Students face lack of real-world opportunities to pursue passion for dance outside workplace

Kate Robinette

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Aside from a few brave, talented and dedicated idealists, there are not many Whitties who plan to seek careers in the arts. However, this is not for lack of passion. Many students spend countless hours each semester holed up in music building practice rooms, in Fouts with charcoal smudges on their faces, or tirelessly rehearsing in Harper Joy or the dance studio, even though their fellow anthropology or BBMB majors are entering into grad programs and jobs where creativity might at best mean finding a new way to order a data set.

These seniors, for whom the arts have been an integral part of their Whitman careers, are beginning to wonder how they will scratch the artistic itch when they leave the accommodating climate and rich opportunities of liberal arts life.

Dancers especially face a polarized world in which there are young students and there are adult professionals, but not much in between. Adult dance classes are limited and often stigmatized, and opportunities to perform are rare.

Whitman dancers are one illustrative group. Despite the unavailability of a major or minor in dance, and an art credit maximum of 12, many of them spend between 10-20 hours per week taking classes, helping choreograph and preparing for performances.

Illustration Credit: Binta Loos-Diallo

Senior Cami Murray, an anthropology major, has danced all four years here at Whitman in various capacities. She plans to attend grad school and eventually go into museum curacy, but feels that dance is too large a part of her life to fold it up and pack it away with her cap and gown.

“It’s a matter of finding a studio where you can pop in for adult classes, which is one of the reasons I really want to be in New York,” said Murray. “Really, if you’re a dancer like we are, it’s ingrained in you that you dance; it’s just too weird to not dance.”

Senior Rachelle Sloss, a BBMB major, also hopes for opportunities to combat the potential loss of dance in her post-undergrad years.

“My plans are to travel through Latin America, [and] one of my ideas for that trip was to do a dance tour of Latin America and try to do as much salsa and samba and tango and rumba as they have,” said Sloss. “Hopefully I’ll get to do a lot of that kind of dancing in the coming year.”

Despite the trials both in academia and the outside world, Murray and Sloss feel their time dancing at Whitman has shaped their identities and the way they approach other work.

“For the most part dancers tend to be so passionate about what they do,” said Murray. “I think that passion for dance has helped me in other areas of my life because once you know what a really deep passion is, you want to go out and find other things you feel that way about. I’ve just been really lucky that I found that thing I would be passionate about when I was three and that’s really been able to help guide me through other things in life.”

By this point in their lives, seniors have generally determined what they want from : and what they want to give to : their art, and from here on out they can only hope that, as they follow other goals, opportunities to pursue those desires simultaneously are nearby.

“I was pleased that Nate [Freeman, alumus who choreographed Whitman’s ballet production of Romeo and Juliet] said he took four years off of dance between Whitman and Yale and got back into it in law school,” said Sloss. “I hadn’t really thought of that as an option so hopefully if/when I go to grad school there will be dance opportunities there. I can see myself coaching a dance team or doing some sort of choreography or teaching … Anytime there’s opportunities to dance or to see dance, or to watch dance TV shows I’m always there.”

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