From studying abroad to participating in an internship over the summer, Stephanie Hewett ’14 has managed to incorporate her love of dance and art into many aspects of the Trinity experience. In an engaging interview with the Tripod, she recounted her first steps into the world of dance. Even though she was raised in a non-artistic but supportive family, Hewett discovered her love of dancing at the age of five. Her younger years were spent practicing the precision and technique of ballet.
Her admission into a preforming arts middle school allowed her to gain exposure to a new genre of modern dance. After studying the Martha Graham technique that focuses on bodily contractions and releases more than classical ballet, Hewett concentrated mainly on contemporary dance. Her passion then led her to audition for a spot in a performing arts high school in New York City.
When she arrived at Trinity, Hewett was unsure about whether or not she was going to major in dance. However, the influence of a group of upperclassmen and her friends helped her realize that dancing was an integral part of her life that she should pursue.
Relationships and personal experiences are the cornerstone of Hewett’s artistic inspiration. “I want to explore the concept of communication and express how important it is,” Hewett stated. Spending her junior year abroad studying at a conservatory in London allowed Hewett to delve into this concept with greater depth. Living in a flat with five other students fostered an environment that allowed them to “open up, be vulnerable” and explore how, “no matter how messed up the world can seem, they can use art as a voice to try to fix it.”
Hewett then applied this theory to life situations. After noticing how people on the tube, the London subway system, always looked apathetic and reserved she and her friends attempted to break this barrier. They dressed up without any inhibitions or boundaries: in strange hats, heels, and whatever else they could find and took to the streets. Improvising dance movements around different parts of the city was their way of showing people that they do not need to feel inhibited and withdrawn but rather they be themselves and rejoice in their individuality.
A formal project manifested their impromptu dance in an untitled piece that Hewett choreographed. The piece featured two women from the conservatory who wore cardboard box masks, which she had designed. Hewett choreographed the piece and incorporated the masks as a way to convey how concealing the face allows the body to speak in a louder voice.
This switch from being a dancer to choreographer is a decision that Hewett is still on the fence about because her passion extends to both. However, she is beginning to lean more towards choreography because it will allow her to narrate her stories exactly the way she wants. While she loves peforming, dancing in someone else’s creation does not allow for the same kind of creative freedom.
The latest piece that Hewett choreographed embodied the importance she places on being able to clearly communicate her ideas. The dance was inspired by the concept of A priori, which is knowledge through reason and reason alone. “It was really great to take the notion of A priori, which I leaned in philosophy class, and depict it through movement” stated Hewett about being able to express an idea in her own unique creation.
Hewett had the opportunity to witness first-hand how being able to express yourself through art can be a cathartic therapy. During her sophomore year she took a class that visited the York Correctional Institution. While there, the students helped the female prisoners work on a dance pieces that they were peforming at the end of the year. The experience motivated Hewett to intern there over the summer. She saw how dancing transformed the prisoners detached and reserved to open and engaged. Touched by the experience, Hewett felt fortunate “to be a part of that journey, to help them tell their story in a way that is not intrusive and allows them to tell it in their own voice”
Her plans for the future include following this selfless and altruistic path towards becoming involved in dance movement therapy programs for mental health patients, the elderly, and children with autism. Before graduation however, Hewett plans on creating a piece for her senior thesis that will concentrate on this concept of therapeutic self-expression. The main thesis will be centered on the idea of communication.
Hewett plans to bring together many different mediums to incorporate into her project. She is currently looking for artists on campus to participate, so be on the lookout for this opportunity. The final product will be preformed on campus sometime in May, so save the date for what is sure to be a very exciting and moving piece.