Artist Spotlight: Molly Layden ’24

Dancer Molly Layden ‘24 reflects on her journey and growth in the Muhlenberg dance program.

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Molly Layden '24 during a dance performance. Photo credit to Molly Layden '24.

If you’ve glanced through the window at a dance rehearsal anywhere at Muhlenberg in the last three years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Molly Layden ‘24 dancing her heart out. Her time as an artist at Muhlenberg has been jam-packed with rich development.

While Layden knew she wanted to pursue dance, particularly tap dance, in college, she originally didn’t think Muhlenberg was going to be the right fit for her.

“If you ask any student here who values tap dance in a college program equally to all of the other styles, we all auditioned for the same like eight schools. For me though, Muhlenberg originally was on the bottom of my list, because I was really convinced that I wanted a BFA program. However, the second I stepped onto Muhlenberg’s campus, I knew it was the place for me, and my audition class with Karen Dearborn solidified that. I just immediately knew that I would get the support and genuine encouragement that I needed to grow in my artistry and technique,” reflected Layden.

“The second I stepped onto Muhlenberg’s campus I knew it was the place for me and my audition class with Karen Dearborn solidified that. I just immediately knew that I would get the support and genuine encouragement that I needed to grow in my artistry and technique.”

Molly Layden ’24

In addition to support and encouragement, the Muhlenberg Dance Department has also provided Layden with several opportunities to be part of dance rehearsal processes and performances from the moment she stepped on campus. She made her departmental debut during her first semester at college, in the fall of 2020, in “Ephemerality.” She has continued to perform in almost every departmental show, making appearances in “Reset: New Dances,” “In Motion” and Muhlenberg Dance Association’s (MDA) “Digital Dopamine.”  She has particularly made an impact for herself within the tap progression and has worked closely with Robyn Watson, dance director of the co-curriculum.

“She really understands my passion for tap dance and supports me through all of the joys and struggles that come with the form. She forces me to count, which I am simply not great at, but she’s really challenged my sense of rhythm and play in timing. What I love about her, too, is that she doesn’t just push me in tap, but she’s also really supportive of my journey in other styles. I think as a dancer if you have a style you ‘specialize’ in, if that’s the right word, it can be easy to get yourself stuck there but she really encourages me to value all of my interests. I’ve also loved all of my professors here, they all have been unlocking so much strength and artistic freedom in my dancing. I know that I’ve always got someone in my corner with them,” Layden said.

Layden has also been involved in several non-departmental dance projects that have contributed to her growth as an artist as well.  She has performed in several Muhlenberg Dance Association shows and is the co-vice president of the Copacetic Rhythms, the student tap ensemble. She is also a dancer on the Perkulators jazz team.

One of the most impactful things for Layden’s journey as an artist was the semester she spent abroad at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy.

“Not to be one of those ‘Wow, I studied abroad and it changed my life’ kind of people but it truly did. As my lovely friend Hannah Kulbitsky ‘24 says, ‘I fell back in love with dance when I didn’t even know I had fallen out of love with it.’ My semester there really challenged me creatively in finding my own artistic interests. My semesters at Muhlenberg really started that process for me and it sort of culminated into a crazy artistic breakthrough for me during that semester abroad.” Layden shared.

This semester, Layden is bringing the exploration and creativity she found within herself back to campus.

“Because of that semester [abroad], I discovered this desire to create in a way I never had before. I never considered myself a choreographer in any way, but once I was forced to create, I realized it was something I wanted to pursue further. This semester, I’m taking beginner dance composition and decided to propose a piece for the Fall Studio Sessions concert, so my first choreographic work on a cast that’s not myself will be performed in that concert! The process has really been pushing me to not only create but to actually formulate and communicate a clear vision for the piece, which has pushed me so much to actually decide what I want if that makes sense. It’s been really great though and my cast is really really lovely in helping me through it.”

As Layden moves and dances her way through her final semester and a half at Muhlenberg, she hopes to make the most of her time and dance as much as she can.

“My hope is really just to savor every moment I have left and dance my little heart out.”

Molly Layden ’24

“My hope is really just to savor every moment I have left and dance my little heart out. I’m realizing that I am so lucky to be in a space where I have studios to dance and create to my heart’s content, I know that won’t always be accessible to me after I graduate. I also want to savor the people that I’m dancing for and with. Dancing with some of my best friends in the world is something so special to me and I want to live in that joy for as long as I can.”

Muhlenberg’s dance program has helped Layden discover multiple passions within the world of dance and beyond. While she doesn’t have concrete plans for the future yet, she has the skills to pursue multiple things, like performing, choreography, teaching and even marketing, as she works in the Theatre and Dance Marketing Office.

“Something my professor abroad once said really struck me… he said based on all of the things he’s done that ‘If I stop dancing tomorrow, I’ll be satisfied.’ So that is my new hope, to dance and be satisfied.”

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