More than just a show: Dancers explain their motivation

Cristina McKeever, a senior dance major, said she uses dance to express herself without using words, and did so by choreographing a dance that was performed at the Night of Holocaust Remembrance April 20. Photo courtesy of Cristina McKeever

Putting in 12-hour days into a one-time performance that lasts two minutes – that is the life of a dance major at Chapman, but Parker Blakely, a senior dance major, said he wouldn’t trade that stress for anything.

This dedication to dance has changed the way dancers interact with the world by communicating in a series of movements instead of words, Blakely said.

“When I look at the world around me, I ask myself what I like and dislike about it, and then I express it within my dance pieces,” Blakely said.

He said his parents put him in dance classes when he was 9 and he has been dancing ever since. He is trained in ballroom, jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop and contemporary dance.

“Every time I heard music, I was grooving along to the song. It never mattered where I was, I was always dancing,” Blakely said.

Blakely dances almost every day, whether that be in in class or in parades at Disneyland, where he works.

He takes 12 dance classes for one credit each and is in the dance studio from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, he said.

“Dancers don’t have a lot of time for anything other than dance because even though classes are one credit each, they are still three hours long like a normal three-credit academic class,” Blakely said.

Blakely said he expresses his emotions in his dances.

“Whatever is negative in my life, I show it through my dancing,” Blakely said. “My emotions manifest themselves in a series of movements.”

Within the dance program, there are opportunities for students to work together.

Sophomore dance major Vickie Roan has been dancing for 10 years. Photo courtesy of Vickie Roan

Cristina McKeever, a senior dance major, choreographed a dance piece about the Holocaust which was performed at this year’s Night of Holocaust Remembrance April 20, Blakely was one of the dancers who performed in the piece.

“The piece McKeever choreographed had a large impact on me and made me realize how valuable art is within our lives,” Blakely said.
McKeever said she also uses dance as a tool to express herself without talking.

“You don’t have the words to express yourself and dance makes me feel like I can do that without even opening my mouth,” McKeever said.

McKeever believes that receiving a dance degree is important to be successful in the field.

“Having a collegiate education in dance makes you perceive the world in a different way and think about how other people feel,” she said. “You expand your mind and open up different possibilities.”

She hopes to have a dance career after graduation and has already started to teach dance lessons while attending her classes at Chapman.

Catherine Liepins, a freshman dance major, also said she uses dance as an outlet for her feelings.

“Dancing is a great way to express my emotions. If I’m going through something hard, then I go to dance and I feel better afterward,” Liepins said.

For Liepins, the traits she learns in dance do not only apply to her time in the studio, but they overlap her daily life.

“I’ve learned how to respect people for who they are and to be open-minded,” she said. “I have gained leadership skills from dance.”

Sophomore dance major Vickie Roan’s parents signed her up for dance lessons as an after school hobby. They did not expect her to continue dancing for 10 years.

“My end goal is to be a professional dancer who travels the world for work,” she said.

Since Roan danced competitively in high school, she said she knew majoring in dance was going to be a big time commitment.

“Dancing made me more aware of my time management and priority planning,” Roan said. “It forced me to put my time and energy toward things that are really important to my life.”

Roan said that dancing is a mix of physical activity and artistic movements.

“Dance is an outlet for my emotions and also a great form of exercise, so it is both very athletic and artistic,” she said.

Dancing makes Roan see everyone as an artist with the ability to spread messages and express themselves in unique ways, she said.

“Dancing makes me more empathetic and patient because dance is so demanding it makes me realize how much time people put into their interests as well,” Roan said.

Josie Morgan, a senior dance major, became serious about dance when she was 9. Even at a young age, she knew her life was going to be consumed by dance, and she would not have much time for other activities, she said.

“Dance majors are busy by nature,” Morgan said. “Since I was always a dancer, I knew that would be the case in college as well.”

Morgan, like other dance students, said she uses the art form to express herself when she feels like there is no other way to do so.

“Dance is hard to understand if you are not a dancer,” she said. “It is so deep and meaningful.”

Dance makes her feel empowered because she can transform into her character during a dance and forget about her worries.

“Every song and every dance combination just brings something different out of me,” Morgan said.

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