Dancing Through Life
Class Year: 2021
Majors: Health & Society (HEAL) and Dance
Hometown: Beloit, WI
How did you hear about Beloit? What made you excited to come here?
My uncle, Joey Hernandez, is an alum from 2011, and he was a dance and HEAL double major and played baseball here. I came to see him in Chelonia when I was younger. I didn’t even know we had December Dance, the fall semester dance performance, until I got here. He was in Tau Kappa Epsilon, so my family and I would come to see him and his fraternity brothers, and visit the old dance area which used to be in the Sports Center. Just watching my uncle dance got me excited to come dance here, too, and be a part of Chelonia.
What do you enjoy about your Chelonia experience?
My experience in Chelonia has been memorable and important to me. I’ve been dancing since I was two and Chelonia is more of a formal show, with longer and more complex dances in comparison to some of the routines we do throughout the year in class, and/or our student piece show. We get to work with different choreographers other than the faculty we work with on a daily basis, which is a great experience for dance world. I love the opportunity Chelonia brings not only to just dance, but to also choreograph. This year, I was the few chosen student pieces to be featured in the show. It was a process creating this piece, and it still is a process getting my dancers prepared for Chelonia. It has been a lot of hard work, but is also really exciting and rewarding to see that I have helped my dancers become more confident in their dance ability! Fun Fact, Chelonia is really pronounced a different way and it means Turtle.
With each piece you’re a part of, you build that bond with the other dancers in that piece. It is a nice little family that you create. You are with each other all the time, and spend a few hours a day together. Most of my cast have had little to no dance experience, so I had to start from the top. I had to teach a lot of non-majors and non-dancers how to dance. Good thing I am a dance instructor at a local dance studio, and my specialty is Hip Hop. I think it’s great that non-dancers come audition and are a part of it even though they sometimes have difficulty picking up the movement. It’s really cool to dance with non-dancers; they’re people who work hard and respect the art and want to be a part of it. I admire that a lot! The audition process for Chelonia is also rewarding because it’s good practice for the real world and outside auditions. It’s not as hard as the real dance world, but it is good to think about all the different aspects like personal presentation and technique that you would bring to a real dance world audition.
Another fun aspect I enjoy about Chelonia is that sometimes we get customized costumes for the dances, which is always a fun part of the process of putting the show together. We learn to work with a costume designer and have fittings. I have never had that experience coming from a competitive dance background. You get an opportunity to learn about lighting either as a designer or a dancer/choreographer. To be completely honest, I thought you only got one light. Not in Chelonia, you as the choreographer get to meet with a lighting designer and tell them what you envision.
What kind of activities are you involved with on campus?
I work at the Beloit College Library and spend a lot of time dancing on and off campus with other jobs as well. I haven’t done a lot yet, but I still have some years here that I can keep adding to this list.
What off-campus opportunities have you enjoyed?
I got the opportunity to use my Field Experience Grant and Common Grant this past summer to take a trip to Los Angeles to dance. I got to dance with and take classes from professional dancers I recognize from social media. Seeing how they do a whole day or week as dancers was really interesting. It was a lot of fun even though the hours were long. I went out there to witness it because a bunch of my friends just went straight to LA to dance after high school. I wanted to see if it was as hard as people say it is. I think I can do it! We will have to see in three years from now.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class so far has to be the dance classes I’m taking right now. We have a visiting professor, Jessica Pretty, and I’m taking her contemporary trap and hip hop class. It’s a different class; it’s dancing I used to do when I was younger. A lot of the dancing I do here and have done here in past semesters is modern and much more based in ballet and jazz. But what she teaches is much more contemporary and hip hop, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s not a class we usually have, so I was excited to take advantage of the opportunity. It is great to mix the classes up. This helps dancers grow as a well rounded dancer.
What has been your most unexpected Beloit experience?
I haven’t really had one yet, but I’m only a sophomore, so we’ll see.
What’s been your biggest academic challenge?
My biggest academic challenge has probably been writing papers. Some of the papers are much harder for me to write, but the reflection papers I’m better at writing. The more academically based writings have proven to be a challenge for me.
Where is your favorite space on campus?
The Hendricks Center. That is hands down my favorite space on campus. The OADI (Office of Academic Diversity & Inclusiveness) in South College is another favorite.
Where are you and your friends on Saturday night?
My friends are here partying on campus, but I work Saturday nights and teach dance Sunday mornings, so I’m usually doing homework and then sleeping.
What would your advice be to future Beloiters?
Be open-minded and try new things. Be kind, but don’t get walked on. Have resilience! You need to be resilient. No matter what you do, there is always something challenging thrown your way. But how you bounce back from that is what matters.
How do you think Beloit has prepared you?
Beloit is challenging me a lot by having to balance the outside world and my work here in “the bubble,” so I think I can do just about anything.
What’s next for you?
I want to go to LA, and I want to dance. In a few years down the road, when my body is not able to keep up in the dance world, I want to own my own studio. For me, it isn’t just an ordinary dance studio; it is a dance studio that is two stories high. On the lower level, there is the front desk, lobby, and several different studio spaces for technique training, and rehearsals. On the top level are classrooms where dancers can be educated about how important it is to take care of their body, learn how to do resumes, and now come to Beloit College learning lighting, and costuming, and even learning about media in dance. That is my dream that I am striving for in life. I want to be able to share my love and passion for dance to the world.