By Rachel Shuster
Colleen Curran, a senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, has danced all of her life. “I could dance before I could walk,” she says. However, after years and years of tap, jazz and ballet, Curran said she was officially “…burnt out from it. Twenty hours a week was a lot.”
Coming from her home in Alpharetta, Georgia, Curran knew she wanted to go to school in New England, as her family is from the area. However, when she chose Holy Cross, she didn’t know there was a dance team, let alone a ballroom dance team. However, during an extracurricular extravaganza at the college, Curran saw a performance by the Holy Cross Ballroom Dance team. Instantly, her love and passion for dance came rushing back. “I missed dance, it was a huge part of my life, but ballroom dance was the furthest thing from my mind,” she remembers. However, Curran decided to give it a try.
Curran’s love for ballroom dance was undeniable, as was her talent, though the style took some getting used to. “My freshman year wasn’t very serious. My sophomore year was different. My partner was serious, and I was serious about it. I was back to dancing twenty hours a week,” she says.
“I spent my junior year studying abroad at Oxford University in England. I was a member of the Oxford dance team. Ballroom dance over there is completely different than it is here in the States. The way you move your head, hips…it’s completely different. I basically had to unlearn everything I learned at Holy Cross. It was a struggle,” explains Curran.
Curran’s two coaches at Oxford, Bruce Richardson and Neil Kelly, knew Curran had amazing talent. “Neil Kelly really took me under his wing,” Curran says. “I did a bit of everything, but Latin became my specialty.”
From there, Curran was immersed in England’s competitive dance scene. “There were University level to open level competitions. From January to May, there was a comp once a week. I went through a lot of hair gel during that time,” Curran laughs.
Eventually, Curran’s talent landed her in the prestigious ISTD National Championship in Blackpool, England, where she competed against other soloists in pro-am Latin categories. Curran finished second, an incredible honor, and also one of her most cherished dance moments.
Curran’s mother, also a dancer, attended the competition, and like the rest of Curran’s friends, family and peers, couldn’t have been prouder. “My mom is my biggest inspiration,” Curran says.
After she announced to her dad over the phone that she had just placed second, he inquired, “OK, you’re obviously passionate and talented at this, so how is dance going to factor into your future?”
“That made me so happy,” Curran says. Also extremely proud were her dance teammates and coaches at Holy Cross, Gary Jacobik and Pat Connolly.
Curran plans to go back to England for spring break to watch her friends in dance competitions, and then attend Oxford for her graduate studies. In the meantime, Curran says that she has been keeping up with her ballroom dancing and even has lessons with her Oxford coach, Neil Kelly, over Skype!
With all of her successes and amazing experiences with dance, Curran says that she has one favorite part. “The second I get out on the floor, I become a completely different person. I get to act out different personalities. I get to combine dancing with acting,” she says.
As for the most difficult part of dance, Curran admits, “Nailing down the technique. It’s always hard to remember every last detail. What my hips, head, body are doing.”
Looking into the future, Curran says, “I see dance as a big part of my future, it has taught me so much. I’d like to continue to dance in my graduate work and compete in more open level comps. I’d love to be a professor and a dancer on the side. I may never be a National champ, but we’ll start small.”
Photos by John Sinclair
Colleen with her partner Sam Kolli (top)
Colleen with her partner Neil Kelly, who coached her at Oxford