First-year transfer student Julia Blair follows her passion

 Julia Blair in dancer garb

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 9, 2018) — A big No. 3 placard pinned to the front of her leotard, Julia Blair danced her heart out during the two-hour audition for the College of the Arts Department of Dance. She challenged the odds to convince the faculty to let her follow her dream of transferring to Kennesaw State as a dance major.

Graded on a 1-10 scale for how well they performed ballet and modern dance combinations, more than 100 male and female dancers auditioned to enter the program this fall semester. A little more than three dozen, including Blair, would make the final cut. The Department of Dance has over 100 majors annually.

“I fell once during the artistic dance portion of the audition, but I got up and kept going,” the athletic 19-year-old said. “It was intense, because they would call some of us back for more. It was a real intense workout.”

Dance has been a big part of Blair’s life ever since middle school, but she put her dream of one day dancing at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on hold after graduating from Suwanee’s Peachtree Ridge High School in 2017. Her parents had just adopted two children from China, and she wanted to stay close to home to help with their care.

The Duluth resident enrolled at nearby Gwinnett Technical College, where she studied environmental horticulture with a different creative goal in mind.

“While I was studying at Gwinnett Tech, I planned on becoming a florist because I adore nature and flowers,” Blair said. “I had worked at a nursery while in high school, and I loved playing in the dirt.”

Julia Blair warms up

Dance would become something she would pursue as a part-time job, she decided, teaching young children at the Buford School of Ballet in Gwinnett County.

“It seemed like a dream to me to get paid for doing something I love so much,” said Blair who has taught at the school for the past year. “The classes range from an hour to an hour and a half for the older dancers,” she said. “We stretch and warm up, sometimes we do a mini barre, and then learn or review choreography.”

Fate intervened, however, when a co-worker who had graduated from Kennesaw State’s dance program, noticed her talent and suggested she consider transferring there.

“I did not even have Kennesaw State on my radar, but my good friend and coworker, Megan Harris (Dance, ’16), had graduated from the dance program at KSU and encouraged me to check it out,” she said.

Harris could see how much Blair enjoyed dance and didn’t hesitate to offer some college advice.

“KSU holds my heart in so many ways that I always encourage people to at least check out KSU before making their final decision,” said Harris, who was president and stage manager of the KSU Dance Company her senior year. “I also believe that KSU has the best and most diverse dance program in the state.”

Regionally and nationally accomplished faculty and guest artists in the College of the Arts provide students with a high standard of education in state-of-the-art dance facilities at both the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses.

In addition, the KSU Dance Company is one of the few companies in the history of the American College Dance Festival to have four successive national invitations to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

This distinction, along with eight regional gala selections, rank Kennesaw State’s Department of Dance as a leading dance program among peer institutions in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“One of my best memories of the Dance Department was attending the Dance Festival my freshman year and getting to take classes from different professors from other universities,” Harris said. She wanted Blair to have the opportunity to explore college-level dance if she could pass the rigorous audition process.

Blair said, “I had not even realized there was such a well-developed dance program in Georgia, and one that I could be involved in. I have always loved dance but majoring in it and having a full-time career in it did not seem possible until I found KSU. Now, I will be furthering my education and increasing my knowledge of dance by earning my degree at KSU.”

Last fall, some 2,671 students transferred to Kennesaw State, and similar numbers are expected when the numbers are tallied this fall. Of those, only 41 students came from Gwinnett Tech.

Julia Blair practicing arm extended

Blair is excited to begin her new journey and has already started planning her activities and courses for the fall semester.

“I will be living with other first-year students in University Village on campus, so I’m looking forward to getting involved in such campus life activities as Reformed University Fellowship, intramural sports and KSU’s swing dancing club,” she said. “I am also looking forward to taking dance classes in ‘body conditioning and somatics’ and ‘dance pedagogy’ that will train me to be the best dance instructor I can be.”

Blair, who will be one of about 110 dance majors, has high hopes for the future and the doors that could open to her with a degree in Dance.

“My dream after graduation would be to perform for a few years, possibly at Disney World. Eventually, I want to return to teaching because I want to share my art with the next generation.”

Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Lauren Kress