Profile of Dance Minor Marion Kudla ’19

While Swarthmore’s Dance Program is fairly small, it offers students several opportunities to pursue their passions, often by working closely alongside professors. Marion Kudla ‘19, an Honors Dance minor, has taken classes in a variety of styles, from African dance to yoga; participated in performances every semester since her freshman fall; and is currently choreographing her own dance piece as part of her Honors thesis.

“I’ve been dancing since the age of three,” says Kudla. ”I danced ballet at my studio in upstate New York before training at Gelsey Kirkland Academy and Ellison Ballet at age 14 in New York City. I wasn’t expecting to major or minor in dance [at Swarthmore], but I fell in love with the dance [program] here…it’s opened my eyes to a new way of seeing and appreciating dance in a way that I’d never done before.”

The Honors Dance minor requires students to specialize in either Choreography or Dance Studies, culminating in a final project or thesis in senior spring. Kudla has focused specifically on choreography, taking multiple Dance Labs in her time at Swarthmore. She will be presenting her work during the Spring Dance Concert; an outside examiner will ask her about the choreographic process, as well as her previous work. When asked to describe her final project, she explains,

“I’m choreographing a piece that also relates to the environment and finding a ‘wildness’ within, so in that way, my academics have informed by dancing…dance has given me a creative outlet with which to explore ideas and process what I’m experiencing. While physically demanding, dance is also liberating and empowering, and I think having dance alongside academics has been such a wonderful balance at a place as busy as Swarthmore.”

For Kudla as well as other students, choreography proposes a valuable balance between academic work and physical expression. Previously, she has

“…tried to find ways to intersect my academic interests with dance, and last fall (my junior fall), I choreographed a duet that was inspired by ideas of rewilding, a concept I learned about in my conservation biology class. Choreographing has been challenging in…a different way than my other academic courses at Swarthmore. Sometimes you can go into a studio for two hours and not emerge with anything ‘useful,’ but it’s also forced me to let go of my pursuit of perfectionism…encouraging me to open myself up to ideas that are all around all the time.”

At the end of our conversation, Kudla gives a shoutout to the Dance Program, which has consistently supported her in her stage and choreography work. As she puts it,

“It’s an incredible [program] that is small enough to respond to the needs of its students, making each individual grow in the ways that he or she needs. They really foster creativity and exploration in your approach to dance that I think is rare in other departments.”

Emilie Hautemont ’20