What 25 years ago started as a group of seven dancers taught by one teacher in the East Gym in 1989 has evolved into a celebrated dance program with two studios and eight instructors.
Visual and Preforming Arts Chair Jennifer Whitcomb knew when she started as a freshman in high school that dance was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
“It encompassed all of the things that I valued most,” she explained. “Creativity, physicality, intellectual challenges and close interpersonal relationships,” she explained.
Deerfield’s dancers have found these values to be embedded in their experience with dance,
Sami Habel ’16 said, “It has definitely made me a more creative person—dance is such an internal and liberating experience for me, and allows me to express so much that I can’t with words.”
Creativity, Whitcomb says, is one constant she has observed throughout the years in her dancers. Deerfield’s annual Student Choreography Showcase is a large part of what fosters this creativity, as students can choreograph their own pieces, lead their own rehearsals and produce something that is entirely theirs.
Natalia Briones ’16 reflected, “Choreographing introduces you to incredible people with different backgrounds—you see the way they think and dance and the ideas they offer.” She continued, “Being a part of a team and working together has definitely developed my skill as a dancer.”
With the newly renovated Hess Center now housing two state-of-the art dance studios, as well as all the tremendous talent being brought into the dance program year after year, Deerfield’s dance program is surely “gaining momentum,” as Whitcomb said.
Despite the changes, senior Sicily Kiesel ’15 stays grounded and realizes there is always room to grow: “In dance there is no perfect; even the simplest step can always be better. I’ve definitely learned to never be complacent and keep trying harder.”
Having led Deerfield’s thriving dance program for 25 years, Whitcomb reaffirmed her passion for the art: “I love teaching teenagers because they’re at such an exciting stage in their development, and also because I’m constantly reminded of what it felt like to find dance when I was their age.”
She concluded, “It completely changed my life for the better.”