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Rochester’s first dance major choreographs her story

May 18, 2017
dancer on a chair on stageCaitlyn Gilmore '17 performing her final senior piece "Living, Breathing, Screaming" / photo by Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp.

It was almost a choreographed rite of passage when Caitlyn Borden Gilmore ’17 moved to Rochester four years ago to pursue a degree in psychology. Her parents, who long ago moved the family to Tampa, Florida, often shared stories about their early life together in Rochester, where they met and fell in love.

“She was 18 and a young model for Kodak,” Gilmore says of her mother. “She met my dad because my grandmother, a friend of hers from church, kept saying ‘you have to meet our son and go out.’ Three month later, they were married.”

Gilmore fell in love with Rochester’s campus and curriculum, too.

Her aspirations have always been silently plagued by years of experiencing depression. Shaking off the stigma was a challenge. Gilmore spent many years dancing and performing as a young jazzerina to cope with her moods. “Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness and treatment for it, I felt forced to learn how to survive everyday life with depression,” she says.

When she got to Rochester and began taking courses through the Program of Dance and Movement, she began to see dance as an art form. “I’d been dancing forever, because it was always my outlet, physically. But when I came to the University, I was able to explore this creative side that I had previously left untouched. It provided a new outlet in a completely new way and it allowed me to express something that I found words difficult to help me express,” Gilmore says.

The Program of Dance and Movement offers a wide range of courses, workshops, and opportunities for research. Starting in fall of 2016, it also began to offer a major in dance. When Gilmore learned about the new dance major, she was quick to sign up. At the end of the fall semester, she premiered “Living, Breathing, Screaming,” as her senior thesis and as part of the Program of Dance and Movement’s Confluence series. “She not only premiered her own piece, but she organized the program “(Im)Permanent” at Evans Lam Square in Rush Rhees Rhees Library, where a call to artists included other students who shared their own choreography, poems, and discussions related to mental illness and psychology,” says Missy Pfohl Smith, director of the Program of Dance and Movement.

This spring, she becomes the first student to graduate from the University with a major in dance.

Gilmore, who also followed through on her initial plan to complete a major in psychology, lives in Seattle now. She moved there after completing her credits last semester, joining her new husband, who graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2015.

“There’s a really inspiring dance world out there,” she says of Seattle. “I feel this overwhelming acceptance for different creative ideas.”

Rochester has had a lasting effect on her. “I’m going to miss a lot of the support from the dance program,” she says. “I’ve been grateful to have them.”


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Category: Student Life