Kennesaw State Dance alumni named to Top 25 to Watch list, continuing program’s record of national recognition

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 7, 2022) — Over its 16 years of existence, Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance has seen its national reputation grow. That trend accelerated this week as Dance Magazine named two KSU Dance alumni to its annual Top 25 to Watch list.

The magazine identifies dancers, choreographers and companies “on the verge of breaking through” and who are viewed as the future of the dance industry, according to the publication. The honor for recent Kennesaw State graduates Simone Stevens and Darvensky Louis is remarkable, said KSU Department of Dance chair Marsha Barsky.

“It’s a treat to see two KSU Owls on the list and it speaks volumes about our students and our program,” Barsky said. 

Kennesaw State alumna Indya Childs was named to the 25 to Watch list in 2014 by Dance Magazine, which has been a leading publication covering dance since the 1920s. Childs is an Arts and Social Justice Fellow at Emory University and premiered her dance and art installation “Tokoliana” in Atlanta this fall. 

Stevens, a 2017 graduate, excelled in KSU’s dance program throughout her college career, earning the Emerson Scholarship for the Advancement of International Education to study dance in Israel and working directly with artists from the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. 

Simone Stevens
Simone Stevens

Stevens was hired this summer to join Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, an internationally renowned contemporary dance company and one that she had dreamed of one day joining.

Dance Magazine described Stevens as a dancer who “has it all: flawless technique, impassioned emotional sensitivity and brazen versatility, the latter developed as she floated between wildly diverse projects.”

“Now, Stevens has gotten what she came for, and it’s Hubbard Street’s gain,” the article states.

Dance Magazine credits 2020 Kennesaw State graduate Darvensky Louis’ “smoldering inner drive and visceral intelligence” with helping him land roles in works by several of Atlanta’s top contemporary dance groups, including staibdance, Fly on a Wall and Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre, within a year and a half of his graduation from KSU. 

image of Darvensky Louis
Darvensky Louis

But Louis had already attracted the attention of some major dance companies and filmed and danced for them during his final months in college.

Louis is also the founder of Sequence One, a company that aims to provide recent college graduates opportunities to perform and tour. 

Since its beginning in 2005 with only a dance minor, KSU Dance has become one of few programs in the country to be invited five times to perform at the National College Dance Festival Gala Concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington. KSU Dance has also received nine regional Gala selections in the Southeast; had its performances recognized for artistic excellence; hosted major dance company performances from local and overseas groups; and even choreographed a performance with dance robots through a collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Now, the department offers a Bachelor of Arts in Dance with concentrations in modern and ballet, as well as its dance minor. Over the past five years, the number of students majoring in dance has grown from 93 in fall 2016 to 140 in fall 2021.

KSU Dance Company founder Ivan Pulinkala, who now serves as the University’s interim provost and vice president of academic affairs and professor of dance, said he’s been proud to watch the program grow and be in the spotlight year after year. He said the program’s faculty, staff and students are committed to advancing the professional practice of dance through innovative approaches to art making, pedagogy and production. 

“Congratulations to Simone Stevens and Darvensky Louis for this national recognition and to everyone at KSU Dance who has contributed to the development of these two emerging artists,” Pulinkala said. “Under the outstanding leadership of Marsha Barsky, KSU Dance continues to be distinguished nationally.”

– Thomas Hartwell

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