Jarred Kennedy-Loving ’15 was not always encouraged to embrace his body. It was only after he took his first dance class with former Visiting Professor Nya McCarthy-Brown his sophomore year that he felt inspired about  dancing. Now a senior, he is a gender and women’s studies major and dance minor who is completing an independent study in dance that explores identity, reflection and perception—thanks to and in spite of any and all of obstacles that stood in his way. 

Coming from a lower socioeconomic background, dance wasn’t on his radar when he was growing up. When one of his foster families put him in a church production as an angel, the pastor approached him and told him boys shouldn’t wear tight clothing like his. After that experience he became self-conscious and discouraged not only about his body, but how he moved it. 

“I didn’t dance that much,” said Kennedy-Loving. “But I always knew that I could.” 

At Bowdoin, working with McCarthy-Brown was a turning point for him.

“She changed my life; she believed in me,” he said. “She taught me how to isolate my rib cage—I could move it like Shakira.” 

In class, Kennedy-Loving liked observing how different people move and figuring out how they did it. 

“I got to the class and it was like food for me,” he said. “It’s so good to see what people are coming up with.” 

From these experiences, Kennedy-Loving started to think about the questions that would evolve into his independent study: How do others view us in our space? How do we interact? 

But before his independent study was completely underway, Kennedy-Loving had a setback.

On February 7, he started the day breaking records with the track and field team at the Maine State Track Meet, including his personal record of 23 seconds in the 200-meter dash. He ended the day, however, in the emergency in Lewiston, Maine. While running the 400 meter race, he suffered a compound fracture in his leg.

“It was an emotional time for me,” he said. “I was in my hospital room thinking, how am I going to finish my minor?”

For Kennedy-Loving, being an athlete and a dancer work together because both demand his attention and awareness of his body in space. 

“I listen to my body,” he said. “It’s more important than the beat itself.” 

In addition to his experiences on the dance floor and the track, Kennedy-Loving brings another level to his personal journey with identity, reflection and perception. While he has been supported at Bowdoin, he still finds it difficult to navigate his identity as a gay black man. 

“Whatever you may be, you have to find that creative truth,” said Kennedy-Loving. 

For his independent study, Kennedy-Loving is choreographing a piece based on his favorite poem, “And Yea...This is a Love Poem,” by Nikki Giovanni. He emphasizes that a lot of his work is about making choices and accepting them.
When choosing dancers it was important for him to emphasize that no dance experience was necessary. 

“It’s ludicrous to say only certain people can move in space,” he said. Teresa Liu ’15, Adaiah Hudgins-Lopez ’18 and Christabel Fosu-Asare ’18 are dancing in this project.

When it comes to the actual choreography, Kennedy-Loving said he sees it as a collaborative effort. Throughout the process, Kennedy-Loving said he has felt inspired by his dancers and their energy. 

“I have to watch these three [people] move in space to work through the choreography,” he explained. 

His piece is comprised of angular movements and fluid motions that focus on the upper body as a representation of the constrained identity. 

“Am I an artist? I don’t know if I’m an artist. I love movement and patterns and space and expression,” he said. “But I struggle to call myself a dancer, so I just call myself Jarred.”