Seeing the photo of BodyHype in last month’s PAW inspired me to share a brief story about dance on campus at the turn of the 21st century. I was not in BodyHype — I was a two-time BodyHype reject and as a result pretty desperate to find an outlet for my dance-performing itch. Serendipitously, in the spring of 1998, I received a call, on our dorm-room landline (cellphones were not quite ubiquitous back in those days) from Darayan Didier-Blanchard ’00 and Gallant Nien ’02, inviting me to join a new endeavor (we had all known each other from auditions and Terrace parties). The thinking was that there was so much talent across the student body that a new dance troupe was both welcome and needed (there was also Expressions and a few other smaller groups). 

We had our first performance under the name of International Heat of Princeton (IHOP — not our best idea) at the International Festival in Dillon Gym in the spring of 1998. Over the summer we did a bit of rebranding and strategizing and renamed ourselves diSiac and convinced the University to provide some funds to create this group and put on performances. We organized an “official-appearing” audition in the fall of 1998 and recruited approximately 10 new dancers to form our first full cadre of diSiac. We were an eclectic, diverse, ragtag, and rough-around-the-edges crew. But what we lacked in polish we made up for in creativity (we performed a piece on skis) and spirit (the famous rallying cry “diSiac … uhhhhh” was born at our very first full show in the winter of 1998–99). During my time at Princeton, diSiac consisted of all manner of dancers, from amateur wannabe hip-hoppers (that’s me) to professionally trained ballerinas, salsa and ballroom dancers, ROTCers, cheerleaders, theater nerds, martial artists, break-dancers, modern creatives, and more, from across the country and globe. DiSiac survived, grew, and evolved over my remaining three years at Princeton and now, incredibly, seems to be a staple of campus life.

As it often goes with stories of triumph, a heart-wrenching tragedy interjected the through line of diSiac’s story: Darayan died not long after his graduation. It’s unfathomable to me that we are upon the 20th anniversary of his death. The irony of this loss is that Darayan was the most full-of-life person that I have ever met. He had energy, creativity, beauty, and spirit like no other person I have known. And what’s more, Darayan was studying to be a doctor, hoping to heal others, yet never had the opportunity to share his light with patients. 

Despite this tragic loss, diSiac remains a vibrant, diverse, and talented part of Princeton life. This fact fills me (and many diSi-alums) with pride and provides solace that a part of Darayan lives on in diSiac’s legacy.