The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Humans of Harker: Dynamics of dance

Kuga Pence explores his personal style and personality in dance and medicine
“I tell myself it’s not that deep. If I’m struggling, I just know that in the end, it’ll work out. I know my end goal–where I want to be–so as long as I’m able to continue inching closer and closer to that, all these rough patches, I can move past them,” Kuga Pence (12) said.

The reverberating thrum of a snare drum, the tinkling strums of an electric guitar and the delicate cascade of a harp synthesize together — unfamiliar, unique chords that fill Kuga Pence’s (12) imagination. He huddles in a circle with other dancers, and as the music and cheers continues in the background, Kuga steps into the limelight, heart pounding. He lets his body take over, leaning into his muscle memory which guides him through each step and loses himself in the music. Stage lights illuminate his form, and as the music dies down, Kuga flashes one final smirk before shifting his back to the audience, proudly displaying the “PENCE” and “24” splayed across his back. His performance at the 2024 upper school “Night and Day” dance production ends with an eruption of applause from friends and family in the crowd.

With the encouragement of after school class instructors, Kuga started his dance career in lower school and continued on to join Dance Fusion in middle school, High Voltage in seventh grade, and eventually Kinetic Krew in ninth grade, where he currently serves as co-captain. Through dance, Kuga met many creative individuals through his outside studio and various competitions and cherishes those connections deeply.

“The people I get to meet through dancing is my favorite part,” Kuga said. “Because dancing is such an expressive sport, I’m able to grow so comfortable with it, because dancers all share the same love for dancing, the same love for expressing ourselves on stage through competitions.”

In a world of endless possibilities of movement, whether through freestyling as a way of self-expression or following carefully choreographed sequences, Kuga follows his instinct. He discovered that freedom and dimensionality of dance allowed him to be true to himself the easiest.

“In this most recent dance show, my favorite feeling was communicating, by just interacting with my friends on stage,” Kuga said. “There’s some times we’ll be not facing the audience, where we’ll just speak to each other, whisper and try to make each other laugh before turning back around to the audience and perform in those small interactions. It might just be a smile to a friend across the stage or to somebody in the audience. Those small interactions on stage are what really make it special.”

As the co-captain of Kinetic Krew, Kuga hopes to develop the team into a united group and step up as a role model to younger dancers.

Fellow Kinetic Krew member and close friend Luke Mehta (12) grew up alongside Kuga since kindergarten, and as their interests and sense of humor weaved together to form a strong mutual understanding of each other, they stuck together in support of each other throughout.

“One thing about Kuga is he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks about something which could be good and bad,” Luke said. “He’s the opposite of shy. As a person growing, I’ve watched him mature, to be more open with himself and be more extroverted.”

Expanding from aiding his community at school, Kuga dedicates himself to exploring medicine. During his junior year summer, Kuga participated in a summer internship that gave him the chance to interview a medical student, which uncovered an interest in humanitarian efforts.

“It showed me how it’s possible,” Kuga said. “How they’re at the height of med school, the pinnacle of what I should be reaching for, and knowing that that’s possible from their situation kind of gave me the drive to continue pursuing my academics.”

In the classroom, Kuga maintains his spirit and motivation, and upper school Precalculus teacher Caren Furtado reminisced on Kuga’s playful attitude during her class but also his insightful contributions.

“Over a bit of time, because Kuga was so silly and so funny, everyone loved coming to class,” Furtado said. “It became a place of joy, and Kuga was a big part of bringing that joy to class. With that came the idea of not being fearful to ask questions. So they just made it so they would ask whatever was on their mind. And so everyone else thought, there’s no silly question, because someone like Kuga was so open and made it a friendly, happy environment.” 

Furtado experienced first-hand Kuga’s extroverted personality but also discovered how, at times, Kuga also displays his maturity in treating situations with careful contemplation.

“There’s a Kuga that everyone sees who is very fun-loving, very outgoing,” Furtado said. “And then there’s a side of Kuga that not everyone gets to see which is very introspective, very self-analytical, very calming and very thoughtful. Before he understands something fully and makes up his mind about something, he really gives it a good amount of thought.” 

Close friend Spencer Mak (12) remembers admiring Kuga’s ability to make people feel relaxed yet entertained around him. As they developed throughout high school, Spencer began to admire the balance in life that Kuga exhibited.

“One of his major strengths is him being able to work really hard and have this extreme focus on something that he wants to work at but then also finding the enjoyable parts of that and sharing that joy he has with everybody else,” Spencer said. “I haven’t really met anybody that can do that quite as well.”

Kuga’s care-free attitude allows him to appreciate the simplest moments of life and live through his high school experience without regret.

“I tell myself it’s not that deep,” Kuga said. “If I’m struggling, I just know that in the end, it’ll work out. I know my end goal–where I want to be–so as long as I’m able to continue inching closer and closer to that, all these rough patches, I can move past them.”

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About the Contributor
Katelyn Zhao
Katelyn Zhao, Humans of Harker Co-Editor-in-Chief
Katelyn Zhao (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Humans of Harker, and this is her fourth year on staff. Katelyn aims to honor each of the stories within the Harker community this year, especially those of the graduating Class of 2024. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys biking, drinking coffee or matcha and reading recommended books from her friends.

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