“I like dance because it is a way to abstract pretty easily and there are many ways to be involved,” said Heather Downey ‘20.
A double major in dance and math, and on the secondary education track, Downey has always had dance in her life. She started taking dance classes at the age of two, but was kicked out of class as she would not listen. She picked classes back up at three and a half. Downey danced competitively from five years old until high school. She was constantly performing in styles such as ballet, jazz, tap and lyrical, with rehearsals for 16 hours a week.
Downey has been dancing her way through college, staying involved all four years. Her styles have been modern and tap. However, she did discover a love for choreography along the way.
“I can express myself in ways I never knew before,” she commented when talking about what choreography means to her.
Just recently, Downey applied for a show at Steelstacks in Bethlehem. The show was part of Dance EXposure through the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange. The dance Downey submitted was a restaged piece from Dance Emerge 2019. Dance Emerge occurs right here on campus, showcasing the ideas and talents of young student choreographers.
The piece Downey created is called “how to be without,” and was performed by four dancers. For the Steelstacks performance, the original four dancers returned to dance it again. All it took were a few rehearsals to refresh both mind and body and they were ready to go. In Downey’s opinion, it was an even better performance than the first time around. Even with it being only a few months between both renditions, she saw slight changes in her dancers that enhanced the performance.
“They are different people now,” she reflected. “They can bring their new experiences into the choreography.”
The dance closed the show and received a good response from viewers. Heather is hoping to take up other opportunities like this again to expand her reach outside of Muhlenberg.
At Muhlenberg, Downey has been very involved. She is choreographing and performing in both Moving Stories and Master Choreographers. Over fall break, she stayed on campus to be a part of a guest artist’s piece, which was such an “immersive experience” for her.
Along with this, Downey can even be found on the Dance Emerge poster. Lastly, a constant of her Muhlenberg career has been being a performer in the tap piece.
“I still find it to be a challenge and it is exciting,” Downey said.
As of next semester, she will be student teaching, so there will be less time for dancing. It is hard to balance two separate career paths, but she is so passionate about both. Downey wants to focus on teaching, but also want to choreograph. She simply cannot split herself in half, as much as she may wish to do so on some days.
“The plan as of now is that teaching math will come first, but dance will be in my life somehow, someway. I am just not sure in what capacity.”