Kaitlyn Hess has danced nearly all of her life.
The recent St. Joseph-Ogden High School graduate will continue to do so — in college.
Hess will attend Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where she will join the dance program after previously dancing at SJO and at Gallo Dance Studio in St. Joseph.
Hess said after meeting the director of the dance program and visiting the school, the connection was instantaneous.
“I really enjoyed the campus, and the director made me fall in love with the dance program,” Hess said. “She was so passionate she made me want to be a part of it.”
Hess said SIUE having a competitive dance program was also an incentive for her to head south for college.
“That was a perk as well,” she said.
Hess said it was vital that her college had a dance program and a dance team because she loves expressing herself through dance while connecting to the songs she dances to.
“I have been dancing since I was three and competing since I was five,” Hess said. “I knew that I need to continue to dance because it is literally my whole life.”
Hess will major in dance, and she said the audition for the SIUE dance team was difficult, taking six hours to complete. The dancers learned two routines and practiced them for a few hours before they interviewed with the coaches. They then showed their technique and special skills before dancing in pairs, small groups
“The wait was super hard and I was so nervous,” Hess said. “All the girls were sitting together waiting and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the team so I could get to know them better. When I saw my name on the list that was posted, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wasn’t sure my name actually was on the list, but it was. I was ecstatic.”
Hess said despite her excitement regarding her future team, she will never forget her SJO and Gallo Dance Studio teams.
Hess said she would always remember when the SJO Dance team came together this season to dance at sectionals after being told weather was going to prevent them from going. The team then made it to state.
Hess said she has many memories from the Gallo Dance Studios team as well, but her favorite is from her last regional competition.
“It was very emotional and my team and my teachers and my family made it so special for me,” she said. “I will miss my whole dance family: the staff, the dancers and the moms and dads of the kids. Everyone there is so nice and welcoming and they are always there for each other.”
Hess said many people think that dancing is easy but she disagrees.
“Dancing is so hard physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “Having to tell a story and to look effortless is hard work and it takes a lot of training to master these skills. I would say that dance teaches you that not everyone will like you or what you put out into the world, such as a judge may not always like your dance, and that is a very important lesson to learn.”
Hess said she hopes to use her college degree to choreograph for different dance studios and dance teams once she graduates from SIUE.
“I also want to open a studio with my sister,” she said, “and teach children of all ages.”