On Friday, Penn’s dance community will come together for the 20th anniversary of the Emily Sachs Dance Benefit. Emily Sachs was a Penn student and a vibrant member of Arts House Dance Company before she passed away her freshman year from asthma complications in 1995. I had the opportunity to chat with Sara Sachs (C ‘18), who is performing in the show for the tenth time and is also the artistic director this year. If you already did the math, Sara has danced at the Benefit since she was in the fourth grade. She was adopted into the Sachs family in 1996, the same year the benefit was born. During our conversation, Sara reflects, “As I’ve grown up with this benefit, I’ve realized that the participants had huge hearts coming together year after year to remember my sister and to raise money for asthma research and treatment.” 

Following in her sister's footsteps, Sara is a member of Arts House Dance Company, which will be featured along with eleven other groups from 

Penn’s dance community at the Benefit. “It’s the only time where all twelve Dance Arts Council groups come together to perform on one stage,” she explains. Groups taking the stage on Friday include Arts House Dance Company, African Rhythms, Onda Latina, Pan–Asian Dance Troupe, PenNaach, Penn Dance, Penn Dhamaka, Soundworks Tap Factory, Sparks Dance Company, Strictly Funk, West Philly Swingers and Yalla. “If you’re not that familiar with dance, then this is definitely the best way to get a taste of what the Penn Dance Community is like,” says Sara. If you’re someone who strictly vibes to Fetty Wap on Friday nights, this eclectic mix will expand your horizons and let you sample styles from Contemporary to Swing to traditional Indian dance. If that’s not enough to spark your curiosity, there are rumors of a final dance battle between Arts House and Onda Latina, along with multiple other duels.

This year in particular marks a milestone anniversary, which Sara sees as an opportunity for innovation. In Emily’s time at Penn and in the Benefit’s past years, today’s technology didn’t exist, but will now add another dimension to the event. In one change, the 2016 Benefit will mix video with live performance. “This year, my family converted old VHS tapes to DVD, so all of my sister’s dances and performances will be seen for the first time,” says Sara. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a video of my sister dancing and now everyone will be able to remember.” Sara is also focusing on using current gadgets to strengthen the Benefit’s mission to aid the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Asthma Center. In a modern twist to the old–fashioned “Penny Wars,” Sara announces a “Venmo Challenge” this week on Locust Walk, where students can donate in the name of their favorite dance group. May the best group (with the most charitable friends) win bragging rights.

After years performing alongside girls years who were older than her, Sara is finally chairing the event (alongside co–chairs Rhea Singh, Ramita Ravi, Jennifer Li, Emilia Hinckley and Sara Tibrewala) where her family has sat in the same place in the Iron Gate Theater for 20 years. “This time, the event will be more of a celebration,” she says, mentioning the new addition of anniversary balloons. 

This Friday, Street urges you to get to the Emily Sachs Dance Benefit in celebration of a former student’s legacy—Sara’s artistic vision and moves that don’t need elevated surfaces.  

Find the Facebook event here


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