Explaining delta H equations by day and choreographing complex hip-hop routines for her dance students by night, Nef Francis, Instructor in Chemistry, describes her two major passions as teaching chemistry and dancing in front of live audiences.
Although she danced as a child, Francis fell in love with the art of hip-hop and improvisational dancing as a sophomore on Swarthmore College’s dance team, Rhythm and Motion. Francis said that practicing with the dance team gave her the confidence to teach dance as a sport at Andover.
Majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics, Francis divided much of her time in college between academics and dance. Dancing helped her to cope with stress throughout her years at Swarthmore.
“Since there are so many dimensions to hip-hop dance, it can be considered as a very intimate dance; the dancers can express themselves through the freestyle movement, which adds to their own personality and style,” said Francis.
“I would say that [Francis’s] dance style is a combination of old school hip-hop and modern hip-hop. Her moves are quick, constantly changing in fluidity. Because of this, she basically has a wide range of different dance moves,” said Jorge Piccole ’14, who was Francis’ student in winter dance.
Francis now encourages her students to take risks by choreo- graphing their own routines. Her personal experience with stage fright has helped her understand and appreciate the difficulty of dancing on stage. Francis said she was initially shy and nervous when performing in front of a live audience.
“Seeing students with no back- ground in dance being able to learn the choreography and perform in front of their peers with confidence is the most rewarding [feeling] a hip-hop instructor can have,” said Francis. “It was actual- ly the connection I have with hip- hop that finally helped me over- come the feeling of nervousness.”
Francis believes that an outstanding dance performance requires both passion and true personality, so she encourages her dance students to bring their own creativity and individuality to their choreography.
“I love watching students gain confidence after adding their own dance moves to the repertoire. I believe that improvisation is one of the keys to become a better dancer,” she said.