Student Spotlight: Dancer and SHEBA member Micah Park ’17

by Elise Higgins | 9/13/16 12:01am

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Micah Park ’17 spent two terms with dance groups at the University of California Berkeley.

Source: Courtesy of Micah Park

Micah Park ’17 might be all about dance now, but this was not always the case. Although she took ballet courses when she was very young, she quit after a few years. She only rekindled her interest in dance after pursuing musical theater and realizing that the singing component was not for her.

“I found out fairly quickly that I could not sing at all,” Park said.

Park went on to join a dance group during high school and began taking dance classes on the side to build her technique.

“I was basically trying to catch up as much as possible,” Park said.

Park took classes ranging from contemporary to hip hop, noting that while contemporary helped build basic dance knowledge, she found her passion in hip hop.

During her sophomore year of high school, Park joined a competitive dance team. As dance grew in importance in Park’s life, she knew she wanted to continue it in college. Although Park loved Dartmouth, she wondered about whether or not there would be a dance culture on campus.

“New Hampshire isn’t exactly the mecca of hip hop,” Park said.

However, Park’s worries subsided when she heard about SHEBA, whom she recognized from performing at the same dance competitions she had competed in while in high school. Dani Gnibus ’17, another member of SHEBA and current co-director of the group with Park, met her during one of SHEBA’s open rehearsals their freshman year.

“I remember thinking ‘wow, this girl is so good,’” Gnibus said.

Park said that SHEBA has been her most important Dartmouth commitment, not only because of her passion for dance, but also because of the intensity of the group.

“It felt like it was my entire life,” Park said about committing herself to practice time and performances.

Gnibus seconded Park’s statement about the group’s intensity, particularly during their freshman year, noting that SHEBA would practice late into the night for hours on end the day before they had a performance. Gnibus said that the group has become more manageable as members learn how to manage their time efficiently.

When she is off campus, Park continues to pursue dance opportunities.

“Micah is so open to trying different types of dance,” Gnibus said. “She just really wants to expose herself to everything.”

For two summers in her college career, Park has participated in dance groups at the University of California, Berkeley. After her freshman year at Dartmouth, Park joined a group called Summer Stacks, a popular competitive dance group on Berkeley’s campus. After her junior year, she returned to Berkeley and joined a different dance group called the Raptors Camp put on by Team Velociraptors.

“She’s just the type of person who has taken every opportunity to better herself in dance,” Gnibus said.

In fact, Gnibus said that Park even persuaded her to take dance classes in the Bay Area one summer.

Robert Yu, a Berkeley student and captain of Raptors Camp, said that Park’s determination makes her a great asset to the group.

Park said she was excited to be in the Bay Area because it’s a huge hub for dance, particularly hip hop. As a result, Park gained exposure to new styles and movements.

“Going to dance at Berkeley was kind of like catching up on what I was missing while at Dartmouth,” Park said.

Park said that although she enjoys refining her choreography and leadership skills in SHEBA, she enjoyed simply being another dancer while at Berkeley, which enabled her to focus on improving her technique and broadening her style.

Yu agreed with Park, saying that she grew a lot as a dancer over the summer. When the group threw challenging pieces at Park, she always executed them well and in the manner which the choreographers envisioned.

In addition to learning new styles of dance, Park was able to try out larger performance venues at Berkeley, such as stages and off campus venues, compared to the fraternity performances at Dartmouth.

Through these experiences, Park said that she was able to break out of her shell and feel more confident on stage.

“I could be whoever I wanted,” Park said. “It was super liberating.”

Over the years Park said that she has come to appreciate the art of dance more.

“I feel like now that I am confident in who I am I can take dance and make it a little bit less about the performance and make it a little more about the art,” Park said.

This personal growth will be displayed in SHEBA’s performances this year, as Park and Gnibus said that they plan on taking the group in a somewhat new direction.

In the past, SHEBA was very performance heavy, Park said, but she wants to turn the group’s focus toward the art of dancing itself. Gnibus agreed, saying that she wants SHEBA to appreciate opportunities such as when choreographers come to Dartmouth. Previously, SHEBA would rarely attend these events because it would conflict with rehearsal time. Now, however, Gnibus hopes to build practice time around such events.

“We do see the importance in making SHEBA about learning different styles and getting exposed to different types of dance,” Gnibus said.

Park wants to continue seeking out and experiencing different styles of dance after she graduates. Although she wants to pursue dance after college, she does not intend to do so professionally. She plans to take advantage of the opportunities for her around San Francisco, including the many Berkeley dance groups.

“I’ve definitely decided that dance is something I don’t want to live without,” Park said.