For graduate student and dancer Heather Koozin, dance serves a multitude of purposes. It is a form of expression and release, a way to bless others and a purely enjoyable art.
Koozin, a master’s education student at California Baptist University, has been dancing since she was 4 years old, and though she has grown as an individual and chosen to pursue a teaching career, dance still holds meaning for her.
“Dance is one of my outlets to let things go,” Koozin said. “Starting my junior year in high school, I was a dance assistant and substitute teacher at the studio I was at. I liked it, but it’s not something necessarily that I wanted to do as a career. I much enjoy being in a classroom teaching.”
Koozin danced competitively throughout high school and practiced several styles, including tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and contemporary dance.
Now as a college student, she does lyrical and contemporary dance at a studio designed for adults in Downtown Riverside.
She said the difference between dance in high school and dance now is the pressure.
“Back when I was in high school and even before that, it was more like getting the technique down,” Koozin said, “which isn’t bad; it helps you grow as a dancer. It’s a different pressure now. You don’t have to memorize all these moves or get the dance perfect. It’s just doing what feels right.”
Dance has brought certain standards into Koozin’s life and has helped her with dedication to other tasks.
It has also helped her to realize that the pressure to be perfect does not necessarily have to leave the studio.
“I grew up working toward perfection (in dance), so I’m very much a perfectionist with a lot of things,” she said. “This isn’t dance, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I just recently made this connection.”
Though she has taken a step back with dance and has limited her classes to once a week to pursue her studies and other priorities, she still considers “dance therapy” important to her.
Carley McCabe, Koozin’s roommate and senior liberal studies major, has danced with Koozin for the past year.
“Our motivation to continue to dance is so that we can express ourselves in the best way we know how,” McCabe said. “There are no words to how liberating and refreshing dancing is.”
If Koozin were ever to completely step away from dance, she said she would continue to carry the memories of her dance family with her.
“We really became friends with our teachers. Throughout high school, I had this second family,” she said. “That’s what I would take away from dance.”