Inside the Life of a SHU Dancer

Sacred Heart University (SHU) has a wide variety of options when it comes to performance. The dance program offers many opportunities for students to showcase their skills on and off the stage. The dance program has many types of classes to offer, along with a minor opportunity that requires 18 credits of both academic and performance-based classes.

Dance Company is a pre-professional track for dancers who are high in skill and wish to perform at a high level. Dance Ensemble encourages students to keep their passion through college and offers classes to strengthen technique and performance. There are also many other programs including SHU Movement, SHU FORCE, Irish Dance Ensemble, SHU Claddagh Dancers and Hip-Hop production, to name a few.

Junior Billy Kasheta is a member of the Dance Company. “I came into SHU not knowing what I wanted to do in the world of performing arts and I knew there were so many options,” said Kasheta. “I can confidently say I have found a home with the Dance Company and the girls within the program.”

Kasheta takes dance classes every week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He also is a part of the Company Choreographic Fellowship Project (CCFP), which gives company members the ability to highlight their choreographic skills.

“I teach my own choreo to 11 girls at 8 a.m. on Tuesday mornings,” said Kasheta. This is his first semester choreographing for the CCFP. His piece is musical theatre jazz. He has formed a strong bond with these girls in the past four weeks and is excited to see his work on stage at the end of this spring semester.

“Dance gives me a space to forget about all of the other stuff going on in my life and room to express my emotions through my movement,” said sophomore Samantha Hart, a member of the Dance Ensemble.

Hart has been dancing since she was five years old. She said her favorite style of dance is contemporary because it is the best way for her to tell a story, and she feels most confident when performing that style.

Hart is taking a hip-hop class on Sunday nights, which is new to her. “It is my first time taking hip-hop, so I’m not picking up the choreo as fast,” she said. “I watch the videos from class to learn and go over what I need to with my friends.”

Although this can be a challenge for Hart, she is putting her best foot forward, and enjoying the learning process. She

said she is supported heavily by her fellow Dance Ensemble members and has made strong bonds since joining the dance program at SHU.

Kari Williams, Director of Dance, said, “I allocate a significant portion of my time to administrative duties, including scheduling classes, organizing performances, managing budgets, conducting outreach, communicating with students and staff, designing curriculum and facilitating events.”

Williams has a busy schedule but makes a point to keep a strong connection between the art form and her students.

Williams said she enjoys teaching at the college level because the deep commitment of her students makes it fulfilling. It can sometimes be a challenge for her to schedule dancers around academic classes, but she honors their schedules and works everything out the best she can.

Williams said, “On a personal level, dance serves as a form of self-care for me, enabling me to recharge and navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and clarity.”

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