Why we Play: Jade Direnfeld, dancer

Senior Jade Direnfeld performs a grand jeté for the camera. Direnfeld is a senior from Hawaii double majoring in international studies and Russian. She is a member of VRDT and Fly People. / Courtesy of Jade Direnfeld

Vassar is fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated student-athletes on campus. This year, The Miscellany News would like to highlight their stories. Although dance is not officially recognized as a varsity sport, this week’s special edition “Why we play” features Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, with the stories of senior dancers Hannah Worby and Jade Direnfeld.

I dance 17 hours a week. I counted. So it’s a fair question to ask: Why do I make my way all the way from the THs to Kenyon at least once a day? Well, the simple answer is, I love it. I can’t imag- ine my life without it, but it didn’t start that way. My mom used to force me to go to ballet class, often bribing me with fast food (McDonald’s). Dance felt pointless and I really didn’t enjoy standing in different positions and listening to boring music.

My mom used to force me to go to ballet class, often bribing me with fast food (McDonald’s). Dance felt pointless and I really didn’t enjoy standing in different positions and listening to boring music.

As I got older, I started to appreciate it more. I worked a lot harder, attended summer programs on the mainland and even started watching what I ate. Ballet became everything to me outside of school. I danced almost every day, and was fortunate enough to have a mom willing to drive hours to take me to dance!

I took private lessons and became extremely competitive. By the end of classes I was dripping with sweat, often changing the color of my leotards. I had never worked that hard for anything in my life. It was my first true passion. I decided it was my dream to become a professional ballerina.

North Carolina might seem like a random state to your average girl growing up in Hawaii, but sophomore year I moved there to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in the high school division and pursue my passion professionally. I danced every day for four and a half hours. We dedicated everything to dance, and sometimes academics. Dance began to be a creative outlet and not just mastering steps. I began putting my feelings and thoughts into how I danced. As a high schooler, it was the only consistent relationship I had. Be- ing far from home, having friend groups change on the daily and trying to keep up with my 8 a.m. physics class, dance kept me on track. Dance helped me grow up.

The seniors of VRDT pose for a group photo. Direnfeld, Worby and their fellow seniors will be featured performers in VRDT’s final showings the week of November 12. / Courtesy of Hannah Worby

My dream of dancing professionally grew along with the idea that I was doing it for my parents to make them proud. All their money,

time and unwavering support was what drove me. But when senior year came around and it was time to audition for conservatories, apprenticeships and trainee positions, I couldn’t see myself chasing something that didn’t seem to make me happy.

UNCSA was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, yet once I fully emerged myself in the dance world I realized it wasn’t the right path for me. I hated my body every time I looked in the mirror, I ate half a bowl of fruit for meals, I felt competitive with friends, hoping they would fail and pushed my body to its limits. So I applied to colleges, feeling like it was the end of my dance career. It seemed to me that I had wasted so much of my young life and disappointed my parents.

Once accepted at Vassar, I auditioned for and was accepted into the Vassar Repertory Dance Theater and Fly People. They have truly been some of the best parts of Vassar, but it’s still a complicated relationship. Some days I go into the studio dreading the barre warm-up and center allegro combinations, and some days it’s the only thing keeping me sane. VRDT has helped me explore contemporary dance, a more forgiving and expressive dance form, showing me that having a longer torso and less flexible hips is acceptable. I have learned to love my body again.

My relationship with dance has taught me so much about myself. Every time I dance, I learn a little more about myself, how I’m feeling, how my body works and who I am as a person. Now when I look in the mirror, I see who I am, not what I look like. Dance gives me stability in my life, allowing me to have confidence in everything else I do.

If you know me, you know I love to dance (especially on TH couches). When I hear music, I can’t help dancing, often bringing me to my feet so I can use my whole body. It’s just fun. It brings me joy. I dance because I really don’t know who I would be without it, and I couldn’t be more thankful to my mom for dragging me to class all those years ago.

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