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Get to Know Miss Porter’s Tessa Hailu 

Tessa Hailu | Director of Dance  

As a Dance Director at an independent school, Tessa works closely with student leaders, local choreographers, and her peers to showcase dance at Porter’s and encourage creativity and self-expression through dance. 


Tessa Hailu – Director of Dance
| Miss Porter’s School

Here are 3 questions to get to know her better:

  1. How do you incorporate diverse styles and cultural influences into your dance program?

Our department is so unique because our dancers enter our program from incredibly diverse backgrounds already! Some come from ballet conservatories, some from competition-centered studios, and others from more culturally traditional schools. From the get-go, our space is filled with unique experiences, offerings, perspectives, and knowledge, which is incredibly rewarding. To uplift this, we work hard to balance the rigor of technical training through ballet, modern and jazz, yet we also take opportunities to open new doors, expand horizons, and step into others “dancing shoes”. We have had the pleasure of learning from diverse teachers and styles, including Kathak Indian dancing, Ballroom forms, Irish-Step, Traditional Chinese, West African, Zumba, Flamenco, and more!     

  1. How do you help students develop confidence, self-expression, and self-esteem through dance?

While the practice of dance can be seen as a very “call and response” teacher-to-student practice, students receive as many opportunities to take ownership of their movement, whether that means they are making their own choices on how to explore their bodies through improvisation, or they are asked to reflect on a personal narrative through a particular exercise. It is also important that we, as dancers, are celebrated by one another. Dance practice and performance often come with elements of competition against fellow dancers and also our own reflection in the mirror. In Dance Workshop, as a collective and as individuals, we help one another grow and be our best selves on and off the dance floor by reinforcing positive feedback and recognizing accomplishments. 

  1. What opportunities do you have to uplift dance at Porter’s and for students to perform and showcase their talents?

Each year, Dance Workshop gets the opportunity to perform at the end of every season in a show that involves professional and student choreography, and sometimes, we even invite guest performers to join us on stage. In addition, each winter, Dance Workshop hosts a larger event that invites all members of our community to celebrate the art of dance in our annual “Community Dance Showcase.” Students, clubs and organizations, and maybe even more in the future, share in the joys of dancing on stage. Last but not least, when possible, the Dance Barn opens its doors for all students to participate in master class workshops or simply come in on your own time to shake, twist, twirl, bop and dance it out!


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