Dancing Her Dreams into Reality

As a Lawrenceville student, Katya Danko ’09 wanted to merge sports and the arts, and proposed creating a dance crew to perform during halftime at athletic events. Receiving support for the idea from Performing Arts Chair Derrick Wilder, Danko formed Tour de Force.

“I wanted to do something and Lawrenceville said take it and run with it,” she says. “That’s a huge thing I learned from Lawrenceville – I don’t second guess the fact that I can and have the ability to start something myself.”

Danko is channeling that same energy into her latest project, KGD Dance Company. Founded by Danko last summer, her eponymous dance company is the culmination of more than a decade of performing and choreography experience.

Katya cut her teeth in New York City’s entertainment world, performing in cabaret shows, behind the scenes in production and wardrobe management, and in her own original work. She also produced her own dance film and was a guest artist at her other alma mater, Drew University. Recently, Danko says, she felt drawn to merge her interests in production and performance.

“I had a need to have a say in what was being produced, what art I wanted to see and put out in the world,” she says.

After forming close relationships with a group of trusted dancers over the years, Danko created KGD Dance Company as a platform to share female-centric artistic narratives.

“Really what I was interested in were female stories that aren’t really told in pop culture and media,” she says.

Through her years of auditioning, Danko observed that female characters were often written as one-dimensional stereotypes.

“Exploring human nature is fascinating because humans can change on a dime,” she says. “How can you show these malleable personalities, and how can someone’s world view change over the course of an hour and a half production? That’s what I saw was lacking in a lot of stuff I was going out for, and I wanted to produce and create work that humanized women.”

Danko draws inspiration from stories of her maternal grandmother’s family of seven sisters and the work of feminist author Roxane Gay. Gay’s collection of short stories, Difficult Women, is the influence behind KGD Dance’s first production, also titled “Difficult Women,” slated to premiere later this year.

Running her own business has been a “massive learning curve,” says Danko, but the limitless perspective she formed at Lawrenceville has helped her navigate the nascent venture.

“There were so many people at Lawrenceville in my corner backing me up,” she says. “You’ll have teachers right there with you rooting for you to succeed. That’s the kind of place Lawrenceville is.”

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