Take a look at one of TWSB alumni dancers, Catja Christensen, as she shares her experience of dance, life, and finding new passions.
Catja started her dance career at the very young age of two and a half, by sneaking into her older sister’s dance class to dance behind the older students.
“I absolutely fell in love, and I took everything so seriously, from beginning ballet classes to rehearsals to Nutcracker shows and recitals,” said Catja.
Dancing quickly became a family affair when her younger brother, Viggo, also began dancing at the young age of three. Catja says this shared family interest was so special to her as she always loved getting to dance with her family growing up.
Catja’s passion for dance only continued to grow. In 2016, she and her brother joined TWSB with Catja in Level 7 and Viggo in Level 5. “I was really nervous my first year in the school because it was so much bigger than my old schools, and the training was intense. Luckily, I began to make friends in my class, got to know my teachers better (Mr. Imaev taught our placement class, and he was my primary ballet teacher for my three years in the school; Ms. Reyes, Ms. Gaither, and Mimmo Miccolis were also some of the most influential and supportive teachers in my training), and adapted to the rigorous training schedule.”
Juggling high school classes and her PTP B classes was nothing short of challenging. Catja would even leave school an hour early every day to get to her daily classes on time. Yet, she says this process helped her learn vital time-management skills that pushed her to achieve her goals and continues to come in handy as she now balances a busy college career.
During her senior year of high school, Catja found a new passion in the form of sewing. Every dancer knows the basics of sewing, but she went beyond the basics creating her own personalized leotards. In PTP, students were allowed to wear colored leotards for Saturday classes and rehearsals, so she took full advantage of that opportunity to express herself through dancewear. Catja says she always struggled with body confidence, but sewing her own leotards and customizing them in fit, style, and fabric helped overcome some of that struggle.
“Leotards are often standardized in every aspect, but mine were Catja-size, Catja-style. I felt proud of myself when I would walk into Studio 3 for Saturday class at 9AM, and my friends would ask if I made a new leotard. My dancing improved because I felt strong and confident wearing my designs, and as an amateur seamstress, making people feel comfortable and confident in their clothes/costumes has been my top priority.”
As a senior, she was a work-study costume assistant, designing and making costumes throughout the year for all showcases contributing to shows beyond performing. Just after her final performance as a student, she interned with the TWB wardrobe team (Monica Leland, Carolynn Hawthorne, and Noelle Greata) who were amazing mentors helping her learn about costume-making, repairs, inventory, the post-show process, and much more.
Currently, Catja is a sophomore at Connecticut College, studying English and Dance as a double major in the Media, Rhetoric, and Communication Pathway (interdisciplinary program). While in college, she has continued to have lots of opportunities to expand her skillset as both a dancer and seamstress. She continues to dance seven days a week, where she has been able to try a wide array of styles which has helped her become more in tune with herself and become a stronger dancer.
Her freshman year she was able to work for the Theater Costume Shop, allowing her to expand her skillset from dance wear to theater/streetwear, and worked as a backstage assistant for TWB’s Nutcracker shows.
“TWB’s Nutcracker was a huge opportunity for me to dive in the chaotic yet perfectly organized machine of wardrobe for a huge production. I learned a lot really quickly, and though mistakes were inevitable, everyone was so supportive and helpful when I had questions.”
Most recently, she helped design costumes for the PTD Spring Show, which tested both her design and teaching skills to produce costumes that were affordable, simple, and accessible enough for students to make.
Catja also stays connected to TWSB as an alumna by demonstrating for the online adult classes. “I love keeping in touch with my old teachers, and pre-Covid, I would come back home to visit and take classes with my friends and Viggo, who is now in PTP too. I attend as many TWSB shows as I can during the school year, and I invite my friends and teachers to my virtual shows this year. Online shows are one silver lining of the past year, because I can watch my friends dance back home while I’m at college.”
This semester, Catja has been busy with several shows, such as the Senior Capstone and Faculty shows just last month. She also performed in a solo showcase live streamed from the school’s black box studio in March and organized a dance film festival as a Dance Club Co-President in the fall, in which she choreographed and performed in peers’ dance videos.
Academically, she have also discovered a passion for journalism specializing in the arts over the past two years. “I began writing for the school paper, The College Voice, this year, and I love meeting so many interesting people as I write for the biweekly publication. I am currently pursuing arts communication/journalism internships to build my experience and skill set. Along with dancing, choreographing, and costume-making, journalism has given me yet another outlet for my creative streak.”
She has recently been accepted to the King’s College London study abroad program for Fall 2021, and very excited to study literature and media in the UK. She hopes to explore all of the arts organizations, like the Royal Ballet, Shakespeare Theatre, West End, and countless others while there.
“At my ripe old age of 20, I actually have so much hindsight looking back at my pre-professional experience at TWSB. I now know that my education at TWSB taught me more than just technique classes, and I am now able to connect with my faculty on another level as they continue to support me in my pursuits,” said Catja.
Catja expressed she will always cherish her dance training years at TWSB because they made her the dancer, artist, and woman she is today. “Now, I can confidently say that I am on the right path for me: I am dancing with soul and spirit in a wonderful, supportive college dance department, I am pursuing incredible opportunities in all of my academic and career goals, and I am staying connected and contributing to the TWSB community.”
Thank you so much for sharing your story Catja!
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