Kean Dance Theatre President helps students express themselves

By: Dominique Vinas


Kean Dance Theatre is back this year with many new phenomenal dancers, and President Sarina Rizzo is proud to still have the privilege to be a part of all the excitement.

“I haven’t seen this much talent in KDT [Kean Dance Theatre] in the past few years,” said Rizzo, 20 and senior at Kean. “KDT is currently holding 30 members strong,”

Rizzo is double majoring in elementary education K-5/5-8 and an English writing option. She has been the president of KDT since Spring 2012 and has been an active member since fall 2010, when she came to Kean as a freshman.

So, why is she so passionate about the dance team? Well, it’s simple; she loves it. Rizzo has been dancing since she was nine years old and was a competitive dancer throughout middle school and high school.

“I specialize in contemporary dance, but I have been trained in tap, jazz, ballet pointe and modern,” Rizzo said. “I competed across NJ in all styles as well.”

She feels that she has acquired a lot of knowledge about dance, but is always learning from her peers. She takes pride in sharing her expertise with the dance team and learning from them in return.

Being the president, she has a tight schedule, as there are always so many events to coordinate. Her first and foremost goal is making sure the group is happy and that the

members know exactly what’s going on and when.

Her energy and love for dance is what encourages the team and makes more people want to become a part of it.

“I’m always trying to expand the number of people on KDT, I try to find members who are willing to go above and beyond like I am to make KDT a priority,” said Rizzo.

She understands that it’s not always easy for members to get onstage, so she always works with her team to make sure everyone is comfortable and confident with expressing himself.

“I like the fact that Sarina is trying to expand us as a team,” said Joaquim Keely, junior and active member of KDT.

“She taught us to always be open to encourage new members to join. She has also worked to improve our techniques as a group and be better dancers who are able to express ourselves individually. And also trying to get us out there with community service and other projects.”

One thing Rizzo really takes pride in is the originality of her peers and team. She is proud that all of the dances that have performed are student choreographed from the members directly.

She encourages this, because dance is all about expression. And what better way to express yourself than to let your body go as you listen to the music.

“We always have an array of pieces from mysterious to dark, to sexy and sassy, and everything in between,” said Rizzo. “We like to mix it up and make the show interesting.”

Not only do they choreograph their own dances, they also find their own costumes and ultimately put together a great show. And for that, she can’t take all the credit.

Rizzo wants the student body at Kean to be aware of KDT, to appreciate their hard work and to maybe even become a member.

“We give our members the opportunity to be choreographers and hold their own auditions, select their own dancers, and take their dance to the stage,” said Rizzo.

However, she doesn’t want you to join if you can’t commit. The dance team meets twice a week during college hour on Mondays and Thursdays.

Those meetings consist of a lot of technique and work on the opening and closing portions of the shows, because those are always full cast dances. She admits their planning for the shows is very detailed.

“Myself and the rest of the board members plan out our dress rehearsals,” Rizzo said,

“which are usually two five-hour-long days of picking the lighting, and working on spacing, and cleaning the dances onstage to prepare for our opening night. I think this is where we always end up motivating each other.”

Diversity is a big thing for Rizzo, especially on stage. She truly feels like the shows they put on represent who they are as people.

“Being that we are so diverse we also incorporate African dancing somewhere in our show,” said Rizzo, “which Dr. McKenzie of KU prepares for us.”

All of the pieces are developed from the members directly, so the viewers get a real sense of creativity and empowerment from all the dancers. Their stories are told through the choreography.

KDT is a family of all different majors, dance experiences, ages and backgrounds. But, because they all share the common love for dance, they’re able to find common grounds when the music plays.

“We are all here because we have one thing in common; we love to dance,” said Rizzo.

It is her famous line that she loves reminding her team members of. Every year she aspires for the team to do better and reach higher.

They do one show a semester, and they are currently in the works of one right now. They are also possibly planning a workshop, which is very exciting for Rizzo.

“I’m proud to say we will be at the pep rally this year with a lot of fresh new faces and dances,” said Rizzo.

Not only do they dance, Rizzo likes to make sure they are giving back to the community as well.

“Our last winter show we collected Toys for Tots for donations as an optional admission fee and we were able to donate over 100 toys to the charity,” said Rizzo.

Along with that, she loves to welcome guests to their shows. Last spring they featured Jefferson Performing Arts Academy, who performed a fantastic musical theatre-jazz number.

Her question is why not become a part of KDT? Or why not go support their shows? It’s an easy way to make friends in a diverse environment where everyone learns from one another.

Although it can be stressful when it comes time for the show, Rizzo expresses how it literally feels like its all over in 5 minutes, and you are able to sit back and be proud of what you accomplished as a team.

“Being able to perform is a great feeling especially when you have worked so hard all semester,” said Rizzo. “Also to see the show come together all at once is nice and knowing that I was a major part in that success is rewarding. Without the time and effort that myself and the other board members dedicate to KDT none of what we do would be possible.”

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