|Penny Hammond – Classical Dance Major|
Adopted by the Hammond family as a baby, Penny actually grew up in Iowa on a farm. Her childhood was a mix of work on the farm and hanging out with her older brother, David. Even though she was a tomboy most of her young life, she always loved to dance. When she reached middle school she started taking dancing classes in town at the only dance studio for over 100 miles around. It wasn't much, but it was enough to push her love of dance into overdrive.
Through high school she performed in every local recital and tried to fit dance into every school play, while continuing to take classes and read all she could about all aspects of dance, especially ballet. All her hard work and drive paid of when her instructor at the studio, who happened to be a former student of Central U, sent off a submission for her to earn a scholarship to CUNT. Penny was surprised with the news when she was accepted and given a full ticket.
She arrived here just over two years ago and started in immediately in the dance department. She was insatiable in her desire to learn and improve. Within three months she was already trying out for local shows, even though she was far from ready, just to get more experience and knowledge. Her instructors actually had to pull her back and try to slow down her drive, for fear of her burning herself out, but she wouldn't have any of it as her drive was more than any of them had seen before. That had to later admit that with her drive and love for dance they don't think she will ever burn out.
Over the summer breaks she performs with several local groups, and with certain organizations, to both make some money and keep herself well practiced. She never seems to take a break of more than a couple days. Even when she goes home for a week or two to visit family she still spends at least an hour or two a day practicing. She hopes to join one of the major ballet troupes in New York or England once she finishes with her schooling, or at least join one of the smaller ones that can get her noticed by the large ones when they have an opening.
Last summer she even performed in a small local New Town Center for the Arts performance of Cats, as one of the background dancers. The show ran for two months to sold out houses and earned her several rave reviews as the stand out dancer of the group, even though she never actually had a solo dance or sung a single word other than as part of the chorus.
Late last year she was able to perform her first solo dance during a performance of George Balanchine's Serenade by the department, to rave reviews by both the student and city reviewers. Her four minute solo dance was performed flawlessly and earned her highest marks in her class, which is also what gave her the nomination for this spotlight... from six different members of the performing arts department... independently of each other.
When preparing for this spotlight I had a few moments to speak to her while the photographer was setting up and I wanted to ask her why she is doing it. Why she is taking all the classes and working so hard, rather than spreading out and getting a wider education. All she said was, "Because I love to dance." She then moved off to pose for these lovely pictures. The outfit was her own choice, and she says it's her favorite.
This year she is going to be headlining the mid year performance of the department, as well as performing in two other local shows and several smaller college shows. In her spare time she will be working with a small performance art group here on campus, doing some modern dance pieces. Be sure to catch Penny in at least one of these, you won't be sorry.