Catching up with Elisha Clark Halpin

Molly Levine, Research Unplugged intern
April 20, 2009

How did you first become interested in your specialty?

I began dancing very early—I saw "Cry" by Alvin Ailey performed by Judith Jamison when I was about three. I was intrigued with her neck and wanted to be able to do what she was doing. I began dancing shortly after. I have always loved history and feel the need to know as much as I can about what I love and I am interested in. I don't think there is one part of the dance field that I don't feel compelled to learn about.

What is the most exciting or fascinating part of your job?

Tough question. I love the transformation that takes place for the freshmen. University dance is very different from studio dance in style, technique, and philosophy. Some dancers make the transition and others do not. The ones that connect the headier theories and less stylized movements begin to move forward and develop into mature dancers. I love watching the light bulbs come on as they begin to understand what their body is doing. I also love watching them perform. It is like watching a baby sleep, no matter what we went through to get there, it all melts away and I can't help but love them when that joy of performance shines through. I also really love that I am able to pass on my passion to the students: a desire for artistic excellence, a commitment to hard work, and a sense of ownership over their future.

What is your favorite aspect of working at Penn State?

I love Penn State. I tell people I definitely drank the "blue kool aid" at orientation. I love the opportunities that I am given to grow. I love working on Faculty Senate and the Undergraduate Education Committee. But I guess my favorite aspect is getting to be a part of the lives of wonderful young women (and a few young men) that are part of the dance program. There is something special about the dance teacher/ student relationship that I treasure.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Retired? No, well I am not sure. I hope to have my book published and my company well established. I hope to have completed the process of adding a Dance major at UP. I think I will be doing what I do now, but better! I always plan on teaching, making dances, and performing—so I am not looking for any huge changes.

When you're not working, how do you spend your free time?

I am not sure what free time is! When I am not at the University I am working on 3 or 4 dance projects, so I don't give myself a lot of down time. I have a professional company that I am trying to get on the map. It is a lot harder when you don't live in NYC. I do enjoy photography. My husband and I love to take walks around campus and town. Recently, I have decided to pretend I am a visual artist and take up painting. It is quite comical.


woman in brown dances with one leg and arms raised high

Last Updated April 20, 2009