Sonya Levine ’17 has achieved quite a lot in her four years at the University. Co-founder of WesShuffle and an active member of the Jewish community, Levine works for Open Hillel, is in a number of dance groups, and is currently stage managing a production of “A Chorus Line.” The Argus sat down with Levine to discuss her time at Wesleyan, her extracurricular activities, and her plans after college.
The Wesleyan Argus: Why do you think you were nominated for WesCeleb?
Sonya Levine: First, I want to say that I think that the people who have been nominated for WesCelebs this year are people that I admire most at Wesleyan. So, I feel very honored. But honestly, it’s probably because I invite people to a lot of Facebook events so they see my name often. And I do a lot of activities on campus.
A: What type of activities do you do?
SL: I’m very involved in extracurricular dance activities. I co-founded and run WesShuffle, which is Wesleyan’s tap dance group, with my housemate Lili Kadets [’17]. I’m very active in the Jewish community. Off campus—and sort of on campus—I work for a campaign called Open Hillel. This semester I’m also stage managing a production of “The Chorus Line,” which opens on Thursday.
A: Will you tell me a little bit more about WesShuffle?
SL: I grew up tapping my whole life, and I did other forms of dance as well, but [tap] has always been my favorite. When I got to campus freshman year, there was a small tap community but there wasn’t really a place for us to perform together. So, my friend Lili and I decided that we would start a group during our Sophomore fall. Over the past few years it’s grown—we have over 20 people in the group now. We perform in Terp, and starting last Spring, we started making our own showcases that we perform in the Spring. It’s been one of the best parts of Wes for me.
A: Have you always been involved in dance growing up?
SL: Yeah, I grew up [dancing] at an alternative studio. I grew up doing tap and jazz, but I didn’t do ballet until high school and now I actually major in Dance and History.
A: Will you tell me more about your involvement with the Jewish community?
SL: I am one of the Jewish community coordinators this year, so I help the rabbi figure out the direction of the community. It’s been really interesting to watch how the community has changed over my four years. I lived in the Bayit my Sophomore year—I was the house manager then—and it’s been a wonderful welcoming home for me. I feel like in many ways I’ve grown the most with the support of the Jewish community at Wes more than anything else.
A: I hear that you had a CFA internship. Tell me about that.
SL: Last year—I don’t have it this year—but last year I interned in Arts Administration for Pamela Tatge, who was the former director of the CFA. She really gave me an incredible education about Arts Administration. I learned about development, grant writing, contracts for artists, booking and all sorts of things. It was an excellent foray into what that field could look like.
A: Sort of a non-sequitur, but what made you choose History and Dance as your major?
SL: I came to college wanting to be an English major, don’t we all? I loved English in high school, but I realized what I liked the most [in terms of] writing was the research that goes behind it. I loved doing research, and I wanted a major that could be applicable to other things besides literature, even though I love literature. I was able to take a lot of English classes, but I chose History because I’m also really interested in people’s origins and how people got to where they are, and where they come from. That was a major factor in my choice.
A: What do you do in your free time?
SL: I do a lot of crossword puzzles. I do the ones from Usdan, and my family at home has a subscription to [The New York Times crosswords]. What else do I do? I have found Grey’s Anatomy as a procrastination for writing my thesis, which I have never watched before. So, I watch that. I also really like to hang out with my housemates, who make me happy. I’m trying to enjoy as much Wes spring as possible before I graduate because I think it’s my favorite thing here.
A: What’s your thesis about?
SL: I am writing and choreographing a joint thesis in History and Dance about the search for a German aesthetic in dance in the twentieth century. So, it tracks the rise of this movement called expressionism before World War Two and also how the Nazis kind of fit their agenda to what the choreographers were making in the Second World War. And then, how after [the war] this choreographer named Pina Bausch, who kind of reclaimed form and redefined it, brought it into a new phase. In the fall, I had a piece that tracks the bylaws from like 1910 to 1945ish, and then my piece in the spring was all Pina Bausch, like 1970s. So, it’s a full paper and two dances.
A: Do you know what you’re doing this summer?
SL: Yeah, so I’ve had a really big change of heart about what I’m doing when I graduate. In the fall, I’m doing a post-baccalaureate pre-med program, to do requirements to go to Med School. This summer I’m moving home and working in my local coffee shop, hopefully traveling and seeing friends and hanging out with my family, which I’m really excited for.
A: Wait, so what are you doing after college?
SL: I will be in New York doing this post-baccalaureate pre-medical program because I’ve decided—after working at a dance festival—that I didn’t want to be an Arts Administrator anymore. I want to be a doctor. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past few months and I’ve pretty much decided I want to do it. I’m nervous that I won’t be able to, but I’m excited for the challenge.
A: Any advice for us lowly freshmen?
SL: Learn early that being overcommitted is not the answer for having a fulfilling Wes experience. I spent too many semesters running myself into the ground doing too many things. I think pick a few things that you love, take time, and spend it with your friends. Because all of a sudden, it’s senior spring, and you’re looking back thinking, where did the time go? Just enjoy this community because I think it’s really special and doesn’t exist anywhere else.