Bringing creative vision to life

Through the dance program at Beloit, Kelli Badgley’22 has broadened her vision of what dance can be while fine-tuning her ability to bring a creative vision to life.

“My time at Beloit has taught me so much in and out of the classroom,” she says. “It’s a small school with so many incredible and invaluable opportunities.”

Kelli Badgley'22, at center, performs in Shedding, a dance choreographed by Professor of Dance ... Kelli Badgley’22, at center, performs in “Shedding,” a dance choreographed by Professor of Dance Chris Johnson and performed at Chelonia. Badgley is performing with fellow students Adrianna Terrell'25, left, and Charline Davis-Alicea'22.
Credit: Nico Doret’24

Kelli Badgley’22 challenged the audience and herself with her solo performance of a dance she created and performed for the 2022 Chelonia Dance Concert. She titled the work “into cycles of consciousness” and experimented with choreography that was slow and sustained, instead of her typical preference for rapid, constant movement. It was a little outside her comfort zone. “I love that I had the opportunity to try something new,” she says.

She earned the coveted spot in Chelonia, Beloit’s most prominent annual dance event, after successfully choreographing and performing a piece for its precursor: the December Dance Workshop.

Kelli Badgley performs in Knockout II, a dance choreographed by guest artist Erin Kilmurray. Co... Kelli Badgley performs in “Knockout II,” a dance choreographed by guest artist Erin Kilmurray. Costumes designed by Shelbi Wilkin, assistant professor of costume design and costume shop manager.
Credit: Nico Doret’24

“At some larger schools,” she says, “they don’t let sophomores choreograph and show work in their shows. I’ve been so blessed to get to make work and try out new things.” Though Kelli acknowledges that not every student’s work will make the leap from December Dance to Chelonia, she emphasizes that “we still root for our friends and don’t think of it as a competition.”

Each fall, Beloit dancers have the opportunity to choreograph and perform their own works for the December Dance Workshop performance, and that’s where Kelli’s “cycles” piece began its process. At the Chelonia concert, named for the green sea turtle, a selection of student-choreographed pieces from December Dance are performed alongside those of faculty and guest artists, each with their own style and unique message.

In Chelonia, students of all backgrounds, skill levels, and past dance experiences come together to share the culmination of their hard work with an audience. But Chelonia is more than a chance for students to put their best foot forward on stage. In the process leading up to the performance, faculty also challenge students to hone their ability to express their visions through a written proposal, which combines critical thinking with the art of expression to create meaningful performances for an audience.

The 2022 Chelonia choreographers and performers forged an overwhelmingly supportive community who took time to check in with one another every time rehearsals began. Chelonia Director and Professor of Dance Chris Johnson says this year’s collective of students is especially close. “I’ve never had a Chelonia cast where they come in and they sit in a circle. It’s a really big circle!” she says.

Kelli Badgley warms up with members of the cast of Chelonia. Kelli Badgley warms up with members of the cast of Chelonia.
Credit: Nico Doret’24

Beyond a supportive teaching approach, Professor Johnson says Beloit’s small dance department has earned outsized honors in recent years, including getting into major festivals to showcase student and faculty work, successfully competing for spots in the American College Dance Festival’s Gala Concert, and landing first prize in choreography at a festival in Prague.

Participating in dance is also a way to sharpen collaboration skills. Kelli’s self-expression shines through in her choreography, but her dance experiences also include learning to work with the costume department and a lighting designer, and refining her ability to use critical feedback in bringing a creative vision to life.

As a dance and psychology double major, Kelli knows how difficult it can be to balance academics and rehearsals, but her diligence and love for dance keeps that stress at bay.

“I don’t get anxious or stressed about performing,” she says. “It’s what I love to do! However, there are definitely nerves. I always say having some nerves is a good thing. I don’t want to dance on autopilot. Nerves help to keep you focused and continually working to make a dance better.”

Kelli intends to keep fueling her passion for dance well into the future. A self-described “serious lover of coffee,” she has some opportunities to manage a coffee shop after graduating, but she says “there is no way I’m letting go of dance.” She hopes to one day own a multipurpose space where she can continue choreographing, hold dance classes “that listen to people’s bodies rather than aesthetics,” and maybe even have her own coffee shop.

Having been involved in dance since she was 2 years old, Kelli plans to keep dancing as long as her body will dance, and through her experiences at Beloit, she has broadened her vision of what dance can be.

“My time at Beloit has taught me so much in and out of the classroom,” she says. “It’s a small school with so many incredible and invaluable opportunities.”

By: Grayson Jensen'25
February 17, 2022

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