Caitlin Conlon Dances Her Way To Head Choreographer

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Caitlin teaches some new choreography to the company

Deirdra Chapman

 

Caitlin teaches some new choreography to the company
Caitlin teaches some new choreography to members of Dance Company. (Photo/Andrea Lee)

 

There are countless amounts of extracurricular activities and clubs offered at Walpole High, but there is one that never fails to impress and go above and beyond: Dance Company.   Each year the groups of girls gather together weekly to practice and perfect every step in order to put on a unique and inspiring show.

Every year the Dance Company has student leadership: one Head Captain, Co-Captains, and Choreographers. This year however, one extraordinary member was given a title no one has had before. Senior Caitlin Conlon, one of the few four-year members of the company, was given the position of Head Choreographer.

Anyone who knows Caitlin knows two things: her favorite color is purple and she loves to dance.

The student choreographers in Dance Company go through a rigorous process of auditioning to receive this leadership role. Each candidate must perform about 1-2 minutes of choreography from a potential song used in the show and perform it in front of the entire Company. The company’s advisor, Mr. Richard Kim said, “Caitlin has grown a lot since her freshmen year, and even then she started out strong. She has been an extremely dedicated member. She is passionate about dance but she is also passionate about the Company and the members.”

For the last 3 years, Caitlin has invested herself into improving her choreography so it was no surprise that her choreographer audition this year was above and beyond expectations. For her audition, Caitlin incorporated a t-shirt into her routine; she seamlessly took it off and put it back on as part of the choreography. This A-list type choreography persuaded Mr. Kim into granting Caitlin her Head Choreographer title. “I hadn’t ever thought of having a Head Choreographer before but that audition is where the idea was born, and she truly deserves it.”

Caitlin’s very honorable position has taken her responsibilities to a higher level. Caitlin said, “The other choreographers can come to me for advice, and I collaborate with the captains a little more.” Depending on the music the choreography may or may not come naturally to her, “Sometimes I go back and make changes if I don’t like the choreography,” adds Caitlin.

The dance prodigy has been dancing for 14 years. She enrolled at Walpole Dance Center when she was just 3 years old and has been apart of the studio every year since.  Today she studies Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop & Lyrical, and is enrolled in the most advanced levels of each genre. “I don’t really have a favorite, but probably ballet or modern”, said Caitlin; “They’re all really fun and so different.”

Ms. Kristen Kuznezov, Walpole Dance Center teacher who has followed Caitlin throughout her dance career said, “Caitlin does not simply dance, she communicates. Even as a younger dancer, she never merely ‘did the steps.’ She has always pushed herself to be the best dancer that she can be. Her dedication to learning the art of dance causes her to excel.”

Her love of dance began with her first arabesque and plié. Caitlin and her cousin, junior Erin Fuller, were and still are inseparable, so their moms signed them up for dance class 14 years ago. Caitlin said, “I just really enjoyed it, and loved my “dance family”. As the years went on, I realized how much I loved it and I just couldn’t ever stop.” Like most kids, Caitlin tried other sports at a young age, but nothing gave her as much true enjoyment as dance does.

Erin and Caitlin have danced together every year since they started and Erin said, “She has inspired me because she puts 110% in everything she does and doesn’t give up on anything.”

When Caitlin was in 8th grade, she was hired as a studio assistant to help teach a preschool level ballet and tap class. Ms. Kuznezov said, “I chose her to help with my younger classes because she is mature, caring and nurturing, but can also maintain order.” Caitlin’s organization, liveliness, and cheerful attitude are infectious among the younger dancers.

Caitlin had never heard of Dance Company until the end of middle school when, senior Holly Lowell (now Head Captain) told Caitlin about how much her sister enjoyed it.  After watching an old Dance Company video, Caitlin was hooked. Having danced at only one studio, she was eager to learn new moves and different techniques. She said, “[Dance Company] was so different from everything I had done before. I basically just wanted to dance even more than I already did!”

Caitlin decided to try out for choreographer her sophomore year and has been a choreographer for the company ever since. She has always loved watching dance and wanted the chance to create the moves herself. Caitlin adds, “Since I was little, I’ve been making up little dances, but I never got the opportunity to share them. I wanted to be a choreographer because choreographing was something that I really enjoyed.”

Through the art of choreography, Caitlin is able to share and express what she feels when there’s music, or even no music. Of course being a choreographer can be challenging, but the Head Choreographer finds that it is well worth the struggle. “Seeing the finished product and knowing that I created it is very rewarding,” said Caitlin.

Caitlin’s multiple accomplishments can be derived from all her hard work and dedication. Ms. Kuznezov said, “Caitlin is a student with an exceptional work ethic. She arrives at every class, full of energy and ready to work.” Although Caitlin is almost never without a smile, she is always focused and constantly applies corrections to improve her technique. As soon as she steps foot into the studio her mind switches to dance mode- She pays attention to every little detail and works until she gets everything perfect.

Erin commented about her cousin’s incredible drive and motivation, “she’s been working on her splits for years and this year she was getting really close so she would stretch during down time and she finally got it and everybody was so proud!” Caitlin puts her heart into each dèveloppé and pirouette and never settles until she’s accomplished her goals.

Her hard work, tenacity, and self-motivation have made Caitlin a role model to other dancers that watch her in awe and are inspired by her work ethic.  Mr. Kim also said, “A lot of the girls in the Company work just as hard because Caitlin leads by example and sets a standard that the others also want to achieve.”

With multiple AP courses, National Honor Society, and 5 dance classes, it is amazing that Caitlin finds time in her busy schedule to choreograph complex dance routines for the show. Her live-in-the-moment, no regrets attitude helps her to put together breathtaking routines and enhances her performance on stage.  “We can spend months on a dance, but it’s all over in about 3 minutes. I just want to make those few minutes matter more than anything, especially after all of our hard work,” said Caitlin.

Caitlin does plan to continue her dance career when she starts college next fall, but she has no definite plans set in stone yet. It was very important to Caitlin to find schools with dance options during her college search. Being made Head Choreographer this year was the cherry on top to Caitlin’s wonderful and memorable experience in the Dance Company. Throughout the last 14 years, Caitlin has proved herself to be very talented dancer, but also a very motivated and dedicated one at that. The countless amount of hours spent in rehearsals, recitals, and practices have paid off: going down in Dance Co history as the first Head Choreographer ever is the ultimate recognition and perfect way to end her high-school dancing career. Certainly, Caitlin will miss her “dance family” here, but who knows what other opportunities are in store for the dancer in college. Caitlin sums it up perfectly, “Many of my favorite high school memories involve dance, and I can’t imagine what high school would’ve been like for me without it.”