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HSU student, Gabby Connors performs a Firebird on February 23 at Moonstone Beach. Photo by Garrett Goodnight

In constant motion

Gabby Connors and her journey with dance

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Susan Connors knew no matter what her daughter Gabby decided to pursue, she would never give up.

“A lot of people don’t follow their dreams, they say I can’t do it or I can’t make it. She’s not like that,” Susan Connors said. “She tries her hardest to make sure it happens. She has a strong sense of self and a strong character.”

Gabby Connors, a 19-year-old dance major at Humboldt State University, is set to teach advanced ballet at North Coast Dance next fall.

Gabby Connors has spent 13 years of her life dancing, a talent she inherited from her grandmother.

While reflecting on her journey, the young dance major said dance is a never-ending journey.

“You have to keep working no matter what,” Gabby Connors said. “You can only advance so much in one day and then the next day you’re just off.”

Gabby began dancing when she was in the second grade after her best friend’s mother opened a dance studio.

“Dance is a very vulnerable artform,” Connors said. “You are asking your body to do crazy stuff, and you are asking your mind to let you release yourself and show those emotions and be vulnerable in front of strangers.”

Gabby said that in spite of compliments from others and all the years she has put into dancing, she does not always recognize her talent.

“I perceive it more as hard work than I do natural talent,” Connors said.

Susan never danced growing up and was surprised by Gabby’s ability to pick up dance so effortlessly.

Gabby has been dancing from the age of six, but said her path was never simple.

“It hasn’t always been easy choosing dance as what I want for my life,” Connors said. “It’s really difficult when the one thing that brings you the most fulfillment and peace is also the root of a lot of your self-doubt and criticism.”

It can be very difficult to manage the stress that comes with participating at such a high level in dance.

Susan said that while she does not know much about HSU, she does know that Gabby is trustworthy when it comes to making the right decisions for herself.

“Gabby is very independent so we didn’t have much of an input into where she would go,” Susan Connors said. “She was accepted into UC Irvine’s dance program, but they focused on pointe and she wanted to go with contemporary. I think Humboldt is a good fit for her.”

Regardless of where Gabby chose to attend college, Susan said that she knew she would thrive wherever she went.

“As long as she stays healthy, I think she could go very, very far,” Susan Conners said. “I am proud of her and glad that she followed her dreams.”

Gabby transferred to HSU with over two and a half years completed in credits because of her advanced placement classes, and is already expected to graduate in the fall of 2019. She felt that she had gotten everything she could out of her high school experience, and that it was time for her to move on and grow.

Connors said she moved from Washington to study dance at Humboldt State, not only because she loves the ocean and the trees, but also because of the smaller learning environment.

“One of the many perks about the dance program here is that we are a smaller school so it’s a smaller program, which means you get a lot more individual attention.” Connors said “[It] is important for any major, but is very important for dance.”

HSU Dance Program Lead, Linda Maxwell, is one of Gabby’s professors. Maxwell has been teaching at HSU for 12 years. Out of those 12 years, she said Gabby Connors stands out.

“Gabby is probably the most talented student that I’ve ever had at Humboldt State University in the 12 years that I have been here,” Maxwell said. “She never talks during class. She does everything full out, and she is very supportive for students that are not of her level.”

Maxwell said she remembers when a guest dance company traveled to HSU and taught a master class on HSU’s campus.

“She picked up every detail. A lot of students were struggling and she was able to do it full out,” Maxwell said. “She has that ability to pick up anything.”

For Gabby, dancing comes down to her ability to manage and transgress her emotions on the stage.

“Having danced so long, I have gotten very comfortable wearing all of my emotions very openly on my face at all times,” Connors said. “I am a very emotional person so dancing is very comfortable for me.”

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