s not considered very Muslim,” he said.
Since childhood, the rebel inside him always wanted the opportunity to show that dance isn’t harmful, but helpful, and can be used as a positive tool.
“Dance is something that shouldn’t be forbidden because it’s not hurting anyone or harming anyone,” said Shimul. “Rather, it’s helping me express myself. It’s helping the world get to know me more, teaching them different things that I want to explain and deliver to the audience,” he said.
Shimul has always loved people and talking to them. He explained that it could be a conversation about anything, even something simple, but he would appreciate the connection that he made with that person.
One experience Edjacin recalls back when they were in high school together was when Shimul was left behind at Walmart and had to find his way back to the campus.
“He stayed so long inside of the Walmart that the bus left,” said Edjacin.
Since they went to an international high school, they had a bus schedule to pick them up. Eventually, he arrived back on campus grounds and entered the common area where Edjacin was waiting, as a concerned friend asked how he was able to get back, and Shimul responded, “Oh, this nice family offered to take me.”
With even more concern, she told him he could have been kidnapped, but Shimul happily said “no, they looked nice, they had kids.”
Shimul has performed in many different events with the Cobb Dance Club since 2021, including the International Student Organization (ISO) Festival, ISO Gala, and Cabaret. Recently he and the other members of the club performed in the 2022 ISO festival with two of the dances he choreographed for the club.
Before going on stage, he was worried about people getting cold feet or whether the audience would even enjoy the dance.
“I have been doing it for a long time, but I’m scared,” said Shimul.
Going out onto the stage with anticipation, Shimul stands there waiting for the music to start, and once he begins, he never looks back and just has fun.
“On the stage, it’s all about the scare, the team building, getting comfortable coming out of the shell, and learning about each other and the audience. You could learn so much from their reactions and how they perceive different things,” said Shimul.
One dance in particular was about a polyamorous couple with a twist.
“The story was like me being the only guy and four girls being in love at the same time. And then they also reject me, but then me going back to the other two, and then all four of us coming back together in a way,” said Shimul.
The music was upbeat and energetic and gave the dance a sense of sass and feistiness. The audience was dancing, moving and singing along when the group was performing. People went up to Shimul saying how much they loved the dances and how they could connect with them.
“That feels like an accomplishment towards me that I made at least let’s say five people’s day better maybe, and that means a lot,” said Shimul.
Shimul has been choreographing since high school. He includes styles of contemporary, afro beats, and hip-hop in his choreography, and he loves including all of these styles into one dance. For him, choreographing is about how his body moves to the music.
“He’s like the king of the body roll,” said Grack.