There's only one night each year when all 12 dance groups at Penn share the same stage. And that night is the Emily Sachs Dance Benefit, which falls on Friday, January 19th this year.

Emily Sachs was a Penn freshman and a member of Arts House Dance Company before she passed away from asthma complications in 1995. The Emily Sachs Dance Benefit was born out of an outpouring of love and sympathy from the Penn community. Each year, all the proceeds from the benefit go to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Asthma Program.

The same year the benefit was born, Sara Sachs (C ’18) joined the Sachs family. Sara has attended the Benefit every year since its inception and, like her sister, she’s a dancer and member of Arts House. During our conversation, she told me, “Since I never met my sister, this is the one thing that I have that connects me to her, so it’s very special.”

The benefit features performances from Arts House Dance Company, African Rhythms, Penn Dhamaka, Onda Latina, Pan–Asian Dance Troupe, PENNaach, Penn Dance Company, Soundworks Tap Factory, Sparks Dance Company, Strictly Funk, West Philly Swingers, and Penn Yalla. 

As Dance Arts Council Chair Nick Silverio (W ’18) describes, “It’s probably the best bang for your buck you’ll ever get. It’s all 12 dance groups at Penn performing under one roof, on one night which never happens again throughout the year, as well as it just goes towards such an amazing cause.”

The benefit enables Penn students who aren’t involved in the dance community at Penn to see the incredible diversity and professionalism these dance groups offer. The show combines many different styles of dance. It’s equal parts educational and entertaining, with the Em Sachs chairs aiming to raise awareness about asthma research and treatment.

For Penn students in the dance community, the Benefit is a bonding experience for all 12 groups. Last year, the “Freshman Piece” brought together freshman dancers from all different groups to dance one song. This year marks the introduction of a “Senior Piece” for graduating Penn students. The Em Sachs chairs imagine the piece will be a great way for seniors to say goodbye to both the Dance Arts Council and Penn. 

As Em Sachs Chair Jessica Liu (C ’20) predicts, “These are communities that have already gotten to know each other and perform together at Penn so they can do a similar last big hurrah before they graduate”. 

The “Venmo Challenge” will also be making an appearance, where students can donate to the @EmSachs2018 Venmo in the name of their favorite DAC group. Whichever group raises the most money receives a grand prize. There will also be a Midnight Bake Sale at Smokes’, as well as a prize for whichever audience member donates the most. Last year the benefit raised over $4,000, a number the Em Sachs chairs hope to exceed this year.