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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Profile – Dance teacher finds ‘dream job’

Kihyoung+Choi%2C+a+native+of+Seoul%2C+South+Korea%2C+teaches+her+ballet+students+a+routine+on+NE+Campus.%0APhotos+by+Katelyn+Townsend%2FThe+Collegian
Kihyoung Choi, a native of Seoul, South Korea, teaches her ballet students a routine on NE Campus. Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

By Matt Koper/ne news editor

After nearly going back home, Choi decided to stay with NE Campus

NE dance associate professor Kihyoung Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea, and came to the United States with a plan to earn her doctorate and head back home.

But all that changed thanks to a TCC faculty member.

Kihyoung Choi, a native of Seoul, South Korea, teaches her ballet students a routine on NE Campus. Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
Kihyoung Choi, a native of Seoul, South Korea, teaches her ballet students a routine on NE Campus.
Photos by Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

While in graduate school at Texas Woman’s University, Choi met Linda Quinn who, coincidentally, was pursuing her doctorate in dance too. Choi not only had made a friend but an important connection for down the road.

After bouncing around the idea of returning to Korea, Choi was teaching at the University of North Texas and saw how much Quinn enjoyed being at TCC.

“I saw that she was always happy,” Choi said. “She just loved teaching. So while I was teaching at UNT, I asked Linda, ‘Do you have any class that I can teach?’”

Quinn hired her in 2009 and knew that she and Choi would end up working together, Quinn said.

“We have a great working relationship,” she said. “From the time we met doing our Ph.D. work, I could tell from the first time we ever worked together in a group project in a class that we had very similar teaching philosophies, very similar goals in the arts.”

When Choi began teaching in 2009, she said it was life-changing.

“If I didn’t start teaching at TCC, right now I may have been somewhere in Korea teaching,” she said.

She has quite the track record back home. She taught in Korea and danced for the Korean National Ballet Company.

Choi said she is fascinated by what she has learned in her time as a student in the U.S. She continues to apply this today.

“In this country, it’s OK to disagree with my teacher,” she said. “That’s how I learned. Throughout this whole journey, I just practiced that new theory of teacher and student can be equal. We can be interactive. And even the student can challenge the teachers, so that was a big shift.”

The idea of teaching in an interactive environment kept her in the U.S., Choi said.

Choi watches her ballet students practice their dance steps March 20. She teaches all levels of dance classes.
Choi watches her ballet students practice their dance steps March 20. She teaches all levels of dance classes.

“That’s why I decided to stay here,” she said. “Because here the student can challenge me, that makes me work harder.”

Her time as a professional dancer in Korea has taught her to work hard and stay grounded, Choi said.

“No matter how good you are in the professional dance world, there’s always dancers that are much better than you,” she said. “So you cannot be arrogant.”

The results show in the attitude of her students.

Choi demands respect and that her students work hard and stay humble. As a result, students continue to come back to take her classes.

Southern Methodist University student Shara Janolo and UNT student Kevin Boateng, who are part of the NE dance company Movers Unlimited, are proof of this.

Janolo has been dancing with Choi for four years and said she inspires her.

“She’s an amazing person,” she said. “She’s always been my role model. Through her, I realized how passionate I am for the craft.”

Boateng said Choi is a teacher students should cherish.

“She’s so loving and so caring,” he said. “She actually takes the extra time out of her day to help you if you’re struggling with a step. And there’s no judgment. She doesn’t talk down or bad at you. She also keeps us really humble, which is something I do really appreciate.”

NE student Jose Hernandez, who is also a member of Movers Unlimited, said she is always there to help her students.

“She doesn’t just care about the step. She cares about the person too,” he said. “She really wants to connect with her students. She has impacted our lives. I can say I come out of dance not just learning different steps but different life lessons everyday.”

Choi said at this point in her journey, she is happy where she has ended up.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for any job,” she said. “TCC was my dream job.”

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