It has been 17 years since Caitlin Kennedy Foley ’98 was a member of the Wheaton Dance Company, but she can still kick her leg high over her head and leap like a gazelle as effortlessly as she walks across the dance floor in Balfour-Hood.
Her physicality and artistry were on full display this fall as she worked with the 10 members of the Wheaton Dance Company. Foley’s original choreography will be performed during the company’s show December 10 through 12 at 7:30 p.m., in Weber Theatre. (Her work with the dance company is sponsored by the Ruth Eddy ’42 Master Class in the Arts Endowed Fund within the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program.)
The three-minute piece, called “Ruby Blue” (after the song by Roisin Murphy), is a fun jazz number carried out with quick leaps and turns and lots of sass—the kind of unsuspectingly demanding number that Foley is drawn to as a dancer.
“I teach very similarly to how I dance or used to dance,” she said. “I have very high expectations. I expect dancers to try their best and be smart. As long as I see them dancing to their fullest potential, I am their biggest supporter, and I will do whatever it takes to help them perfect their craft.”
When Foley was a student at Wheaton, she practically lived in the dance studio. She was in the dance company all four years and choreographed during her junior and senior years as co-captain. She also worked with Professor of Dance Cheryl Mrozowski nearly every day as her assistant all four years as a work-study student.
One evening this September, it seemed like old times in the dance studio—but in reverse—as Foley ran through her choreography with the students for the first time while Mrozowski looked on from the front of the room, offering advice when asked.
“Cheryl was my biggest cheerleader when I was dancing or choreographing,” said Foley. “Confidence is the best gift you could provide a student, and that is what Cheryl gave to me and still gives me today. She has the ability to give you constructive criticism without making you feel bad about yourself.”
The admiration is mutual.
“Caitlin’s work has always been fun for the dancers to dance as well as a feast for the eyes in the audience,” said Mrozowski. “It is so great to have her back in the studio, and wonderful for the dancers to have the opportunity to work with her and do her piece. It is great for us to collaborate again and share this process together.”
Foley, a busy mother of three girls (ages 4, 8 and 10), majored in Italian Studies with a minor in secondary education. Currently, she divides her time teaching fourth grade at Lincoln Street School in Northborough, Mass., and teaching and choreographing at Sally McDermott Dance Centers in Auburn, Mass., where she taught dance for four years even before graduating from Wheaton.
Foley has been dancing since the day her mother signed her up for a class at age 2 1/2. By the time Foley arrived at Wheaton as a freshman, she had won many regional and national dance competitions.
There was no dance major at Wheaton when she was a student, but “Wheaton gave me a new outlook on dance,” said Foley. “The Wheaton Dance Company taught me that dance is not about trophies; it is about developing your dance technique and performance skills. I learned as much from the professional choreographers and Cheryl Mrozowski as I did from the professors in the classroom.”
Now Foley is paying it forward with the next generation of dancers, including Bridgette D’Arcangelo ’19, a new member of the Wheaton Dance Company whom Foley has taught at the Auburn dance center since D’Arcangelo was in sixth grade.
“It was great to have rehearsal with Caitlin again,” said D’Arcangelo, after her first session in the Balfour-Hood studio. “I love the way that she choreographs. She is so creative and inventive. She is also a really great teacher in the way that she takes the time to get to know her dancers and develop relationships with them. It is really nice to know that you have a mentor that truly cares about you.”
Foley is one of several alums who have returned to campus to share their dance talents as visiting artists. Mrozowski usually invites three to four per semester.
“I have always felt very grateful for all the alumnae support we have received over the years and feel that it has contributed greatly to the strength of our program,” said Mrozowski.