The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The evolution of Olivia Kegg: A biologist in ballet shoes

“Why can’t I do everything? Everyone sees the world as one dimensionally. I want to do it all.”  

This is the inner monologue of Olivia Kegg, senior biology major and dance minor. Kegg is determined to show that she is a force to be reckoned with and offers a unique perspective on what it means to study two seemingly different fields at NKU.

Olivia Kegg is a senior biology major and dance minor. (Kat Wolfe)

“When I see my two majors, I feel like they overlap. They are both about how organisms adapt to the environment they are put into. I am an example of biology in motion,” Kegg explained. Kegg has studied dance since she was four, then moved into contemporary dance, competition and improv as a teenager. 

Throughout her time at NKU, she has performed and choreographed in numerous productions. One of her favorite dance experiences was performing in “Home Waters Run Deep,” a piece inspired by the novel “Homewaters,” written by John Maclean. The piece is a testament to the generational traditions of fly fishing, fused with contemporary dance. 

For some, a performance inspired by fly fishing can seem abstract. For Kegg, the realm of dance and fly fishing are closely related. “It’s beautiful because there is a rhythm to fly fishing. You move the pole in four counts. It works perfectly with dance since we move in eight counts.”        

Her wisdom taken from her biology courses deeply influences her process as a choreographer. Both areas of study allow Kegg to draw unique connections. “There is a cause and effect sequence in her movements. Dance helps her think outside the box in her science labs,” said Caitlin Glorioso, senior BFA dance major. Glorioso performed in Kegg’s Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase piece “Silent Spring” on Nov. 20, a contemporary dance about humanity’s negative impact on the environment.

Kegg’s piece was significantly inspired by the novel of the same name by Rachel Carson. The novel explores the devastating effects of the pesticide DDT and its threat to wildlife. DDT was developed in the 1940s to control the spread of Malaria. By 1972, the pesticide was banned due to its health risks and adverse environmental effects. 

For Kegg, the purpose of “Silent Spring” stretched beyond the movements on stage. “I wanted to inspire people to think critically and listen to how they impact the world around them,” she said. Kegg’s piece showcased NKU dancers in 1950s suit jackets, twirling around the stage to a tune reminiscent of a television sitcom. The performance ended when the music changed and each dancer clutched their throats for air, then lay lifelessly on the stage floor.

When asked about her creative process, Kegg explained that each dancer represented a bird in the wild. The birds flew and spun about the stage, waving and chittering hello to their fellow companions. When each dancer began to choke for air, they panicked in a frenzy and started to drop one by one. “My goal of the piece was to humanize the birds. This is the cruel cycle of life that organisms face on earth.”   

Spoken like a true biologist, Kegg’s methodical approach to choreography illustrates her ability to mesh scientific research with creative expression. Despite her innate ability to balance two subjects, her love for dance did not come without challenges. “I used to get horrible stage anxiety. Once I got into college, I danced as if everyone was supposed to look at me. It fueled me,” she said.     

Kegg’s biology and dance background offers a diverse perspective on the beauty of embodying two things at once. Teresa VanDenend Sorge, dance instructor at NKU and the mastermind behind “Home Waters Run Deep,” gave insight on Kegg’s dual perspectives. VanDenend Sorge also studied two seemingly different fields in college: religion and dance. 

“She is just magical as a mover. She is a complex human. She is fearless. All of the knowledge that she brings from her other life, you can see in the classroom,” VanDenend Sorge said. 

According to VanDenend Sorge, religion and dance relate because both topics are about sharing diverse beliefs. “Art and religion are all about understanding various perspectives,” she said. “Home Waters Run Deep” and “Silent Spring” both seamlessly showcase perspectives on the natural world through dance.

Kegg’s evolution as a performer is greatly influenced by the synthesis of science and movement. She highly recommends for any student to chase their dreams and stay open to possibilities, even when they seem too abstract. “Please do what makes you happy. Even if it has nothing to do with what you are majoring in. A life where you can’t do what you want is not a life worth living.”

After college, Kegg is hopeful to continue her academic pursuits in dance, choreography and biology. Kegg’s journey as a scientist and dancer is far from complete. Whether stealing the spotlight or conducting research, her commitment to both biology and dance exemplifies how one can successfully navigate two contrasting fields of study.