Alum Brenda Chen ’16 Reflects on the Impact of Dance in Her Life

Brenda Chen ’16 recently visited Poly to teach dance to Upper School students, a program that she credits to supporting her mental health.

“Dance is a really important part of my life, especially in high school,” she said. “It is a creative outlet for me and got me through some lonely times. If I ever did feel down or felt like there was a lot of pressure on me for whatever reason, I always turned to dance.”

Brenda danced competitively with Poly’s dance team and served as team captain during her junior and senior years. She shared that Danielle Pigneri was one of her favorite teachers at Poly and has kept in touch with her since graduation. It was Danielle that invited her to teach at Poly.

“I always looked forward to dance class. It gave me a sense of relief in the middle of all the stress of high school, and I definitely feel like some of my favorite experiences and memories are with the dance community at Poly. I still keep in touch with a lot of the dancers.”

Brenda completed her undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis in 2020 and danced throughout her time there. When she returned to Pasadena to focus on applying to law school, she enjoyed taking dance classes with Poly friends. She asks Poly friends to accompany her, enjoying the drive together and catching up about life.

“I feel like some of my closest friends were made through the dance space and musical space. I also formed a close friend group senior year of high school, and we still keep in touch to this day and still do yearly Friendsgivings. I didn't quite expect myself to still have such strong ties with people in the Poly community, but I do. And I'm so grateful for them, and for Poly for introducing me to them.”

When Brenda visited the Poly campus, she taught three hip-hop classes to beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. She chose Britney Spears’ enduring classic “Hit Me Baby (One More Time)” to a jazz-funk style for intermediate and advanced classes, focusing on performance and having fun. It had opportunities to freestyle at the end with a sassy, high-energy performance.

According to Brenda, “the dancers all killed it!”