When Ronnie Seeney, CSOM ’13, told members of the administration that she planned to start the popular ALC Showdown promptly at 7 p.m. and wrap it all up by 9:30 p.m. sharp, the group couldn’t hold back their amusement. “A lot of them sat there kind of like, ‘Okay, Ronnie, that’s nice for you to be ambitious, but it’s not going to happen,'” Seeney said. Seeney’s ambition and the similarly steadfast work of her colleague Ariel Durgana, A&S ’12, brought these goals to fruition, though. The co-directors of ALC programming took risks to deliver an efficient, family-friendly show that brought together the excitement of a dance competition and the moral mission of the Boston College community.
Durgana’s Showdown experience this past year put her behind the scenes, but her relationship to the event began as a dancer. She was a three-year member of MASTI and even served as its head choreographer her junior year, but a back injury sidelined her. Durgana forged a new road in Showdown history by taking the reigns on this year’s event. “Having the total opposite experience and going from dancing in Showdown to running it was overwhelming,” Durgana said. “A good overwhelming, though. If I couldn’t dance in it, I wanted to be running it. There was no way I wasn’t going to be involved in Showdown.”
Seeney took a different route that began with mentorship in the AHANA Leadership Academy program. Assigned to the programming department, Seeney immersed herself and became assistant programming director of the ALC her sophomore year before stepping into the role of co-director of programming her junior year. She saw Showdown as one of the key events to increasing race relations. “When I came as a freshman, I immediately felt the difference between white and black, but I didn’t feel that when I went to an ALC event,” Seeney said. “Showdown is one of the biggest events that targets AHANA students and gets all of their friends involved, but it also brings the entire BC community all together.” Durgana credits Seeney’s sharp organization skills and attention to detail as a key to their success while Seeney praises Durgana’s endless creativity, but it’s the fusion of the two together that resulted in ALC programming’s success, said Guru Shan, ALC president and A&S ’12. “Both of them have the personality where they can take on everything without really showing it,” he said. “They are really good delegators, and everyone in the department took on some responsibility.”
This became most apparent when the duo revamped ALC Showdown. Last year’s ALC looked to address the negative feedback regarding the show’s length and the rambling emcees. Durgana drew from pop culture to find a solution. Crediting dance shows such as America’s Best Dance Crew and Dancing with the Stars, Durgana proposed using video introductions with the dance teams in place of using emcees.
At first, the dance teams were nervous about the videos because it’s different from being onstage,” Seeney said. “Some of them were really nervous being recorded.”
“Some of them didn’t want to show off their moves,” Durgana said. “Showdown season gets very competitive and secretive, so they didn’t want to show too much.”
Using the skills of Rob Maloof, BC ’10, highly professional videos bookended each performance, and the dance teams put the competition aside and put their personalities forward.
Along with the videos, Seeney proposed putting a philanthropic twist on the event. An orientation leader the summer before, Seeney took to heart the philosophy she taught her freshmen. “All summer I was saying, ‘Men and women for others,’ so when it came time to start planning Showdown, I thought, ‘How can we be men and women for others?'” Seeney said. “It’s a common notion that if you’re going to do something at BC it should connect back to service, and we know that we lacked that in years past, so the best thing that I could think of was giving a charity check and having the teams’ dancers contribute to something they believe in.”
Announcing the news to the dance groups resulted in little fanfare. As the group bios came in, however, Durgana and Seeney recognized that groups planned to donate money to PULSE placements and foundations that contributed research to illnesses with personal meaning. “A lot of the culture clubs that competed this year chose a charity that had to do with their culture in that specific country,” Durgana said. “All of the dance teams were good about picking a charity that showed their personality as a team as well as something that showed them as men and women for others. I think by the end they really liked the idea.”
The big day proved both exciting and stressful. Seeney spent much of her time calling cues and helping the disabled to their seats while Durgana managed the dance teams on the floor and dealt with the emotion of her final Showdown. Both described the event as “a blur,” but somehow Seeney’s bold goal of a 7 p.m. start time with a strict two-and-a-half hour runtime came to fruition. Sexual Chocolate won for dance performance while Uprising won for cultural performance, making the West End House of Boys and Girls Club and the Hawthorne Youth Community Center, respectively, each $500 richer. In Durgana and Seeney’s opinion, the best part was that the crowd stayed to see the talent rewarded and the charities given their due. “We have a picture that BCPD took of the whole crowd at 9:15, and you see everyone,” Seeney said.
“It was an incredible experience because we knew that it went really well,” Durgana said. “We were getting compliments all over the place. BCPD called it the best Showdown they had ever seen, which is an honor coming from them.”
“I almost cried on stage when we were presenting the checks,” Seeney said. “One, we’re giving this money to people who will try to better themselves, and it was almost five months of work coming down to this. It was finally done.”
Durgana and Seeney showed expert management in Showdown, but that success was shown in the ALC Boat Cruise and the Winter Ball, as well. “Ariel and Ronnie’s real success was creating such a strong department,” Shan said. “They faced a lot of hurdles and were able to handle them with ease.”
The programming directors agree, though, that these events are nothing without their audience. “Everyone enjoyed themselves,” Durgana said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for an event planner. If everyone else is having a great time, you’re having a great time.”
This experience had an even larger take-away for Durgana and Seeney, however. “This whole thing taught us not to be afraid of doing something different or taking risks,” Durgana said. “It could end up being for the better. It’s not just because they’re different. It’s because these changes were creative and insightful.”
Seeney agreed. “I now think that you really need to stick to what you think is best,” she said. “A lot of people said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that? Is it for the best?’ It would have been easy to be like, ‘Fine, we’ll settle,’ but because we were gung-ho about it, we stuck to our plan.”
And this duo has a breezy two-and-a-half hours worth of proof that it was for the best.