By Bryana Cielo
Growing up in Shelton, Conn., Jessica Berard’s dream was to be the first female member of the National Basketball Association.
For years, she was a dancer, basketball player, and a soccer player. However, as she got older, she realized that dance was taking over her life.
“I’ve been dancing since age three, and I’ve come to realize it’s definitely something that I can’t live without,” said Berard.
She grew up with four siblings- three sisters and one brother. Her family has always been very important to her. Berard’s two younger sisters also danced growing up, which made dance prominent in her family life.
After initially planning to spend her college years at Manhattanville College in New York, she decided it was not a good fit for her.
Once she realized that Sacred Heart University offered her the opportunity to dance without pursuing it academically, she decided to transfer. She also felt that Sacred Heart was a comfortable, friendly environment where people were outgoing and nice.
“My siblings are my best friends. I don’t know what I would do without them,” said Berard. “That was another reason choosing Sacred Heart was a no-brainer. The location enabled me to be close to home.”
Once at Sacred Heart, Berard got involved in the dance club immediately. At the time, the dance program was called SHU F.O.R.C.E and was a student-run club that consisted of 60 girls.
She became the choreographer of the dance ensemble and a member of the executive board during her junior year.
As the dance club began to transition into a program, it divided into two different parts: the dance ensemble and the dance company.
The dance ensemble is the student-run division of the dance program, while the dance company is a pre-professional training program and is taught by outside instructors. Both programs combined now total about 300 students- offering ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, Irish dance, and a dance minor.
“It’s really cool to see how much the dance program has transformed into what it is today,” said Berard.
In 2014, she graduated with a degree in psychology. She also accepted the position of Assistant Director of the Sacred Heart Dance Program, which is a part-time position in which she choreographs hip hop and commercial dance for the Sacred Heart’s dance ensemble and dance company.
“An element of the dance program that I love is seeing how much passion they all have. It’s a very non-judgemental environment,” said Berard. “The students are looking to grow and get better everyday.”
Outside of Sacred Heart, Berard is part of a dance company in Connecticut called Flux Momentum and trains in New York City. She is also pursuing her master’s degree in Clinical and Mental Health at Fairfield University, as Sacred Heart does not currently offer that program.
Her end goal is to become a licensed professional counselor. When she realized she probably wouldn’t be able to be the first female member of the NBA, she came up with a new dream- to incorporate dance into therapy.
Movement therapy is an on-the-rise technique that Berard believes can be extremely effective in helping people work through their problems.
“I know I’m always going to be dancing no matter what. It’s just a matter of what exactly I’m doing and where,” said Berard.
The SHU Dance Company is performing their spring show Mo(ve)ments on Friday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. and again on Saturday, April 21 at 1:00 p.m. at the Edgerton Center.
The SHU/SLAM: Urban Arts Showcase is taking place on Thursday, April 19 in the University Commons Auditorium.
Finally, the SHU Dance Ensemble puts on their Spring Finale on Sunday, April 22 at 1:00 p.m. and Thursday, April 26 at 10:00 p.m. at the Edgerton Center.