Many dancers start honing their craft from a very young age. Katrina Binks ‘24 had a bit of a belated start, but she’s made the most of it.
“In high school, I used to choreograph my friends for fun at parties and help out with the school musicals… My freshman year I decided to create a piece for DanceWorks on Zoom, and from then [until] my junior year, [I] was heavily zoned into honing my improvisation, which ultimately furthered this growing passion to choreograph.” Junior year of high school proved pivotal for Binks. It was when she began expanding her dance vocabulary. “…[A]fter just being a house/hip hop dancer for a couple [of] years, I decided to start involving myself in other styles like contemporary, ballet and jazz which ultimately ended up heavily influencing my choreographic aesthetic.”
She continued to explore her artistic potential when she came to Muhlenberg, and she’s grateful for the many opportunities that the college experience has afforded her. “Some of the projects I have been involved with at Muhlenberg have been ‘Reset: New Dances’ (as both a dancer and choreographer), ‘In Motion,’ ‘Miss You Like Hell,’ ‘Head Over Heels,’ ‘Dance Works’ and I spent a semester studying at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy.”
Studying in Arezzo was particularly important in Binks’ artistic journey. “When I went abroad, I decided to create my first staged work and that’s when I really fell deeply in love with the practice of not just performing but creating my own personal tangible work. That is really when I started to take it seriously, which led me to choreograph for the Earl Mosley Summer Intensive and for ‘Reset: New Dances’ last fall.”
“One of my favorite [experiences] would have to be choreographing for ‘Reset,’ because that was just an unparalleled experience in my college career that was so incredibly special and formative in relation to how I have grown as an artist. I was so lucky to be able to work with such a smart and beautifully talented cast, as they gave me the avenue to not only create something but learn a lot about myself and what I love to do… having an amazing production team to work with let me make my dreams and concepts tangible and real, which is a beautiful thing to witness. [Having] something out there that I am so proud of and can look back at with such fondness and love makes me feel truly grateful for that opportunity.”
A unique aspect of the college experience is the relationships that one forms with their professors. When asked what professors have impacted her the most, Binks said, “Those who immediately come to mind would be Heidi Cruz Austin, Robyn Watson, Natalie Gotter and Samuel Reyes. These amazingly talented teachers have really supported me throughout my entire dance and artistic career. Not only have they been there to give me great creative feedback, but they have extended so much generosity [and] kindness to me outside of the studio that I never would have ever expected coming to college. They are a huge part of the reason why I feel confident enough to pursue a career in dance and performance. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough for both the amazing opportunities they have given me, and also for the consistent push to strive to work harder and put all of my love into what I do.”
But it hasn’t always been an idyllic journey for Binks. Junior year of high school was pivotal for another reason. “I tore both of my quads at the same time during a tech rehearsal for a show I was in. It was absolutely devastating, but it helped me realize that dance and (I would soon realize) choreography were things that I could not live without. I went through rigorous physical therapy in order to dance as much as I could at a summer intensive I got accepted into at the time, which was honestly so mentally and physically taxing.”
In some ways, however, this injury and recovery period was a blessing in disguise that continues to help her even to this day. “In hindsight, I learned so much from that process and have taken lessons from that experience into my work today. I grew in terms of my work ethic in the way that, if I was not in the studio dancing, [I learned] what I was doing outside of that productively impacted my dance training. If I couldn’t move my legs, then how could I maintain strength and precision in my arms?… As I watched my peers dance, I became very attuned to specificity in quality and its ability to portray a story. How are the dancers staying together to create a unified concept and when were moments that dropped and why? I think that from this experience I gained a lot of natural choreographic knowledge and a further appreciation for what I love and what my peers love to do!”
In addition to dance, Binks expresses her creativity in many mediums. “I am heavily involved in theatre and (in my own time) studio art! I have always been attracted to other modes of performance and this has really helped me in terms of my development in creating stories within my choreography. For example, in my piece ‘Red Roses For You….’ from ‘Reset,’ a large part of my choreographic process was having my dancers find artworks that, to them, portrayed what my dance meant… I would use these as springboards for inspiration and would create movements that reflected similar textures and themes of the drawings and/or paintings.”
“Furthermore, my interest in theatre has led me to pursue more complicated narratives within my work with multifaceted and 3-dimensional characters that really hold weight and presence on stage. So in all, it has really led my choreography to not just display dance as a physical art form but as something that really connects an encompassment of a real human experience.”
Perhaps because of her sheer passion for creation, Binks is not taking it easy her senior year. She’s using her last semester to work on quite a few projects. “This week I will be dancing in the ‘In Motion’ concert which I am incredibly excited about! After [that], my choreography from ‘Reset: New Dances’ will be performed at the American College Dance Association Conference. In April, I will be performing in ‘Head Over Heels’ as the dance captain/ensemble, and in May, the ‘Studio Sessions’ concert. Furthermore, I am a co-choreographer at Cedar Crest College whose department show will be put up in April!”
Binks is ready to enter the wider artistic community after graduation. She said “I will be attending the Paris Summer Academy to study Contemporary and Physical Theatre. As well, I have potential opportunities to show my choreographic work at artistic conferences! My plan, in addition, includes a lot of auditioning for shows, dance companies and freelance commercial industry work!”
She has some advice for other artists, which is particularly pertinent to many Muhlenberg overachievers, “There is a difference between taking every opportunity and overextending yourself. Do everything that you can without taking on too much, and if you have to let go of something, choose to keep what makes you feel the most fulfilled and happy. Involve yourself in projects that give you that passion and driven feeling.”
You can see Binks in “In Motion” this weekend, Feb. 8-10 in the Empie Theatre.