Dance, a “Beautiful Way to Express Yourself” for Karis Garrison

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Lauren Bell, Staff Writer

While many students spend their afternoons and weekends playing sports or hanging out with friends, sophomore Karis Garrison dances
Karis, a dancer at Dance Fusion Northwest, focuses on contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, jazz, ballet, and theatrical styles. Her rigorous schedule includes about 16 hours of practice per week, with Sunday and Friday as her days off. “There are times when I struggle with the pieces I’m given. Sometimes I don’t know how to do a move, and it’s really frustrating,” Karis says, “There are times when I’ve had to step out of class because of how hard the teachers were on us, but we decide to push through it and do the best we possibly can in everything we do.”

Highly trained and or professional teachers lead many of the classes. “My ballet teacher has been a professional ballerina for over 20 years,” Karis said, “And I have a contemporary and lyrical teacher who actually taught in Spain for many years.”

Karis discovered her passion at age six but didn’t decide to pursue dance professionally until she was ten.
Karis dances in a Company Troop, made up of 14 of the highest-level dancers at the studio, who plan to dance after high school or college.
“Dance has helped me in so many ways. When I feel stressed or sad, dance takes away that emotion and makes me happy right away…. I don’t know how else to explain it. It makes me so happy,” Karis said with a smile. “It has boosted my confidence, especially when I joined the competition team, and I had to perform solos in front of big audiences.”

One of Garrison’s favorite parts of dance is choreographing her pieces. Last year, she choreographed a dance for the Seton Spring production, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare. The dance included several intricate steps, such as group formations and moves that required dancers to act off one another.

“I want to be able to teach dance someday, and that’s something I love about dance, is being able to help those around me,” Karis said. Many of the actors she taught did not have prior dance experience, which gave her a glimpse into the career she wants to pursue. In the upcoming spring production, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Karis will choreograph two dances for a large group of actors while also playing Tinker Bell.

Karis performs in three shows each year, one in May, another in June, and the final in December. She and the rest of the studio’s dancers perform the shows at Ridgefield High School. Carla Kendall-Bray, owner and instructor at Dance Fusion Northwest, wrote the winter show “Christmas Stories” in 2010. This year, Garrison plays multiple characters, each dancing in different styles. “What’s cool about this show is that it’s sending out the message to people that you do for others as you would do for yourself, which I think is really awesome.”
Performances take place on December 21st at 2pm and 7pm, and December 22nd at 2pm and 6pm. All performances take place at Ridgefield High School.

When asked about the benefits of extracurriculars, Seton college counselor Mrs. Maureen McDaid-Fraizer said, “It’s so fun to hear that students are exploring and looking at what their interests are, what they enjoy doing, because when they enjoy doing it, they’re going to do more of it.” Beyond doing something purely for enjoyment, extracurriculars “are only going to enhance students’ applications for college.”

For those who may be interested in dance, Karis recommends taking a class, regardless of age or nervousness. “I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone,” Karis said, “I used to be a runner, and I never thought I would be capable of doing everything dancers do.” After embracing dance, she learned, “that through hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything.”