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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Jennifer Ritter '13

Hometown: Mariposa, CA

Major: Religion

Minor: Dance

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • W&L Repertory Dance Company
  • Outing Club - Appalachian Adventure Leader
  • Catholic Campus Ministry
  • Chi Omega Sorority

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • American Dance Festival (Duke University, Summer 2011, 2012)
  • Richmond Term Program (Spring Term 2011)

Post-Graduation Plans: Pursue a professional career in dance in NYC

Favorite Class:
Self Help and the Pursuit of Happiness with Professor Jeff Kosky and Perspectives on Death and Dying with Professor Richard Marks

Favorite W&L Activity:
Appalachian Adventure trip leader training/trip and tech week/performances for all the Dance Company performances

Favorite Campus Landmark:
The Lenfest Center--particularly Keller Stage--and the view of Lexington and campus as seen from the Ruins

What professor has inspired you?
Professor Jenefer Davies, the director of the dance company, has inspired me most directly. She has been incredibly supportive of my plans to pursue dance as a career and without her support, I don't think I would have had to the courage to actually follow through with the idea.  Professor Jeff Kosky, my religion advisor, has also really inspired me to think outside the box and expand my ability of learning and thinking.

Advice for prospective or first-year students?
Take the time to really get to know your professors and administration on campus. I can honestly say that I am friends with the majority of the people I have had as a professor or encountered in administration. One of the benefits of being at this school is being able to do that. Don't pass up the opportunity to foster those friendships.

The first time I stepped foot on W&L's campus before my senior year of high school, I was arriving for a soccer camp. Before my arrival, the women's soccer coach, Neil Cunningham, warned my mom that once I had visited, I would never want to leave.  Much to my surprise, he could never have been more right. Once I visited, I was sold, and choosing to stay for my college years has been the best decision I could have made.

I came to W&L as a gung-ho pre-med student, wanting to play soccer, and instead, four years later, I will graduate with a B.A. in religion and as a devoted member of the W&L Repertory Dance Company. I never would have believed college would turn out this way, and it is only because I am at W&L that it did.

I started dancing at the age of 3 at a very small studio in my hometown in California, and never thought about dancing after high school. As circumstance would have it, the week after I was cut from the soccer team, the dance company was having auditions. I showed up in a leotard, ballet tights and a bun, and nothing could have prepared me for the wild ride that would ensue in the next four years. That strict and proper ballerina of my past would be so appalled by the modern dancer that I have become in my time here at W&L.

Professor Jenefer Davies and the W&L Theater and Dance Department have helped me grow as a dancer, as a team player, as a creative thinker and as a person. I have been pushed mentally, creatively and physically in my time here with the program. I have travelled overseas with the company to perform in The Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, performed in numerous festivals here on the East Coast, and spent two of my summers at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C., studying under well-known dance professionals and professors. I have added aerial dance to the repertoire of disciplines that I have studied, and in the spring will perform aerial off of the side of Wilson Hall, as well as in the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Beyond all of these things that I have done with the company, however, comes the incredible people who have shaped my experience and made my time here so special. The dance company brings together people from across campus. We all have different academic interests, come from different Greek organizations, and have different religious beliefs, but we all love dance and love each other. We really have built a family here in the company--a family that I consider it an honor to have been a part of in my time here, and one I know that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My next chapter in life involves moving to New York City to pursue a career as a professional dancer, and it is only because of the support system here at W&L that I have any ounce of courage to do so. Across my academic and extracurricular disciplines, I have been shown nothing but support. Be it in a meeting with my religion advisor, Professor Jeff Kosky; the Outing Club director, James Dick; the Catholic Campus Minister, Burr Datz; or Professor Davies, the support is immense. The people here are truly amazing and I would not be the dancer, student or person that I am without any one of them.