Rachel Harris dances, inspires and empowers

Kaufman senior Rachel Harris’ love for dance began during her first lessons at the age of two. From there, Harris found dance was necessary in order to express herself. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Duggan)

Dance runs in Rachel Harris’ blood. She hails from a family of professional dancers and loves the beautiful art and technical skill dancing requires. 

A senior at the Kaufman School of Dance, Harris knew early on that dance would play a major role in her life once she started taking dance lessons as a 2-year-old. While Harris was encouraged to dance by her mother, the art quickly transformed from a hobby into a necessity for Harris.

“I really just fell in love with it, so I danced on a competition team from outside of school for the majority of my life,” Harris said. “I wanted to keep studying it and fall more and more in love with it.” 

Harris caught the attention of the Black Student Assembly, which recently named her its October Artist of the Month. With this honor, she has been given the opportunity to showcase her work on BSA’s extensive platforms, such as the BSA Creative Experience Instagram page, promotional videos and marketing material geared toward a supportive and influential BSA alumni base.

Harris said she is excited to receive this honor since she has been a member of BSA since her freshman year. 

“Honestly, it makes me feel really esteemed and really appreciated,” Harris said. “Especially in October, in midterms season, there’s a lot of running around … It’s nice to know that I have a platform of people I know that are there to support and promote me and what I’m doing, especially as a senior because BSA has so many followers.” 

Fellow BSA member Caleb Griffin, a senior majoring in art, is a vocal supporter of Harris. Griffin, who met Harris in a Bible study during their freshman year, described Harris as “funny, talented, empathetic and compassionate.” 

“I think she mostly has begun mastering what she was already really great at coming in,” Griffin said. “It was a transformation seeing in perfection and execution and just falling in love confidently with what she’s doing and applying it in different ways.”

Harris is also working on a podcast and YouTube series called “Conversations With A Black Girl” with her friends Amaria Stern and Tolu Ogunremi, both USC students, that will launch in November. The series was created to ensure a safe space for Black women and women of color.

Stern, a senior and fellow Kaufman student. who quickly became best friends with Harris after their freshman year, said their shared experience as Black women propelled them to create a platform where their voices could be heard. 

“The biggest issue I’ve seen is that Black girls do not feel supported in their endeavors,” Stern said. “I hope all Black girls feel supported with this project and however that Black womanhood is expressed.” 

Harris was inspired to start the series after creating her own nonprofit in high school. Bey Queens, which stands for Beautiful Empowered Young Queens, and plays on Beyoncé’s nickname, was aimed at empowering 13- to 17-year-old girls of color to love themselves. 

“[We wanted to] address topics that are going on at that age that are extremely pivotal but how young African American woman views herself and views her society that she’s around,” Harris said.

 Along with studying dance and working on her podcast, Harris is pursuing a minor in architecture and hopes to find a career that integrates the two fields. She said she feels fortunate to have been involved in dance throughout her life, but she understands that it is an extremely expensive passion to pursue, especially for people in her community. 

“I would love to somehow incorporate architecture with technology and recreate and design my own studio that is more efficient and a good space for dance,” Harris said.

Once she graduates, Harris hopes to design and build a dance studio that uses sustainable technology to make professional dance more affordable for people from underrepresented communities.

“Just anything like that to really have that power come from the dancers themselves rather than paying all this extraneous money to do it will make it accessible for more communities,” Harris said.