The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

77° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dancer trades in dance shoes for medical school

Courtesy Lindsey Birchfield

Katelyn Paulsen, a UA student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in dance and one of the School of Dance’s outstanding seniors, is dancing her way from the stage at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre to medical school.

After being injured in gymnastics, Paulsen turned to dance when she was 14 and has been lighting up the stage since.

“I’ve been dancing for eight years,” Paulsen said. “I trained in gymnastics for about 10 years, and I actually broke both of my arms. I had to switch to a different sport, so I chose to pick up dance.”

        RELATED: UA dance clubs get ready to show their talents at local showcase  

Paulsen said throughout her four years in the program, she has been able to grow as a performer and within herself.

“I developed a lot of friendships, and the faculty have been great mentors to me,” Paulsen said. “Overall, I have had great growth within the program and built confidence in myself.”

During her time at the School of Dance, Paulsen has performed every semester. This year, she was able to perform with the Martha Graham Dance Company for Panorama, a piece they danced back in November. Her favorite performance has been STYX, performed at Jazz in AZ, because she and her fellow performers were able to put their strongest foot forward.

“I really enjoy performing Michael Williams’ pieces, and I was very excited and honored to be the lead female in the piece,” Paulsen said. 

Michael Williams, a professor at the dance school, knew Paulsen before she came to the UA. He said he remembers her coming to the Arizona Jazz Dance showcase and working with her dance teacher back in Iowa.  

“She is remarkably positive, and she’s super talented as a mover in a dimensional way,” Williams said. 

Williams favorite memory of Paulsen was when she won a scholarship at the Arizona Jazz Dance showcase. He said he had never seen her as excited as she was in that moment.

“In her senior year at the festival, she got a scholarship to UA and I remember her just beaming,” Williams said. “She wanted to come to this school anyway, but after she got the scholarship, she knew she was going to be able to be in the program. I can’t remember her ever being that lit up and excited.” 

         RELATED: UA alumna uses her degree to dance on the big screen  

In addition to her dance skills, Paulsen has also worked on a dance medicine clinic project, where she looked at the various injuries dancers in the program had endured.

“I’ve been able to work on a dance medicine clinic project, where I’ve done different data collection, and I’ve brought it all together in my capstone this semester,” Paulsen said. “I’m going to bring the results of the injuries I found to the faculty and see if we can implement any different protocols to help prevent injuries in our dancers.”

Paulsen’s passion for medicine is what makes her stand out, according to Amy Ernst, an assistant professor of dance. She describes Paulsen as a “dancing doctor.”

“What makes her so fun is her love for dance anatomy and the fact that she is not only an incredible dance major but she is also going to head off to medical school in the future,” Ernst said. 

Over her four years, Paulsen has made a lot of memories, but the dance rehearsals she said she will remember forever.

“My favorite memories come from rehearsals, and that’s partially due to the fact that we spend so much time as a group, so we develop little inside jokes or we remember all of the different pieces that we performed together,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen’s future plans include her applying to medical school this summer. She will also be working as a research specialist for the University of Iowa.

“The UA dance program is extremely diverse, and I am honored to have been able to add to that diversity, and I’m excited to have seen everyone grow over the past four years,” Paulsen said. 

Follow Jamie Donnely on Twitter

More to Discover
Activate Search