Eyes glued to the television screen, four-year-old Erica Nork ’16 was enthralled by “Cats,” rewinding the musical to watch the dance scenes over and over again. In awe of the movements she saw, Nork jumped to her feet to mimic the dancers’ expressive leaps and turns. Nork’s mother noticed her enthusiasm and promptly signed her up for ballet, jazz and tap dancing classes.
By middle school, Nork had advanced from living room recitals in front of the TV to dancing nearly 15 hours a week at her local studio. Nork focused intensely on ballet and modern dance which ultimately inspired her love for the stage.
“[Being on stage is] like you’re full and empty at the same time,” said Nork. “My favorite moment is when you’re about to walk on stage, and there’s this line — it’s not a physical line. It’s just where the light stops hitting the stage and curtains. Just knowing you step over that, your threshold, almost like a portal between two worlds, is one of the most daring things I’ve ever done, and it’s really exhilarating.”
At Andover, Nork currently takes ballet and modern dance classes for athletic credit and is a member of Andover Dance Group, the select, advanced modern dance group. She also played the Mouse King, the lead Arabian sweet and a Spanish sweet in the December production of “The Nutcracker.”
“There’s something very joyous about dance at Andover because it’s such a different experience from classroom life. You rarely find simplicity at Andover, but, in a dance class, it’s just you, your friends, the teacher and piano, and that’s all you have to worry about for an hour and a half,” said Nork.
Despite the apparent rigidity of dance technique, Nork finds dance to be full of free and simple movement.
“I enjoy dance simply because it is one of the purest forms of self-expression and so ingrained into human nature that its very practice becomes reflexive — instinctual. In its most basic definition, dance is merely the intentional movement of a body through space. It never ceases to amaze me how something so seemingly simple can be an instrument of human emotion in the same vein as music, as writing, as art,” wrote Nork in an email to _The Phillipian_.
In addition to dance, Nork is an accomplished actress at Andover and frequently appears in DramaLabs. Recently, she has shifted her focus to directing. To Nork, the visual elements of dance and the emotional elements of theater are closely entwined.
“When I direct DramaLabs, I often give my actors very specific instructions on where and how to move, just as particularly as a choreographer would [for] a dancer,” said Nork. “When I’m acting, I have to keep in mind the way my character moves, how he or she holds their body, their physical reactions to the plot and conversation ensuing. It’s really just embodying a character, an embodiment of feeling. You’re trying to exude a certain kind of emotion to the audience.”
Nork also sees similarities between the rhythm and flow of dance and creative writing, another one of her artistic endeavors.
“When you’re thinking about dancing, you’re trying to embody this sound that is happening,” said Nork. “I find it very helpful to translate the sounds into a poem. It just makes a lot of sense. It’s a lot of rhythm, and the sounds of words have a role, too. For example, you think about fluidity versus rigidity because that’s a big thing when it comes to poems, and ballet is often very fluid so if you were to write like that, it’d have a lot of ‘s’ sounds.”
Despite her involvement in many different art forms, Nork finds that dance applies most directly to her life.
“[Dance] has taught me discipline in that I must work very, very hard in order to improve,” said Nork. “It has taught me attention to detail because ballet is essentially rooted in incredibly significant details. It has taught me self-awareness, which has helped me in all of my artistic and academic pursuits.”