Humans of Harker: Free flow

Brandon Park immerses himself in the realm of dance and choreography


Julie Shi

“The way I choreograph tends to be listening to music a whole lot, and not even necessarily dancing to it, just listening to music, knowing the music. Then, it’s freestyling and whatnot, and freestyling is where most of the creativity comes out,” Brandon said.

“Roses” by The Chainsmokers blasts through loudspeakers on the makeshift stage in the quad as Brandon Park (12) and his dance partner Kai Due (12) perform their self-choreographed hip hop piece for Harker’s 2021 Quadchella. Through a series of sharp arm isolations executed perfectly to the upbeat pop, Brandon draws cheers and applause from the excited audience spread around the stage.

Brandon first began dancing at Harker in second grade when his sister Kristen Park (‘16) convinced him to participate in the school’s dance show that year, and has been dancing at Harker ever since. Through his years of dance at Harker on both the middle school and upper school boys dance teams, High Voltage and Kinetic Krew, Brandon fully developed his passion for and enjoyment of dance.

“[Dance] is a way to express myself and my emotions and creativity through movement,” Brandon said. “It feels good to move. It feels good to choreograph. It’s different from everything else.”

Brandon believes looking natural when dancing is an important skill to master, and he emphasizes the amount of practice and effort put into ingraining dance moves into muscle memory to let the movements flow smoothly in a natural way.

“Making movements feel natural [is a big thing], and the way I’ve heard it phrased is ‘acting,’ or basically, putting a lot of purpose into looking natural, which seems counterintuitive,” Brandon said. “[It takes] lots and lots of practice, so once you get the feeling of being natural into muscle memory, it becomes a lot easier.”

Although Brandon has explored a wide range of dance styles, including ballet and contemporary, his favorite style remains hip hop, where he excels the most. Throughout the years, he has experimented with and developed his own dancing style, and he excels particularly in a type of hip hop called tutting, a form of movement that relies on creating shapes with hands and fingers.

“He definitely brings his own style … it’s very Brandon,” dance teacher Kimberly Teodoro said. “He brings his ideas. There’s certain things in choreography where I might have it set a certain way, and then he’ll do it, but he’ll do it in his own way, and it’s different from what I’m doing, and I’m like, ‘Hey, that! Whatever you just did, let’s do that.’”

Close friend Kai comments on how his dance style reflects his personality, in that both his dance and his speech entertain hidden details only revealed through focused observation.

“Both in dance and in his personality, he might say something and then at first it sits there and resonates, but once you dig deeper you can see there’s more … meaning underneath the surface,” Kai said. “With his dance movements, the first time you watch him, you think, ‘Oh, this looks cool,’ and then the more you see it over and over again, you start noticing the smaller things.”

Along with learning dance technique and practicing routines to perform, Brandon is also learning how to choreograph his own dances, a process both engaging and difficult.

“The way I choreograph tends to be listening to music a whole lot, and not even necessarily dancing to it, just listening to music, knowing the music,” Brandon said. “Then, it’s freestyling and whatnot, and freestyling is where most of the creativity comes out.”

The process of choreography involves repeated rounds of rehearsal and revision to create a final polished piece, and Brandon goes to great lengths to ensure his choreography meets his standards.

“If I’m going to do something, I need it done right, and I will redo it until it is done right,” Brandon said. “With choreography, that’s re-choreographing the same section over and over, which is a terrible practice, but I do it anyway.”

To learn more about choreography, Brandon took the performance composition class at Harker, where he learned different aspects of choreography and new ways to approach choreography. The class was a prerequisite for applying as a student choreographer. Brandon had to submit a video of his choreography at the end of the class, and would be evaluated on whether or not he could choreograph for the dance production the next year.

“[My] favorite memory [from my dancing experience] is getting accepted as a student choreographer this year,” Brandon said. “It’s something I’ve been stressed about because it goes through an approval process, but getting that email that I got accepted was a really good feeling.”

Working as a student choreographer for this year’s dance production will be Brandon’s first experience choreographing a group piece, as his prior experience has consisted of only choreographing solo pieces.

“[Choreographing] for group choreography, like for the dance production, takes much longer [than a solo piece], because choreographing for nine people is almost like choreographing nine different pieces: not quite, but it’s similar,” Brandon said.

Brandon’s journey as a dancer and choreographer has taught him much about the art, and he continues to develop as an artist through new experiences.

“I’ve grown a lot as a dancer in the past few years, and I’m proud of myself for that … branching out into more styles, as well as the art of looking cool,” Brandon said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better as a choreographer as well, making movements look more natural and cool.”

The effort and dedication Brandon brings when dancing carries over to other areas as well, in which his commitment and strong work ethic shine through.

“His blend of hardworkingness, which he applies to programming a lot, he applies to his math and he also applies to his dance, and [the] time and effort he puts into all these, is a lot different than other people,” close friend Aaron Lo (12) said.

Brandon’s passion for dance is also evident to his dance teachers. Instructors he has worked closely with watch his dedication off the stage during practice and rehearsals translate into flawless performances, where his talent and dancing style shine through.

“He is always professional and ready to work,” Teodoro said. “He executes choreography with precision, power, style and charisma while on stage. He is always open to share his thoughts during journal discussions and works well with his fellow dancers on in-class assignments. He is a joy to work with, and it’s wonderful to see how he continues to grow creatively as a dancer.”