Dance is the language of the soul. - Martha Graham
Pearl Young ’18 has been dancing since she was three. It is, she says, her deepest and longest-held passion. For Pearl, dance is not just an avenue for creativity. It is a way to learn, a way to shape and process the world, a way to communicate.
“Being a dancer has expanded my capabilities in every aspect of my life,” says Pearl. “It has taught me perseverance and given me greater focus in my academics. It has taught me how to adapt and how to face down challenges. It has taught me who I am, and who I can be.”
Who Pearl is, is remarkable. She is an artist—a dancer, a member of the Gospel Choir, an actress, and head of the Step team. She is an academic, carrying a full course load that includes multiple AP, post-AP, and honors courses. She is a community leader selected to participate in prestigious Global Leadership Institute, engaging the community in meaningful dialogue as a United Cultures of Taft leader, and chosen to guide her peers as a role model and mentor through her position as a school monitor. Pearl is a compassionate teacher, who is equally at home guiding students in dance classes at Taft, and at a camp in the Litchfield hills, where she spends her summers teaching pre-teen girls to dance and ride horses.
“Teaching at camp and teaching dance to my peers here gives me greater perspective and insight on how I can best communicate with people,” says Pearl. “Movement is communication—in figuring out movements your are figuring out how best to convey a message.”
This year, Pearl is part of two unique projects at Taft that effectively wed her academic and artistic endeavors. In her Advanced Dance and Sexual Politics of the 21st Century classes, Pearl is working with professional dancer Nathan Trice and his New York-based dance company. She is also engaged in an independent tutorial in dance.
“My Advanced Dance class is helping Nathan Trice and his company with their Recognizing Women project—researching and portraying how women of all ages may feel objectified at times in today’s society,” explains Pearl. “We’re focusing specifically on teenage women, and how feeling objectified shapes their view of themselves and of the world. In Sexual Politics, we’re interviewing male and female students, asking them how they see themselves, what standards they hold themselves to, what they think self-objectification is, have they ever felt objectified, and specifically what are their views or definitions of “I,” “me,” and “myself.” We’re compiling all of the answers and will communicate them to our community through a dance, which we will be performing with Nathan Trice’s company in February. It has been a lot of fun. I love being in both classes, and hearing both sides of the conversation.”
For her Independent Tutorial, Pearl is researching the life and work of dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist Pearl Primus. An African American woman, Primus was a pioneer in her field, using dance to resist civil injustice and advocate for change in the 1960s.
“Pearl is choreographing a protest piece herself this semester,” says Sarah Surber, Pearl’s dance teacher and Independent Tutorial advisor. “She is also learning a solo from Primus’s 1945 repertoire piece, Strange Fruit, based on the poem by Lewis Allan, created in response to lynchings in the south.”
Both opportunities allow Pearl to speak volumes through dance—to educate the Taft community, while expanding her own understanding of the world.
“At the beginning of my Taft career, I was very hesitant to talk about some of the racial and cultural issues our country faces, which are reflected in issues our school faces,” Pearl says. “By educating myself about those issues, educating myself on how to talk about uncomfortable topics, and advising others on how to live their best life, I have been able to help myself and the community. I would say that is the most important thing I will take away from my Taft education: Learning how to better myself while bettering the community around me.”