Senior spotlight: Kerry Kaufman ‘24

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Kerry Kaufman ‘24 has been dancing ever since his legs were strong enough to carry him, but his passion for the craft has never dimmed. “I dance and create choreography,” he said, “and I started dancing when I was two years old.”

“Starting [with] ballet and tap classes… I grew up dancing in private studios. As I got older, I was able to broaden the genres of dance I was learning to include jazz, hip-hop, breaking and contemporary styles. I also participated in competitive dance from middle school through the end of high school. I seriously dislike the value of competition being tied to the art of dance, however, I stuck with it because I saw dance competitions as performance opportunities, and I have always loved dancing on stage and for other people.”

Kaufman was forever changed as an artist when he came to college. “Since coming to Muhlenberg, I have had multiple opportunities to perform in student and faculty-choreographed productions along with choreographing for one myself. I feel I have almost completely reinvented myself as an artist here… I think I have been able to uncover the artist I knew I could be. I have always appreciated the artistry within dance over the novelty of pure physical ability, and I feel that my education here has nurtured this appreciation.” Additionally, Muhlenberg has provided a place where Kaufman can truly be himself. “… as a transgender dancer in a body that doesn’t align with the stereotypical ‘dancer’s body,’ I have felt my artistry has been valued over just my physicality which has really allowed me to explore and grow into myself as a dancer and artist.”

The biggest change for Kaufman since coming to college is probably the discovery of his affinity for choreography, as previously he had only been a performer. “Hands down, my favorite artistic experience in college has been choreographing for ‘Reset: New Dances ‘23’ this past fall semester. It was my first time choreographing [for] a group of people, and as nervous as I felt going into the process, I ended up creating something I’m really proud of. The piece, ‘Disclosing Integration,’ is about my experience accepting my trans identity, so it’s quite personal. Getting to share that process with dancers who are also friends of mine was quite fulfilling; I felt incredibly supported, and I felt safe enough to create the work that I felt I needed to make at the time.”

One aspect of that support has come from Kaufman’s professors. “While all the professors I’ve worked with have had an impact on me and my art, I’ll identify Robyn Watson [director of the co-curriculum for theatre & dance] as a professor who has been particularly supportive and influential both generally and in an artistic context. I try to let my intuition guide my artistic choices, and throughout ‘Reset ‘23,’ [Watson] really encouraged me to follow that impulse. Her support helped me eliminate the self-doubt I had around my process and choreographic abilities, and allowed me to go further with my artistic expression.”

Of course, this road hasn’t always been easy. “I feel like I am constantly dealing with chronic injuries!” Kaufman said. But he hasn’t let these setbacks dampen his creative drive. “Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to take care of my body in both a reactionary and preventative way. Being able to modify movement to cater to my current physical abilities is definitely a skill that I have been fine-tuning. I have also learned how important warming up adequately and practicing strength conditioning is to prevent injury and improve my craft.”

Even though graduation is just on the horizon, Kaufman isn’t about to slow down. “I am currently serving as the associate artistic director for the theatre & dance department’s ‘Spring Studio Sessions,’ under the artistic direction of [Visiting Assistant Professor] Elizabeth Bergman [Ph.D.] which premieres on May 1 at 7:00 p.m.!” And even though his plans for the future aren’t set in stone, he’s looking forward to the opportunities that he can pursue after graduation. “…I’m planning on working at home to save money for a while and investing time into taking dance classes in NYC consistently. While I’m open to the possibilities, and don’t really know where the future will take me, my longer-term plans include moving to NYC to pursue a career in dance and choreography, and to further my dance training and education.”

Finally, Kaufman has some advice for other artists, especially those who are still trying to find themselves: “Work through any fear of being vulnerable with yourself; if you can be honest with yourself, you can be honest and authentic in your art.”

You can see Spring Studio Sessions next week, May 1-3.

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