Ivy Chan ’24
Last week, excitement spread as Mercersburg Academy’s dance program welcomed back TikTok star and Mercersburg graduate, Jennifer Nelson ‘13, as a guest choreographer.
At the age of six, Nelson began her dance instruction in ballet. When she came to Mercersburg as an lower-middler, she gained exposure to a variety of dance types including hip-hop, which became her favorite. In an interview with the Marketing and Communications department, Nelson spoke of her love for dance. “[It is] the easiest, most natural way for me to express myself— whether it’s sadness, joy, anger. But whatever I am expressing, it gives me joy. So, some things that I can’t put into words, I am able to do through dance, and I am also constantly learning.” After Nelson graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 2013, she continued her dancing and acting career in New York City. During the pandemic, Nelson focused on expanding her presence on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, where she has “gone viral” with 105k followers on Instagram and 855.7k on Tiktok.
With only a month until the Spring Dance Concert, the dance team faces the pressure of polishing their pieces. Denise Dalton, the director of dance, invited Nelson back to choreograph for that show. “Guest choreographers offer a fresh perspective, and present great opportunities for dancers to hone abilities such as quickly picking up material, paying attention to details, and adapting to new styles. These experiences perpetuate versatility, even within styles, which also helps dancers to grow. Exposing dance students to different styles, ways of teaching and choreography broadens their movement vocabulary and helps them achieve their dance goals.”
Dalton added, “When hiring a guest choreographer, I always look at their resume and background to make sure they are a good fit for our students. Depending on what I want them to focus on, a guest choreographer can pull from their different backgrounds and experience to inspire a new approach to technique and performance. These opportunities to learn more about dance will help to continue the legacy of dance through teaching, performing, or simply inspiring a lifelong love of the arts.”
The long hours of dance practices result in exhaustion, but the arrival of Nelson added elements of energy to the dancers’ everyday routine. During her three day visit, Nelson kept spirits high among the dance team with encouraging words.
Dancer Kaiya Hoffman ‘25 appreciated Nelson’s guidance, saying, “I really liked the introduction of different movement qualities into the choreography! It was great to meet and learn from experienced choreographers.” Dance co-captain Destiny Rodney’ 22 agreed. “Bringing in guest choreographers shines a refreshing light on our practice as dancers. Every choreographer has a unique dance style, so it challenges us to explore movement qualities outside of what we may be used to. For those of us who are interested in dancing professionally, meeting professional dancers now is a great example for our futures,” she said.
The dance team will showcase their new pieces and Nelson’s choreography during the Spring Dance Concert, on May 14, 2022.