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Artists of the Issue: Senior Dancers
Jean Chun '22 Associate Editor
April 11, 2020

From performing on stage to creating their own choreographies, Deerfield’s senior dancers have made a great impact on the community. Throughout their time at Deerfield, they have taken advantage of various opportunities to develop their skills and share their passion with others. These dancers include Netanya Jimenez ‘20, Maya Laur ’20, and members of the advanced tutorial ensemble: Claire Quan ‘20, Gigi Deinard ‘20, Chloe Monty ‘20, Laura Akande ‘20, and Acy Cai ’20. 

Dance holds a special meaning for each one of these senior dancers. Monty, for example, first started dancing when she was two and a half years old. She said, “When I was a kid, I always put on shows for my family, which may be why my mom put me in dance classes.” 

At Deerfield, dance helped Monty escape from the stress of everyday life. “It’s a place where I can feel safe and be distracted from anything that is stressing me out,” she said. “I love being able to dance it out after a hectic day.” 

For Jimenez, dance has also been a source of self-reflection. She said, “Dance was a way for me to find confidence, especially when I started going on stage and learning how to love a crowd. It taught me a lot about myself.”

Laur believes that dance has encouraged her to push her limits and explore her creativity as an artist. “I tend to be more of a visual learner, and because dance is so kinetic and movement-based, it challenged me to think in a way that isn’t my strong suit,” Laur said. “It has really helped me grow as a thinker and use parts of my brain that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”  

Each of the senior dancers have been engaged with the Dance Program at Deerfield in their own way, whether it be through showcases, academic classes, co-curricular activities, or, most prevalently, choreography.

Cai began choreographing during the winter of her junior year; since then, she has used dance as a common language to convey meaningful messages and bring people together. One of her choreographies, “Game of Survival,” sheds light on the issue of mental health at Deerfield. 

The meaningful message Cai sought to convey through this choreography is that “some days are worse than others, and it’s okay to have those bad days. There’s always people we can go to, and that was what the ending was about—defeating our inner demons and coming together as a group.” 

Similarly to Cai, Akande began choreographing performances and was able to develop various leadership skills. “Whenever you’re holding a rehearsal, you have to practice being a leader and helping a group achieve a certain goal.” 

While each choreographer’s process is different, for Deinard, it involves a balance of planning and improvisation. “I choose a song, think about what the cast would look like, divide the song into different parts, and weave them together,” she said. Other times, artists simply improvise.

Often, choreography is a long process that requires tremendous time and effort; behind every performance on stage are countless hours of practice. “Many people don’t realize the dedication that goes into it,” Deinard said. “You can choreograph something for three hours that can be taught in 15 minutes.”

While choreographing was an important part of her dance career, for Jimenez, through co-curricular classes, she was able to discover her passion for hip hop. Reflecting on these classes, she said, “I stepped into my comfort zone, and found what I love about dance, which is hip hop. I definitely gained a lot more confidence as a hiphop dancer.” 

Dance has been an indispensable highlight of the dancers’ Deerfield experience. For Monty, her most memorable moments took place backstage, where they were “cheering each other on” during the showcases. Another is a moment of interaction with her Dance Lesson Instructor and Visual and Performing Arts Teacher, Carrie Towle. 

“When I got to Deerfield, I felt as if I wasn’t as advanced as everyone else, since I had never done competitions before,” Monty said. “[Towle] asked me last fall if I would be interested in joining The Nutcracker, and that made me feel really included in the dance community,”

Reflecting on her favorite memories, Akande recounted dancing beyond classes and rehearsals. “Sometimes, me and my friends would go to the studios on the weekends and dance for fun, and those are some of the best memories I have about dancing at Deerfield,” she said.  

Though Deerfield is already a strong community, it was through this Dance Program that many seniors created even stronger bonds with one another and were able to make lasting friendships with other students in the program.  

“I’ve never seen such a unified group of dancers,” Visual and Performing Arts Teacher Jennifer Whitcomb said. “It speaks to the work they’ve done pulling together as an ensemble and how much they care about one another.” 

In addition to amazing performances, the seniors have also served as mentors and leaders in the dance community. “They are very strong leaders, and in many ways, co-directors in their role as choreographers,” Ms. Whitcomb said. “They also actively support the younger kids and set a model of citizenship.”

Ms. Whitcomb specifically observed that the cohesiveness of this group and their leadership skills helped them to create a memorable Winter Dance Showcase: “It was one of the best things we’ve done in recent memory. The dance teachers also felt that it was one of the strongest shows that they have seen.” Ms. Whitcomb said.

With the end of the year quickly approaching, many dancers expressed their disappointment at the cancellation of the Spring Dance Showcase as it is their last chance to leave their artistic mark on the school. Since the dancers began their Spring Projects during the winter term, many of the pieces were already underway.  

Cai said, “I already had a connection to a song and parts of the choreography done, so it’s definitely sad to throw that away.” 

Deinard added, “I am most sad about not being able to perform a duet with Claire Quan that we had been choreographing together.” As of now, there are plans for a virtual project as a cumulative end to their Deerfield experience, although the exact details still remain uncertain. 

Despite the setbacks on the Deerfield art scene, the dancers remain positive in their artistic pursuits both in and outside of the Deerfield community.

“I want to keep improving my technique and grow as a dancer.” Laur said. Cai also added that she is looking to join dance programs in college. 

Each one of the senior dancers and their contributions have left a lasting legacy on the Deerfield dance program. Although dance is extremely competitive, they have fostered an environment of kindness and friendship.

 “When you show up at the dance studio, it feels like a sanctuary,” Ms. Whitcomb said. “The seniors have really engendered a place of safety, a place where young artists can create knowing that they will be supported.”  Now, we thank the seniors for their contribution to the Deerfield Dance Program, and we look on with pride as they begin to share their passion with the world.