Artist of the Issue: Gwen Slaughter ’19


Gwen Slaughter ’19

Slaughter prepares to execute a dance combination.

Gwen Slaughter ’19, a dedicated member of the Hotchkiss Dance Company, is currently pursuing an independent study in dance. Mrs. Alice Sarkissian-Wolf, who taught dance at Hotchkiss for 26 years, said, “[Gwen] has been such a delightful student. [She] completely understands the work ethic, the commitment, and the drive it takes to dance. She has also been a mentor to many of her classmates, because of her dedication, focus, strong skills, and energy.”

When and why did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was around 2, [when] I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just messing around, because a lot of moms put their little girls in dance classes. I stayed with it, because my mom was a dancer. She danced up until she was 18 and almost professionally. It was really nice having a mentor in that, and I just really loved [dance], because it was an opportunity to exercise. I [also] felt like I was good at it. I loved the combination of having an art and a sport at the same time.

Is there a specific dancer who inspires you?

Sylvie Guillem. She was a principal dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet. [However,] she wasn’t just good at ballet, she could do contemporary and modern. She could execute everything perfectly. Everything had so much emotion and meaning to it. [There’s] also Gelsey Kirkland. She’s a ballet dancer. I trained with her for a summer, and she was incredible. 

What’s a memorable moment you’ve had dancing at Hotchkiss?

When I was a Lower Mid, one of the Seniors, Jenny Lu ’17, choreographed a whole show as an independent study. She took anyone who volunteered to dance in it, but it was people who were experienced. I was the only lowerclass student because it was such a time commitment. [We rehearsed] a lot for a full year, but the end-of-the-year show was just incredible. It was so physically demanding. I’ve never danced so many pieces where I felt as exhausted. I just genuinely felt so proud when I did that.

What is a challenge you’ve faced as a dancer?

I think that, especially with ballet, you’re told you’re supposed to look a certain way. You’re supposed to be so skinny, and so flexible, and all these things. Especially when I was a kid and I only did ballet, I never had that body type. I was never as thin and as flexible, but I would argue I was stronger, because I had more muscle mass. I think this is a struggle for every dancer: trying to love your own body when you’re told that you’re supposed to conform [to] some[one] else’s.

Do you think you’ll continue to dance after graduating?

I don’t think I will as much as I have in the past, but I think dance is such an important thing, because it doesn’t have to be you just taking a class. You can dance with friends [or] you can choreograph something. I think it’s something that I’m good at and love doing; I think it’s something I’ll always have.