Humans of Harker: On pointe

Chloe Chen (12) embraces dance, community and spontaneity

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Emily Tan

“One motto I believe in is, ‘why not?’ A lot of times I question that to people who aren’t as fully willing to do things and doing things without hesitation because at the end of the day we only really spend four years of our lives here. It’s really special for us to be able to engage with each other through this really transformative period in our lives and I think that ‘why not?’ really captures how I feel about taking opportunities and just making the most of it,” Chloe Chen (12) said.

Flying across the stage, Chloe Chen (12), with her hair slicked back into a high ponytail and costumed in a simple burgundy dress, leaps and spins with dance partner Vance Hirota (12) to Work Song by Hozier at the HOSCARS. She pushes her toes into a point and reaches her fingers outward with each jump, her limbs gracefully extending with the utmost control and precision.

After becoming the second person in Harker history to make the varsity dance team as a freshman, Chloe was then designated a student choreographer in her junior and senior year and one of three captains of the varsity team. Hours of dedication and effort, as well as a love for the sport and art form, lie behind her success. In dance, Chloe finds uniqueness that it does not leave behind a physical product. 

“The tradition of passing it on through actually teaching someone else is really unique and different,” Chloe said. “I really enjoy that it’s not just about talent and it’s also about how much skill and training you put into [it]. However much you really dedicate yourself into it normally pays off in the end and it’s rewarding.”

Upper school dance teacher Karl Kuehn, who has known Chloe since her eighth grade, reflects not only on her impeccable technique, but also on her growth in terms of maturity and leadership.

“[The varsity dance team captains] always go above and beyond, and that’s one way to capture Chloe: she always goes above and beyond what’s expected,” Kuehn said. “We see that on stage, we see that behind the scenes, we see that in her interactions with other people.”

For Chloe, dance isn’t just a sport, a form of performing arts or another extracurricular activity. Dance has not only introduced her to a larger community, but has also sparked her interest in societal issues.

“I can’t imagine my life without dance. It’s really helped me become aware of myself as a person and through dance, you really learn how to engage and see the boundaries of your own self but also how to engage with others in that aspect,” Chloe said. “Through dance, I’ve also really gotten more into culture and just seeing how the overall trends and patterns of society as a whole.”

For example, with the shutting down of dance studios like Ballet San Jose in recent years, she has grappled with the reason behind the difficulty funding dance opportunities, even in prosperous places like the Bay Area. Chloe’s curiosities with dance-related issues has also led her to dive deeper into psychological studies.

“I’m really conscious of the interactions between different people and how the inter and intrapersonal connections that all of us have because it’s how we live every day because it’s how we experience different things and how those experiences really shape us,” Chloe said. 

Being so gravitated toward societal issues, Chloe is nothing less of a social butterfly. As longtime friend Sejal Krishnan (12) described Chloe, she knows everyone and can get along with anyone

“When you’re with her, you feel so happy, and you forget everything else,” Sejal said. “Chloe is someone, for me, that I can tell anything to and no matter what, you never feel judged. She’s always ready to talk or give her own advice for different things.”

Kuehn sees her as a role model for the dancers in Harker Conservatory, as well as the senior class as a whole due to her active involvement in spirit events. Before the spring rally her junior year, Chloe felt a lack of class dedication to the event, so she gathered fellow choreographers together and worked behind the scenes, taking care of tasks like scheduling, booking rooms, ordering props and selecting music.

“I just really like living every moment and taking different opportunities. Initially, I remember no one was really engaged in spirit in our grade particularly, but I knew that our dance and the choreographers were really strong and everyone was really excited to be able to dance,” Chloe said. “To me, it’s been a really big deal in my life because I just really like people.”

In addition to spirit events, Chloe also spread information about the Link Crew application process to her peers after deciding to join because of the highly influential Link Crew members that helped her when she was a freshman.

“They really were powerful in helping guide our experiences and giving really helpful advice,” Chloe said. “They were always really energetic and really open to always helping and looking out for us — I wanted to pass that on for the future grades.”

As her friend since middle school, senior Anika Tiwari recalls thinking of Chloe as a lively and caring person. As the years passed, Anika has only discovered more of each side and has seen that Chloe’s transformation into an even more bubbly and attentive individual. 

“As a whole, she just has a lot of outward energy and compassion,” Anika said. “We call her the comedian in our group.”

From daringly auditioning for the high school dance team as an eighth-grader to making spontaneous decisions to random bursts of creativity, Chloe is not one to shy away from unexpected situations or opportunities.

“One motto I believe in is, ‘why not?’ A lot of times I question that to people who aren’t as fully willing to do things and doing things without hesitation because at the end of the day we only really spend four years of our lives here,” Chloe said. “It’s really special for us to be able to engage with each other through this really transformative period in our lives and I think that ‘why not?’ really captures how I feel about taking opportunities and just making the most of it.”