Pursuing Artistry In Literature And Dance
Spotlight on Rachel Watson, ’18
Written by Sarah Chavey
At first glance, dancing and book editing have very little in common, but sophomore Rachel Watson has found a connection. Rachel has been dancing since she was five and is pursuing Hillsdale’s dance minor, but she is also studying English and minoring in Greek, as she aspires to be an editor for young-adult books.
“There’s good dance and bad dance. Through my dance classes, I’ve learned how to discern the difference, and that skill transfers to other areas of life. Dance is very artistic and disciplined at the same time, and editing is the same way. You have to be disciplined as an editor, but also know if something is enjoyable, eloquent, well-written, and appealing. So on that abstract level, the two activities are pretty similar,” Rachel said.
The youngest of four children, Rachel loved reading books recommended by her older siblings. Though the books may have been challenging for her age level, she learned to appreciate the classics.
“When you’re a teenager and a child, that’s when you’re training your affections and learning what good literature is,” Rachel said. As an editor of teenage and young-adult literature, she believes she can improve the quality of literature in young minds.
“I want to do the best I can to make it true, good, and beautiful, quality literature. There’s this idea that authors write young-adult literature because they’re not good enough to write regular literature, and that’s ridiculous. Young adults need better than third-rate stuff.”
Meanwhile, she continues to thrive in the dance department as both a talented artist and an active leader. Rachel leads a Bible study for dance and theatre students, is vice president of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts at Hillsdale, is choreographing a dance for the Tower Dancers, and holds leadership positions in Pi Beta Phi and Eta Sigma Phi as well.
“In dance, you are judged on technique, precision, and artistry. The higher you advance, the more focus there is on artistry,” Rachel said. “Dance blends every part of my life and helps me understand who I am. It’s a very emotional thing. Though you’re not a character like you are in theatre, you put on a different persona in dance, reaching a different emotion. And that helps me know who I am.”
Dance requires plenty of patience before it begins to merit rewards. Some of these rewards come more quickly than others—such as Rachel’s quick improvement in choreography. Others require years of work.
“My sophomore year of high school, I looked in the mirror while dancing and for the first time thought it was genuinely beautiful. It’s rewarding to see that, even though it takes years to pay off. I’m a fairly Type-A person but also really artistic, so I like how dance is disciplined but also really creative,” Rachel said. “Both English and dance are very creative, but they are different kinds of creative. One is intellectual, and one is physical, so it pushes me to keep developing creativity but not burn out on either.”
Rachel loves how the dance department, and particularly her instructors Holly Hobbs and Jessica Post, encourage dancers of all experience levels and find a way to teach and use them. Holly pushes the students both to showcase their talents and to have fun, creating a close-knit community of dancers.
From ballet to musical-theatre dance to modern, Rachel has experimented with a plethora of styles in her many years. Through her work with the dance honorary, she is hoping to promote awareness of dance on campus, increase the number of low-key performances each semester, and bring dance into every part of life instead of just a few hours a week.
“What I’m doing here, I’m doing to further myself. Maybe it’s not directly related to what I want to do when I graduate, but it’s helping me develop and grow,” Rachel said. “I want to be the best I can be at it. I get discipline, strength, and grace from dance. I’d rather get those character qualities than strive after a set goal.”
Sarah Chavey is a music major from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She hopes to pursue journalism when she graduates in 2017.