Sami Habel ’16 has been pursuing her passion for dance since she was nine years old. While dance was initially something she did to supplement her acting lessons, it quickly became an important aspect of her life. “When I started dancing,” she said, “I found a natural love and talent in it.” Beginning with lessons, her interest progressed when she went to classes at Broadway Dance Center. “It really felt like something that I wanted to be serious about and push myself in.”
Fast-forward five years, Habel, a day student from Conway, MA, was a freshman at Deerfield, already dancing in the Advanced Dance Ensemble. Now a senior, she reflected on her high school career, saying, “It’s been really cool, because I’ve been able to direct my own path here. I’ve gotten to be creative and create my own choreography… the dance program here has really opened my eyes to how different and creative dance can be.”
While Habel has a breadth of talent in various styles, she enjoys particular types of dance. “I love contemporary, just because it’s such a broad style,” she said. “I think that my home, and where I started, however, is jazz and musical theater. I always feel comfortable doing a cheesy musical number.” She has continued to work on her favorite styles outside of Deerfield at the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary Summer Intensive in 2014 and the American Dance Festival in 2015.
Dance Teacher Jennifer Whitcomb reflected on Habel’s other strengths and also referred to the great progress Habel has made in areas of dance that were initially a weakness. “She’s been a phenomenal hip-hop dancer and has greatly progressed in her ballet skills.”
Regarding her personal connection to the art, Habel said, “Dance really helps you get in touch with your emotions. To sell pieces, you have to be in touch with the themes or stories behind them.” She also explained the incredible rush she gets from performing: “The energy on stage when you see the audience and the lights for the first time – it’s an unreal experience and there’s so much adrenaline. The audience’s reaction is so magical and it makes the stress you put on your body and all of the toil and hard work so worth it. It’s a moment of pure joy.”
Although Habel has experienced great success in dance, she has also experienced a struggle to balance all of her commitments. “It is hard to balance time between dance, which is something I’m extremely dedicated to, and school. I’ve figured out pretty well how to manage my time, though. I’ve realized everything’s going to work out for the best, and I don’t need to stress myself out too much.”
After she leaves Deerfield this spring, Habel will leave a legacy of hard work and leadership behind, as her fellow dance ensemble members and teachers can attest.
Mrs. Whitcomb spoke about Habel’s leadership and impact on the dance program, saying, “I think the most remarkable thing about Sami is that this year, for the second year in a row, she volunteered to choreograph the piece that we did in the first school meeting. She literally came in three days before that event, had three short rehearsals, and put up a piece that was polished and performance worthy.”
Dancer Maddie Thies ’17 said about dancing alongside Habel, “Sami has been like a mentor to me in the dance program. Her enthusiasm is infectious.”
Habel has chosen to pursue dance as a career because it is something that means so much to her. “I’m applying to colleges based on their dance programs, so I’ll be doing a lot of auditions… it’s something that I’d be willing to risk everything for.” This fall, Habel was accepted into Marymount Manhattan College, and she is looking forward to a future in dance, wherever it may take her.