Graceful Growth

By Helen Chen

Imagine being able to pursue the arts while taking academically rigorous courses. Well, that's the reality for students at Durham School of the Arts. This middle and high school of opportunity allows students to choose from 10 pathways, including dance, theatre, band, chorus, and visual arts, while they pursue their normal academic studies. This semester, I was lucky enough to cover the dance pathway at DSA, focusing on the Company class, which is the most competitive dance class at DSA. This group is also the three-time state championships team. In order to get into this class, students need to go through an audition and a call back. In total, there are 11 members.

One of the dancers in this group is Abigail Zeresenai, a senior, who started dancing when she was in sixth grade. While she has dabbled in both visual arts and photography at DSA, she loves dance the most because of the movement and the use of movement as a form of expression. She first became interested in dance through Dance Moms, where she and her cousins would learn the choreography and dance in front of their parents. Then, she pursued gymnastics and competed competitively in it for five years. Today, she has explored many forms of dance, including hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, and ensemble dance.

Abigail really enjoys being part of "Company" because of the community. This is a group that trains for long hours together, competes together, choreographs dances together, supports one another, and performs confidently and proudly together. The dance students at DSA are also lucky to be taught by Mr. Patten, who graduated from the Juilliard School and who has performed on Broadway, in Lincoln Center with the New York City Opera, and in Mexico and France. He really empowers his students to be the best versions of themselves. I would like to thank DSA, Professor Post-Rust, Mr. Patten, Abigail, and the entire Company class for letting me be a part of their journey this semester. I enjoyed every part of it, and I really appreciated all of their support in making this project possible. Thank you so much!

Music Credits: "Meaning" and "Do It To Myself" from