Spotlight on Our Students: Living the Dream in NYC

Kate Morris practicing her routine on stage.

“The University Scholars Program (USP) helps me appreciate how fortunate I have been to have met so many amazing and diverse people not only in New York City, but also at NC State.”

In this edition of Spotlight on Our Students Kate Morris tells us about her adventures in New York City at the annual Rockettes Summer Intensive (RSI). Kate is a Sophomore from Seven Lakes, North Carolina majoring in Statistics. This is her third year attending the RSI and it keeps getting better each year she attends. She tells us all about her adventures in the Big Apple.

USP: Kate, first of all congratulations on being accepted to participate in your third Rockettes Summer Intensive, it sounds like a super fun experience and a great way to visit New York City. Tell us a little more about what it entails.

KM: The Rockettes Summer Intensive is a week long dance program held eight times throughout the summer in New York City. Auditions are held in January and February of each year in cities across the United States. Dancers who are at least 14 years old, with at least five years of dance instruction in ballet, tap, and jazz are invited to audition. Roughly 80 dancers are selected to attend each week and learn three dances which are performed at the end of the week at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The Rockettes’ dance style is unique to the group and hard to replicate at most dance studios. Actual Rockettes’ choreography is taught during the week. During the intensive, I learned tap dances to “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “42nd Street.” I also learned a jazz number to “Sleighride,” where we perform as Santa’s reindeer.

USP: That sounds really fun! How did you get involved in the RSI and what drew you to it?

Kate backstage.

KM: When I was a young dancer, I saw the traveling version of the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in Winston-Salem, NC and Durham, NC. I was fascinated by the Rockettes’ skill and precision dancing and wanted to be just like them. I discovered they offered a summer program and auditioned for the first time three years ago. This was my third RSI. The week I attended this summer is called Invitational Week, where they teach the most difficult choreography. It was inspiring to be surrounded by the best dancers in the program! I plan to continue to study dance here at NC State, attend more RSI’s, and eventually audition for the Rockettes.

USP: Well you must be very talented if they keep asking you back! What would you say are some of the challenges of the RSI?

KM: The first of many challenges during the RSI is dancing from 9:30-5:00 in two-and-a-half-inch jazz and tap shoes. At the end of each day, I soaked my feet in a tub of ice water at the hotel. I have developed blisters each year that I’ve had to tape up and ignore for the rest of the week. Also, it’s challenging to perform three precision dance pieces in one week with dancers from all over the country (and with whom I’ve never danced) in our performance at the end of the week. An additional challenge is having the stamina to dance all day. A motto of the Rockettes is that you perform how you practice. You don’t mark your choreography, so you give it your all each and every time you dance. It can be exhausting! It’s all worth it by the end of the week, though, when you finally get to step on stage in front of an audience and show what you’ve learned.

USP: That sounds really difficult, but rewarding. How would you say your time in the USP helped prepare you for this?

Kate with the Rockettes.

KM: I enjoy the excitement of trying or exploring something new. The University Scholars Program encourages exposure to new ideas, opinions, and experiences through studying abroad, taking short weekend excursions, or spending an evening in Stewart Theatre watching performances put on by peers. My trips to New York City have been new and different each visit. Maneuvering the city on its subway system, eating different ethnic foods from trucks on the street, and attending Broadway shows were all new experiences for me on this visit. The USP helps me appreciate how fortunate I have been to have met so many amazing and diverse people not only in New York City, but also within the University Scholars Program at NC State.

USP: It really is so valuable to have these experiences and reflect on them, right? What would you tell other University Scholars about pursuing their passions?

KM: I can follow my passion for dance by taking classes for the newly added dance minor, along with my goal for a double-major in statistics and economics. NC State is so supportive of the arts programs. If you have ever been curious about or wanted to be involved in theatre, dance, music, or art, NC State has many clubs and organizations that promote these interests. You don’t have to have any experience in any of these areas, just the desire to learn. If you feel great passion for an opportunity or a career choice, do not let anything deter you. It may not be the safe or logical choice, but nothing would be worse than wondering ‘what if’ for the rest of your life.

USP: You are right, NC State really does strive to support the best of both worlds offering student access to diverse majors and pursuits. To wrap things up, I have to ask you what I ask everyone, what is the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?

KM: This advice wasn’t given to me directly, but I have always loved Jim Valvano’s quote, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” When the odds are against you, you keep going. You keep trying. You surround yourself with people who can help you and support you. Whether it’s a difficult class, a challenging and competitive career choice, an important relationship, or a cancer diagnosis, you keep doing the best you can. I always have this quote in the back of mind, urging me to continue with my goals.

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