Summer Journeys: Molly Wynne ’24, Dedicated to Dreams

Molly in the Kaatsbaan studio.

For more than 20 years, artists have flocked to Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, a 153-acre artist sanctuary and incubator for creativity located on New York’s Hudson River. Initially founded with a focus on dance, Kaatsbaan now offers programs and facilities for theater, music, film, spoken and written word, and culinary and visual arts. It was dance that drew Molly Wynne ’24 to Kaatsbaan last summer.

“After several years of virtual training, I was eager to get back to doing in-person intensives,” Molly explains. “I first heard about Kaatsbaan when I trained at the American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City. The Kaatsbaan intensive appealed to me because of the esteemed faculty and the beautiful campus in Tivoli, New York.”

Kaatsbaan Ballet Intensive is a training program for artists ages 13 to 19 who have completed at least two years of pointe work. The goal of the program is to prepare young dancers for careers in the arts. As part of the application process, Molly was required to go through a two-hour audition process that included a traditional ballet technique class followed by pointe work. A month later, Molly received news of her acceptance into the prestigious program.

Each morning at Kaatsbaan, Molly attended two classes: ballet technique and pointe.

Molly and classmates with ABT performer and Kaatsbaan teacher Gillian Murphy.

“Our technique class included traditional barre, center, and across-the-floor jumping exercises,” says Molly. “In the afternoons, we learned a solo variation from Le Corsaire, called Medora, which we danced in pointe shoes. We also learned a group variation from La Bayadere, which included an adagio (slow) section, and a coda (fast-paced) section. Our last class of the day was contemporary, where we learned several pieces of choreography from Jessica Lang, a world-renowned guest choreographer; I enjoyed learning from her and hope to incorporate her teachings into my own choreography at Taft.”

Lang was not the only highly regarded member of the Kaatsbaan Ballet Intensive faculty.

“The Kaatsbaan faculty were certainly a highlight of the program,” Molly notes. “One of my favorite dancers, Gillian Murphy, a principal dancer with ABT, taught several classes. I was lucky to take classes from the director of the program, Paloma Herrera, who was a legendary principal dancer with the ABT. I also had the opportunity to learn from Lorin Mathis, a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, and from Elizabeth Ferrell, who danced with the ABT and taught me for several years at ABT’s school.”

Molly with Gillian Murphy.

For Molly, learning the Medora variation from Le Corsaire from one of her favorite ballet dancers—Gillian Murphy—was truly an extraordinary experience. Though she found the variation challenging, Molly found Murphy’s guidance incomparable.

“She always danced the choreography full-out, so we were able to see her artistry and impeccable technique up close. I learned so much from her corrections, and by the end of the program, I was able to dance the variation with more grace and fluidity. The entire experience was invaluable and undoubtedly deepened my love for dance. It was incredible to be around people who shared my passion for dance and who are dedicated to achieving their dreams.”

Molly’s Summer Journey was made possible in part by the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund.

Established by John Kilbourne, Class of ’58, in memory of his parents Samuel W. and Evelyn S. Kilbourne, the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund provides students with opportunities in the summer to participate in enriching programs in the arts.