… I didn’t quite understand before attending Princeton that dance can exist in the same sphere as any other intellectual pursuit.
I sat at a dinner with fellow first-generation students contemplating the value of the arts at Princeton. The table happened to be filled with many freshman students who were trying to figure out their first academic steps on campus. As a few had an interest in the arts, the conversation quickly turned to the general value of artistic disciplines. After one freshman began to speak about her indecision in taking an arts course, I started to reflect on the impact the arts have had on my time at Princeton.
As a first-generation student from San Bernardino County, California, I would have never imagined myself making choreography the forefront of my academic pursuits. Although I was very passionate about movement through my prior training in Polynesian dance forms, I didn’t quite understand before attending Princeton that dance can exist in the same sphere as any other intellectual pursuit. However, when I encountered the faculty in the Princeton program of dance, I quickly learned to see dance as more than a series of steps, and to see choreography as a field that encompasses complex thoughts and research. Soon after, I fell in love with learning, because learning to me now is this work that combines my passions for thinking about movement, theory, and creation. I have been incredibly lucky to be at a school surrounded by faculty that nurture and support this type of interdisciplinary work.
Here at Princeton, I have been able to conduct numerous choreographic research projects that repeatedly open my mind to what dance as a field of research can be. I spent time with various hula troupes in Hawaii and California studying the action of storytelling, I created a piece of choreography abstracting familial narratives of the Liberian civil war, and wrote a theoretical framework on the process of translating narratives into movement in my junior independent work. I also had the opportunity to work with amazing companies combining movement and thought such as Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, Marjani Fort., Dean Moss, and Urban Bush Women.
I strongly know that I would not have had any of these experiences if it had not been for studying dance at Princeton. Studying here, where the arts are vital and seen with the utmost respect, I have been instilled with the confidence that the work I perform is both valued and important. So when the freshman at dinner expressed her uncertainty about studying the arts at Princeton, I assured her that pursuing the arts here is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I shared how studying dance on this campus has shown me what it means to do something that I love, has given me the courage to pursue choreography within my future professional career, and has shown me what it is like to be passionate about something that will nourish you back. For that, I am incredibly grateful to the arts on this campus.