As senior Brandon Paraharm discusses his experiences with dance, he puts his hands into a heart shape on the table.
Paraharm has been passionate about dance since the age of four and has pursued it at Knox, in the Galesburg community and in his hometown of South Holland, Ill.
Paraharm’s first experience with dance at Knox was Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith’s Beginning Modern Dance class, and it immediately made an impression on him.
“I knew that I loved it, but I didn’t know how much,” Paraharm said. “I knew that I could do well and that really made me joyful.”
In the same term, Paraharm joined Terpsichore Dance Collective (Terp) and became the first male member of Dance Squad.
“All three of those together really helped my technique out, and my body as well. I think I grew half an inch!”
By the time Paraharm’s sophomore year came around, he began choreographing. After becoming a full member of Dance Squad as opposed to an alternate, he pursued opportunities to explore movement.
“Through Dance Squad, my ability to choreograph exponentially grew. Whereas I was always thinking about storytelling, I really got more into what is the quality of the movement … how can I demonstrate technique while still having a Brandon flair?” he said.
Paraharm has also choreographed for Terp, along with taking other dance classes, such as Dance Composition and Choreographer’s Workshop. It was in a piece that he choreographed for Dance History & Contemporary Trends in Choreography, though, that Paraharm seemed to find his niche.
“That was the moment everybody saw something in me. Not to say that they didn’t see anything in me before, but that moment was like, we may have just tapped into where Brandon needs to be in order for him to be a true dancer, to be the dancer that he should be,” Paraharm said.
In the Knox community, Paraharm has also coached the members of the Boys and Girls Club who participated in the Success, Performance, Inspiration, Community and Education (SPICE) fashion show, and this year, he has been an assistant teacher to Smith and Assistant Professor of Dance Kathleen Ridlon for creative movement classes for kids.
“Giving them an outlet to explore creative movement as well as gaining a sense of kinesthetic awareness are the main goals,” Paraharm said. “Basically having purpose behind giving them movement, especially in the day and age now where students are no longer able to touch in schools.”
Paraharm has also branched out into the Galesburg community to further pursue dance education. This past winter, he participated in an internship in which he was the production choreographer for a local high school drama club’s presentation of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Of the 20 students Paraharm worked with, only four had any previous dance experience.
“There were a bunch of different juxtapositions between myself and the students, but I don’t think anything stopped us from really getting close. We all bonded … we all cried at closing night. But one girl definitely cried because she didn’t think that she could ever dance, and by the time [of tech week], she had finally gotten into her splits,” Paraharm said. “It was amazing just to work with them … it was a big blessing.”
Paraharm has taken his passions and his experiences back home to South Holland, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. There, he taught liturgical dance to pre-kindergarten students at the EduFund Play Center.
Paraharm has also been a dance instructor for Upward Bound, a program that helps prepare low income, high-achieving students for college. As a former member of this program, Paraharm has been particularly spirited in his experiences with it.
Last winter, he choreographed a hip-hop dance for the John Hope College Preparatory School’s dance team. Seeing the final competition had a significant impact on Paraharm.
“How serious it is to them, even at this age, is how serious it was to me when I was with my group in high school. I was like, that’s it. This is it for me,” Paraharm said.
Despite his passion, Paraharm’s family had some apprehensions about his pursuit of a career in dance.
“They don’t really understand why I chose to really pursue dance rather than neuroscience. When I go back home and we talk about it, they’re like, ‘You could’ve been a doctor, but I guess I can see you doing dance, you seem to love it.’ But when I go and talk to my high school friends, and I tell them I’m doing dance, they just look at me and say, ‘Finally. You finally committed to yourself … you finally listened to yourself and are doing what you were born to do,’” Paraharm said.
Paraharm could do nothing else but pursue dance in the future.
“It will take me anywhere I want to go,” Paraharm said.
Indeed, dance has done a lot for Paraharm. “I’ve learned things about living … through dance, I’ve learned to love myself. Through dance, I’ve learned how people can communicate without saying anything … I’ve learned about God,” Paraharm said. “I feel like anything that I’ve ever learned has been reinforced through dance … it’s what’s real.”