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Contemporary dance represents students’ emotions

RAHS dancers explore passion, exercise, and mental exhibitions

By Zakary Sleeth

Dory Mwangi (left) and fellow ballet dancer Alli Meyer (right), a student at Western Washington University, prepare for their upcoming recital.
Photo Courtesy of: Dory Mwangi

Passion, or graduation requirements, often push RAHS students to embrace new extracurriculars. Contemporary dance, alongside other forms, has currently taken the interest of a few underclassmen.

Sophomore Dory Mwangi has been interested in dance since childhood, always aspiring to learn the art in some form.

“I was always mesmerized by dance as a kid, and from a very young age I was interested in doing ballet, but my parents never really had the time to take me to or from [ballet] or the money for it either so it was just a fantasy that I had to forget about.” said Mwangi. “As I got older I forgot about it, but when I came to RAHS and found out dance could be used as PE credit, I joined ballet and, after a while, contemporary/jazz.”

Distinct differences separate the more relaxed contemporary and the high-standard ballet.

“I feel like the rules of ballet are a lot more uptight than in contemporary” said Mwangi. “So far there’s a lot of floor work involved [in contemporary], whereas in ballet I’m just improving my technique and trying to look as elegant as possible.”

Mwangi’s dancing experience has earned her a new appreciation for the art.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot of appreciation for all dancers,” said Mwangi. “I feel like nowadays dancers are really underrated, but it takes a lot of work to make yourself look pretty, flawless, and weightless when you’re also going through a lot of pain.”

Lately she has invested more in contemporary, with lessons ramping up she prepares for a performance.

“We’ve been focusing on showing our emotion a lot lately and really being in sync with our bodies, so I can’t wait to see how it’ll look on stage,” said Mwangi. “We’ve just started practicing for our recital in June which will be held at the PAC in Burien. The choreography is really great and I love how it’s coming together. Ms. Micheala [the dance choreographer] is so down to earth and energetic and you can really see that through her choreography.”

While Mwangi doesn’t see herself pursuing a lucrative dance career, her love for dance will keep her invested in it as only a hobby.

“I don’t want to pursue dance as a career or anywhere along those lines, it’s just something I like to do in my free time because I get to express the way I feel, talk with my friends while building trust between each other, and improve my body at the same time,” said Mwangi. “I see myself taking a few classes in college, nothing too serious — just pop in to some open ballet classes here and there.”

Another sophomore, Tija Marie, does dance for fun and has just recently been able to get more involved.

“I always liked the thought of joining contemporary but had too many extracurricular activities, which made my schedule full at the time, until now,” said Marie. “Dance is something I do for fun.”

Original starting as a ballet dancer, Marie is excited at the prospect of contemporary.

“When I was younger I did ballet and tap [dancing] for most of my childhood but grew out of it in my teen years,” said Marie. “Contemporary dance involves a lot of improv dancing whereas ballet includes a lot of technique. I enjoy contemporary a lot more than ballet and tap because of this.”

Marie is able to channel her feelings uniquely through dancing, expressing herself in ways that words cannot.  

“I hope to gain more confidence in myself over the years,” said Marie. “Sometimes I find it hard to express how I feel with words. But when I’m dancing I can show I feel without having to say anything.”

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