More Than a Dance

November 13, 2019

“Dance lives in us; it gives us human connection”. Throughout the school day, students from Lower to Middle school can be seen running the halls, ballet shoes in hand, toward the dance studio in Dobbs. The dance program at school has been part of the curriculum for 14 years and continues to grow, exposing students to different genres that range from ballet to urban hip hop. A passion for movement extends all the way to Upper School. More students are showing interest and joining classes through the Creative Ballet Center, Hutchison’s after school program, while others are enterprising their own classes. Whether it is a Lower School student who is learning how to turn for the first time, or an Upper School member of the modern dance company, the interest in dance goes beyond those impressive moves.

Louisa Koeppel, Dance Instructor and Creative Ballet Center Director, believes every body is a dancer body. “We provide project-based learning experiences and the tools of choreography that allow the dancer to explore story and emotions and connect them to strong women from the past and the present, “she said as she explained the purposes of the class. She wants students who take her class to have an understanding that “dance is to express yourself and not to impress,” These classes are notable because of the life lessons they teach. Micca Lejwa ‘20 has been in Koeppel’s dance class since her freshman year. With this class, “Me, Katy, and Elizabeth, who are also in the class, created our own dance and we’ve been performing it for the past 3 years, and she just let us do that as long as it was about empowering women,” she stated. Without this class, she feels as if she would not have become more confident and open to new ideas and challenges, and she hopes to take the lessons she learned on how to be a STRONG woman with her to college.

Koeppel uses her classes and performances to get across the message that body confidence and feeling empowered in yourself is way better than learning any dance move. She firmly believes that every person can dance, it is just a matter of bringing out the rhythm and the movements. As girls like Lejwa go through the courses of dance at Hutchison, they “walk away with a sense of confidence in their own bodies and take note of who they are as a human”. She has ingrained this lesson into all her students, and it shows in all they do both in and out of the studio. This new-found confidence inspires students to do their own activities. For example, Emma Day ‘21 is putting the lesson she learned to use, and her new program is “a great way to start crossover initiatives.”

Day is the first student to create her own dance class for the Creative Ballet Center. She saw a need for a new class because “there weren’t many more classes that she wanted to take.” Day began dancing here at Hutchison and looked to Koeppel as a mentor when the idea came to introduce a new type of movement to her peers. Emma described her saying, “She was the only consistent resource I had. I’ve been taking classes from her since I was three.” With an interest in KPOP, an acronym for Korean pop music, Day decided to start up her urban dance class. By using KPOP, she drew the attention of some of her peers. Day believes that everyone is a dancer. She explains that, “Everyone can dance, and everyone has rhythm. It is my job as a teacher to help people find it, but it is their job to have the motivation to find it too.” She started the class last spring, a bigger fete for a sophomore than anticipated. “I just learned dances in my free time, but I had to learn to adjust the way I taught them,” Day adds. She noted that the hardest part was to simplify the moves that she watched and break them down in a way that a group of students could easily pick up the choreography. Day says she approaches each dance by “think[ing] through the dance and then teach[ing] step by step,” and “it was a challenge to break it down and get it exactly right to then teach to the class.” Although she is new to teaching, her students appreciate the type of dance and the structure of the class. One of her students, Hannah Gail Flatt described the class as “a really fun way to express yourself while still getting exercise.” Day strongly believes that hard work and motivation will get you much further than just sheer talent, and it shows both in her dance and in her personal life.

Dance at Hutchison is known for its advanced teachings of safe and challenging techniques, but it is also known for helping girls strive to be their best selves. Whether the students in the class continue to dance into their professional careers or only dance as a hobby as they get older, they can still use the lessons taught in these classrooms such as self-confidence, determination, and passion to help them succeed in both their academic and personal lives.

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