Adam will attend Princeton University where he will both continue his dance training and study philosophy and psychology. In addition to Princeton, Adam was accepted to Harvard University, Stanford University, and Skidmore College. Check out his essays below!
Traveling back from a last-minute audition, I rested my head against the train’s frosted window as my exuberance dissipated into the old industrial buildings and barren trees. The stained, stiff seats of the Boston commuter rail became increasingly uncomfortable as I realized my acceptance to the Houston Ballet Academy on full scholarship launched me down a path of uncertainty and unfamiliarity.
Two years earlier, when I moved to Providence, Rhode Island from New York City, I was a staunch proponent of New York’s superiority and the balletic style of the School of American Ballet (SAB). My head inflated with the knowledge and perspectives I cherished from New York; I was often too critical of my new home state and peers.
Tightening my blinders, I trained at a studio where I could dance without fear of any paradigm-shattering intervention from teachers. I resisted many corrections and even refused to wear the uniform; I thought a return to the comforts of New York was imminent.
However, my closed-minded plans were shattered when SAB rejected me from their summer program and I was forced to consider schools of different styles. Soon thereafter, Houston Ballet Academy offered me a spot in their summer intensive program. I was relieved, grateful, and apprehensive about changing my balletic approach.
My first day at the academy, my self-image was immediately challenged. I stood at my barre spot before class and observed the year-round students execute masterful pirouettes, tours en l’air, and révoltades. As I watched my new peers, I caught my first glimpse of how little I actually knew.
My limits were revealed further when I sprained my right ankle four times in a year-long period. As I sat in the treatment room again with my ankle wrapped in ice, I realized my understanding of dance technique was as underdeveloped as my musculature – it was time to shed my former preconceptions.
I began striving to understand kinesthetic work in dance. I learned to observe other dancers to improve my own work. I consulted physical trainers to address my muscular imbalances, mitigating my perspective imbalances in the process. More generally, I consulted older students about the nuances of Houston Ballet’s professional environment and clarified my artistic intentions through movement: to explore and share.
Living in the dorms, I found myself surrounded with people of drastically varying perspectives. I debated gender with a conservative from Oklahoma, discussed ethical constructs with a dancer-turned-rock-climber from Oregon, and delved into the philosophy of ballet with a bilingual Japanese-American friend. Being surrounded by talented, driven students from all over the world opened my mind to alternate viewpoints while honing my critical thinking skills. I ventured into new realms of intellectual and kinesthetic thought, seeking to broaden my understanding of dance, athleticism, and art.
I had thought my four hours of dancing per day after school in Rhode Island was rigorous. Now in Houston and enrolled in online high school, the average dance day was nine to ten hours; some days exceeded twelve during busy rehearsal periods or show runs. Dealing with the physical stress of my new schedule further encouraged my holistic development: I adopted healthier sleeping, eating, and stretching habits to prioritize my body’s well-being.
I have discovered that training to be a dancer is more than just physical work in the studio – it entails development as an athlete, artist, and thinker. As with innovative academic research, the artistic and intellectual synergy of dance at a professional-level academy warrants deep thought, humility, and exploration. My daily practice has required me to become comfortable with the uncertain, the unfamiliar, and the uncomfortable to gain the openness necessary to learn and grow. Now, I am eager to be challenged in the studio, the classroom, and throughout life.
Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. (Princeton)
Open Ended (Harvard)
During the Spring of 2019, I spent countless hours alone in the dance studio striving to find my artistic voice after full days of training. Inspired by renowned Canandian dancer and choreographer Crystal Pite, I explored the language of dance through improvisation, seeking to express myself as she could through her deeply emotional, intellectual work.
After zealously watching Pite’s pieces online, learning her movement phrases in contemporary class, and building off her style in improvisation, I was ready to make something of my own. So, when the opportunity arose to choreograph at Houston Ballet Academy’s summer intensive, I seized it.I had a large cast of dancers, an original score, a Dalí painting my composer used as inspiration, and very few rehearsals to make an artistic statement. Consequently, I spent hours upon hours wrestling uninspired movement out of my body, desperately trying to force creativity. After a week of unproductive, embittering work, I thought I would never be able to create powerful art like Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon or The Tempest Replica.
Frustrated, I sat in my room reflecting on my process. I wanted to craft fiercely physical movement loaded with emotional meaning – as Pite did so compellingly – but had no idea how to reify that desire. I thought about her treatment of dance as a universal language that can speak to people viscerally. Then it hit me: I had no clear message. Pite used the language of dance to express something specific, whereas I had been treating movement as a vapid series of physical gestures. The image of the Dalí painting arose in my mind – it conveyed loneliness, pain, and melancholy. I would do the same with my piece.
I jumped on my computer and consulted one of my favorite clips of Pite’s work: the dancers of the Royal Ballet rehearsing Flight Pattern, which examined the refugee crisis to Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. In the piece, she used claw-like hands to emphasize the body’s ability to fill and carve out space, which seemed oddly evocative of the pain in the painting.
The next day, I took the movement and played with it. I improvised with my hands tense and claw-like and soon felt like they were wielding power. I thought of Pite’s tool of using opposing forces in the body to incite dynamic movement and runimated on power’s corrupting nature. As I felt the rest of my body resist and react to the motions of my hands, the theme became clear: my piece was about the volatile, exploitative relationship between humans and power.
I stopped moving and started to write. I wrote about my impressions of power, how different people deal with its burden, and its manifestation in one person versus in a group. I crafted formations and envisioned lighting and costume schemes, deciding that a green, dark background and contrasting black-and-white costumes would underscore my theme effectively. Every night, I researched contemporary pieces by various choreographers, always including a clip of Pite’s work.
By the time I started rehearsing with my cast, I had spacing and counts for the entire piece, detailed notes on each section, and a finished opening. I strove to be decisive yet adaptable, entering the rehearsals with solidified ideas but incorporating my dancers’ input and feedback. The sections that best expressed the theme were the most collaborative in creation, where I used my prepared ideas only as starting points. When I saw my cast execute it masterfully on stage, I silently thanked Pite for unknowingly guiding my creative growth.
Crystal Pite taught me that artistic creation is an achievable, rewarding process if armed with the proper tools and perspectives. Taking from her paradigm, I had developed my own creation that communicated a visceral, challenging, and disconcerting take on power. Because of her, I look forward to creating new work that inspires others and enriches my corner of the world.
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)
During my Freshman year, I helped teach weekly dance classes to children and adolescents with autism and Down syndrome. Our early Saturday-morning gatherings were spirited and invigorating, yet often chaotic. In the first few classes, I struggled to rein in their energy and teach productively. However, by crouching down to look them in the eyes and engage with them personably, I focused their energy into movement while striking meaningful connections with them. We relished our time twirling with hula hoops, leaping across the studio, and sharing hugs and laughter.
Later, we choreographed a piece to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” and brought our enthusiasm to my high school’s outdoor Fall Festival, nailing every step to a roar of applause. Joining hands with the class and joyfully bowing on stage, I felt pride at facilitating a meaningful, transformational experience for my new group of friends.
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words)
Society’s infatuation with social media hinders individuals’ psychological development. Instant dopamine hits – like having your photo liked or browsing influencers’ pages – are today’s mechanisms of “happiness.” This system dissuades people from discovering a truer, deeper sense of meaning possible only through unplugged self-reflection.
Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words)
While I look forward to enthusiastically debating peers under gargantuan palm trees, I am most excited to meet Professor Robert Sapolsky. For the past few months, I have been devouring lectures from his Human Behavioral Biology course, which have altered my fundamental beliefs about human nature and the world.
Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help you roommate – and us – get to know you better. (250 words)
My Future Roommate,
Please don’t be fooled by the seeming minimalism of my side of the room – white bedding, a desk with only my computer, the one book I’m currently reading on my nightstand, and nothing else. The drawers are a different story. I appreciate aesthetic cleanliness because it counterbalances the hyperactivity of my mind and schedule; decluttering and digitizing my life has allowed me to work and learn efficiently.
To that end, if you hear me asking Siri what ‘cryptomnesia’ or ‘enantiodromia’ mean, know that I’ve already written the terms down on my electronic word list and just need a reminder. Feel free to contribute – I’m striving for two thousand new additions by the end of my college experience.
I believe that a hot mug of dark roast is one of the finest pleasures in life. I will be happy to make two cups every morning. However, I understand if you prefer tea, especially rooibos – there is something to be said about its delicately nuanced flavor.
Do not be alarmed if you see me moving like a piece of seaweed caught in the thermohaline circulation as I walk about the room. It helps ground me into my body and gives my spine a nurturing massage. I also just have fun exploring movement. It’s all in good health, even if I look possessed sometimes.
I am eager to meet you and spend our first year at Stanford together, or at least coexist peacefully.