Student Spotlight: Drayton Harvey '17, dancer and future doctor

by Zach Cherian | 10/6/16 12:00am

drayton_harvey_by_tiffany_zhai

Drayton Harvey '17 and his wife Amber teach a ballroom dance class.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

Although Drayton Harvey ’17 was never a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” the popular reality show changed the trajectory of his life. When 13-year-old Harvey — then involved with fencing, archery and baseball — first saw the show, it was the spark that ignited what would eventually become a passion for ballroom dancing.

“My mom was watching ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and I just sat down and watched it with her,” Harvey said. “This one professional jumped off the stage and did a front flip over his partner. My mom told me if I could find a studio and call them and set up a lesson, that she would pay for it, thinking I would never actually follow through ­— but I did.” Harvey began lessons at a studio in Colorado, and his first ballroom dancing partner was his then-girlfriend, he said. However, he was soon ready to take the next step and compete at a higher level.

“I didn’t just want to do it for fun, I wanted to be competitive,” Harvey said.

This led to his very fateful decision to switch partners — although he did not know it at the time, his second partner would eventually become his wife, whom he married last year, he said. Amber Harvey, two years her husband’s senior, lives in the area with Harvey and currently works as an events coordinator at Simon Pearce in Quechee, Vt.

Dartmouth, unlike some other peer schools such as Harvard Univeristy and the Univeristy of Pennsylvania, does not have a ballroom dancing team, but Dartmouth students are not lacking in opportunities to learn and hone their dancing skills. This is partially thanks to the Harveys, who co-teach a class weekly as part of the larger Tuesday dancing series.

Caroline Petro ’18, one of the Harveys’ current students, has been dancing since she was four, but she was not familiar with ballroom before the Harveys’ class.

“I had no experience with social dancing before I came to Dartmouth,” Petro said. Her first Tuesday night series class was Swing Dancing, but she soon joined the Harveys’ class.

“They’re very clear instructors,” Petro said. “They start off by demonstrating something, and then break down by count exactly how they did it. Having had a lot of dance teachers in the past couple of years, not everyone does that.”

Kevin Ma ’17, another one of Harveys’ students, agrees. Ma had no dancing background prior to this past summer, when his friendship with Harvey lead him to sign up for the class.

“It was probably one of the things I looked forward to most the entire summer,” Ma said. “He’s an excellent teacher.”

The Harveys compose the structure of the class at the beginning of the term.

“We like to tackle one dance for four to five weeks,” Drayton Harvey said. “Just start with the very basics and move to an intermediate level, throw in some tricks in the end.”

Though the couple acts as stewards of the class, they take care to make the planning interactive and engaging with their students. They craft the schedule with student interest in mind, Petro said.

Next year is sure to be different for Dartmouth’s ballroom dancing class as Drayton Harvey will graduate this spring and the dancing duo plans to leave Dartmouth. In the next chapter of his life, Drayton Harvey plans to pursue his dreams of becoming a doctor.

Petro expressed sadness at their impending departure but also made it clear that she will continue to pursue ballroom dance at Dartmouth next year.

Although Drayton Harvey will not be dancing competitively while he is a medical student, he did say that both he and his wife will most likely make time to teach a similar class at his new institution.

“It might just be that small one slot in a week, but it’s something that I feel has to be in my life now, that it’s a time that my wife and I have to connect every week and something that has been the foundation of our relationship,” Harvey said. “So that’s really nice to tap into.”

His students, similarly, do not feel that the Harveys’ departure means the end of their own relationships with ballroom dance.

“We’re sad to see them go,” Petro said. “But [their departure] doesn’t necessarily mean the end of ballroom at Dartmouth.”