Student Choreographers: Samantha Cortez and Jeralyn Hawes

Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice

Oct. 4, 2011

Hip-hop crew Kaos Kids are known on campus for their impressive moves and stunning choreography. JustArts spoke to Artistic Director Samantha Cortez ’13 and Vice President JeralynHawes ’12 about their best experiences as part of the group and how dance has affected their lives at Brandeis.

JustArts: What are your specific responsibilities as artistic director and vice president?

Samantha Cortez: I’ve been artistic director since last year, but now Shaquan Perkins ’13 is also an artistic director. Basically, I envision what I want Kaos Kids to look like for the semester in regard to performances. I come up with ideas and themes for our performances, and I choreograph and critique other’s pieces because we are student-based. Everyone in Kaos Kids choreographs, so it’s not just me and it’s not just Shaquan. I make sure that the choreography goes along with the idea of the piece.

Jeralyn Hawes: Playing off of Sam’s position, I pull our gears and make sure we’re pushing people in the right direction. I come up with calendars for us. I help a little bit with the artistic direction side by putting a different flavor on music choices, or helping with transitions or the way we want to look onstage. I do a lot of our videography for documenting what we’re doing as a crew, as well as editing our videos and putting them online.

JA: How did the idea to teach open classes come about, and how are they going?

JH: Classes are going really well. They’re a lot of fun. I know that in the dance community in general, a lot of companies do open classes to promote their company, to promote different styles of dance and to get the community involved in general. Brandeis is so small, and I feel like we have a really big fan base here. We have regulars who come to every class. It’s also a chance for kids who are a bit shy about choreographing a big piece for, say, Culture X—they can experiment with different choreography and work on it through open classes. It’s a great learning environment for everyone.

SC: I think one of the reasons why we wanted open classes in the first place was to make Kaos Kids more open to the Brandeis community. We have a lot of people come up to us and say, “I can’t dance, but I love to dance,” so it’s a safe space for them to come. It’s no pressure; you just learn the piece and have fun.

JA: How does Kaos Kids develop its routines?

SC: If you want to choreograph, you can. This semester we’ve gotten new people who want to come choreograph. Basically they show us the choreography they’ve come up with and we decide whether or not it would fit into the piece we’re doing, or if it needs to be reworked, or if it’s really good and we want to automatically put it into our piece.

JH: Our executive board ultimately decides. For the most part, people are really good about sticking to our themes and choosing really good music, current music or music that’s good for the set that we’re doing. We haven’t had any problems with that yet.

JA: What does Kaos Kids have coming up this semester?

SC: We have an AHORA! event that’s on Oct. 15. We also have Fall Fest. We’re in the Adagio Dancefest, and we’re in Brandeis Dancing with the Stars, which is new. We’ve gotten invitations to multiple other shows and to a lot of charity events and coffeehouses.

JH: We try to say yes as much as possible, but it’s a hectic schedule.

SC: Every semester more invitations come, and you can’t say yes to everyone, but we try to do our best.

JA: What have been your best experiences as members of Kaos Kids?

JH: There have been so many! I feel like there are so many that don’t even pertain to dance. We spend so much time with each other outside of dance. We do dinners; we have “study parties” together. I can’t even think of one particular moment.

SC: Well, I’ve been a part of Kaos since second semester freshman year, and it’s been this whole new experience. Something that I didn’t think would happen at my time at Brandeis, but it has. … I love to dance, and I love hip-hop above anything else, and I wanted a place where I could find that. I’m from Harlem, so hip-hop is all I really knew. … When I came to Brandeis, I wanted a piece of that, and for me that’s what Kaos is. Just being a part of the group in general is the experience.

JH: I’m on the complete other side of the spectrum. I barely started dancing last year. I tried out forKaos just to see what it was about, and it was so much more than I expected. Dance in general has been so new and exciting. Being in Kaos and growing in this whole world is amazing. Everything is a learning experience. I’m still trying to figure out how my body moves, the way I want it to move. Learning from everybody is amazing and so much fun.

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