Dancer and choreographer

Although she's been dancing since she was three, Rachel Turner, '09, never thought she could turn it into a viable career. But after performing two years ago in two shows for the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC, it all came together.

"I suddenly realized, woah! I'm actually doing this," she says. "It's still fantastic and not real for me that I get to do this for a living."

She moved to DC after college to teach dance at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, and was inspired to take her choreography into the professional world. Initially working with her friends, including Karlin Gatton, '11, she founded her dance company Errant Movement in 2015.

"My company is really about human connection. Everything we do has a common thread around relationships, from technology and social media to inequality and injustice," says Ms. Turner, whose work, though modern, is strongly influenced by ballet. "It's easy to understand and relate to since it deals with issues that affect people on a day-to-day basis."

To achieve her goal of uniting communities through dance, Ms. Turner began organizing local arts programming. In February 2016, she coordinated a dance showcase with 13 companies designed to be accessible to those unfamiliar with the art. In May, her company performed in Anacostia, an underserved DC community adjacent to hers. The show, free for those who lived in the neighborhood, attracted residents who had never experienced that type of performance before.

"My experience running Arts Fest at Lab really prepared me for this type of work," says Ms. Turner, who participated in planning the U-High festival as a freshman and ran it with her friend as a senior.

Ms. Turner, who received her first grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities in May, used the money to put on the DAnCEecostia! Festival in August. The event spanned four nights and included free performances and dance classes for children and adults. The goal was simply to expose more people to dance.

"Dance is such a large part of African American communities, including liturgical and social dance trends. It's important to witness these dances on the stage alongside modern and ballet, and see how they can be performed on a professional level as a career."

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