Menlo News January 05, 2021

Stepping Into Dancing Shoes

Angela Curotto-Pierson '07 in the dance room.
Angela Curotto-Pierson ’07 Glides into New Role as Dance Educator

By the time Angela Curotto-Pierson ’07 was a sophomore at Menlo she already knew that she would go on to dance professionally. What she never could have imagined is that one day she would also return to campus as a dance educator, stepping into her new role after Jan Chandler’s retirement last spring. Jan retired after 38 years of teaching. Angela says, “My initial thought during the application process was, ‘Wow, I have big shoes to fill!’” 

As one of Jan’s former students herself, Angela has a particularly clear understanding of the veteran dance teacher’s legacy, saying, “Her reach spans generations of alums! Her ability to connect with all students at Menlo is something I aspire to. I was so lucky to have Jan as a teacher and now, as an adult, as a mentor and support system.” 

Menlo’s dance program was central to Angela’s own identity as a high school student, when she was heavily involved in dance both in and out of school—so involved, in fact, that her training commitments sometimes led her to miss school events or social activities. Participating in Knight Dancers and building relationships within the tight-knight performing arts community at Menlo helped her solidify her relationships and stay connected. “Being a part of the dance program gave me a sense of community at the School,” she says. 

Now, Angela is able not only to give back to that dance community but also to share the alumni perspective with her students. “What I love sharing most with my students is that the relationships I built as a student at Menlo have lasted through today,” she says. “From friendships with my peers to teachers and staff, I’ve created relationships that span 20 years of my life.” 

The legacies Angela cherishes go far beyond the dance curriculum itself and cut to the heart of the exploratory, creative, relational potential of the arts. She says, “Something Jan cultivated from the beginning is the idea that her dance room was a space where you could express yourself, a space to decompress, ask advice, get away from it all, and be yourself. If students need a space to cry, laugh, vent, relax, recharge—I want my dance room to provide that for them.” 

This story originally appeared in Menlo Magazine, Summer/Fall 2020.