Kennesaw State alum joins internationally renowned dance company in Chicago

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 26, 2021

Simone Stevens
Simone Stevens

Kennesaw State University alumna Simone Stevens is fiercely confident, and not only in her abilities as a professional dancer. However, she learned this year she can still surprise herself.

She was hired this summer to join Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, an internationally renowned contemporary dance company. The job is one she had been dreaming about since early in her career as a dance student at Kennesaw State.

“I knew I could do it, but I thought it would be later in my career. When I got the offer, I thought, ‘Oh, we’re doing this now,’” Stevens, a 2017 graduate, said during a recent visit back to the KSU Department of Dance. She was greeted with excited screams and hugs by students and faculty who had heard the news.

Stevens said in her new role she will lean on the training and inspiration she received while earning a degree in dance at Kennesaw State. She excelled in college and was awarded the Emerson Scholarship for the Advancement of International Education to study dance in Israel and work directly with artists from the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv.

"Simone excelled artistically as a student at KSU Dance, and it was a pleasure to have her in my class and choreographic work,” said Ivan Pulinkala, Kennesaw State’s interim provost and formerly dean of the College of the Arts and chair of the Department of Dance. “Her selection as a company member for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is an affirmation of her talent and hard work, as well as a testimony to the success of the Department of Dance at KSU.”

After graduation, Stevens said she spent a year teaching and working as a freelance dancer in the Atlanta area. Then she packed up her things and moved 720 miles away to Chicago without a job.

“Nobody in my family was surprised,” by the bold move, Stevens said, laughing. “I like going to new places.”

The move has paid off. When she arrived, she was able to get into a yearlong scholarship training program at Lou Conte Dance Studio. After completing that, she worked as a freelance dancer for a year. She was working in a smaller dance company earlier this year when Hubbard Street Dance announced auditions for four spots in its troupe. Following a two-week audition and interview period, Stevens was one of the four dancers hired, out of a pool of 900 hopefuls.

Stevens has some career advice for Kennesaw State’s current dance majors.

“Don’t be afraid to leave the area where you grew up and see where your talent can take you,” she said. “Whatever it is you want to do, don’t be afraid to branch out.”

– Gary Tanner

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit