St. Olaf College | News

A future beyond the Hill and in dance

Harper Foote '18 dances while grasping the hand of another dancer on a wooden stage in front of a stone background.
Harper Foote ’18 (left) dances as part of the Alternative Motion Project.

Harper Foote ’18 didn’t plan on attending St. Olaf College.

On her way to tour neighboring Carleton College, she stumbled across St. Olaf “by accident” — and the ensuing decision to stop and take a look changed the course of her college career.

“On driving up the hill, I could already feel the pull of the unique St. Olaf atmosphere, different from the other colleges I had seen,” says Foote. “We took a tour and as soon as the tour guide mentioned a ‘dance building,’ I was pretty much sold. No other college had really even mentioned dance up until that point. I also wanted to go somewhere where hard work was appreciated and that would push me to grow further academically and as a person, and I had a feeling St. Olaf was the place.”

“I wanted to go somewhere where hard work was appreciated and that would push me to grow further academically and as a person, and I had a feeling St. Olaf was the place.”

Despite her excitement upon hearing the words “dance building,” Foote didn’t fully intend to pursue dance in college and remained undecided on her major through the majority of sophomore year. However, she was involved in the St. Olaf Dance Department even though she hadn’t fully committed to the program.

“I really enjoyed the open mindset of the St. Olaf Dance Department. The structure and guidance was there for you when you needed it, but we really got to make it our own and focus on our own personal interests.” 

The broad and diverse St. Olaf dance community eventually pulled her in. “At the end of my sophomore year, I finally gave in to what was pulling me so strongly. As I grew more as a dancer and choreographer, I felt the pull more and more to pursue dance full-heartedly,” she says.

Her experiences connecting with dance communities outside of Minnesota further inspired her to continue training. She had the opportunity to intern at Bearnstow in Maine, as well as the American Dance Festival in North Carolina. 

The Bearnstow’s Young Artist Residency Program provides creators a summer of dance, conducting research, composing sound scores, collaborating on choreography, and creating dance videos. The American Dance Festival is a program that focuses on building a wider audience “for modern dance, to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the art form and its cultural and historical significance.” Providing this platform and support for artists pushed Foote more in the direction of dance. 

Foote was also part of the New York Connections program hosted by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career. This program in New York City enables students to network with alumni in three different fields of study: journalism, finance, and fine arts. The trip gave Foote the opportunity to learn about life in New York, explore the city, and visit storied art spaces such as the New Amsterdam Theater,  Brooklyn Academy of Music, and more.

These experiences, combined with a concentration in management studies, helped Foote “build a foundation of management skills and experience for opportunities and careers down the road.” 

Currently, Foote lives in the Twin Cities area and teaches dance in Northfield while heading into her second season with a modern dance company named Alternative Motion Project. She wants to do more than dance and create, for her passions also lie with social and environmental impact work in the nonprofit sector.

Harper Foote '18 (front) dances with three other dances in front of a red staircase.
Harper Foote ’18 (front) performing with members of the Alternative Motion Project.

The liberal arts education she received at St. Olaf allowed her to explore dance while pursuing management and business. More importantly, her time on the Hill taught her to dream big.

“In many ways, St. Olaf prepared me well for life after college. At St. Olaf, I was encouraged to connect with others, explore potential pathways, and expand my perspective on the world and workforce,” she expresses. 

Her experience at St. Olaf led her to her path of dance; furthermore, Foote says, “I know that my time at St. Olaf altered my view on the world, on thinking, on conversation, and much more and I am very grateful for the more critical and thoughtful mindset that St. Olaf played a part in creating.”