NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Young Alumnus Award winner Katrina Toews has been dedicated to dance from a young age – so much so that she made it part of her Bethel major, even though the college does not have a dance program.
Toews is a 1998 graduate with a B.A. in fine arts and elementary education. She had begun studying dance with Annette Thornton at the Newton Dance Center as a child but quit in high school. Then when she came to Bethel, she picked up entry-level ballet. “I loved it so much,” she says, “I couldn’t stand not to keep taking it, so I decided to see if I could keep studying dance at Wichita State University.” She developed her fine arts major to incorporate dance and also started a dance studio and taught ballet and jazz to help pay her way through college.
Toews went on to a masters program at American University, Washington, D.C. She earned the coveted ballet fellowship at AU and graduated in 2002 with a degree in dance education. From 2002-04, she taught at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
While Toews was at AU, The Washington School of Ballet founder Mary Day hired her as a teacher. In 2004, Toews returned to The Washington Ballet as director of education. In 2005, The Washington Ballet inaugurated its satellite campus with Toews as interim director. In 2006, she was appointed permanent director of The Washington Ballet@THEARC (TWB@THEARC; THEARC, pronounced “The Ark,” stands for Town Hall Education, Arts & Recreation Campus).
As director of TWB@THEARC, Toews works to instill the artistic vision and professionalism of The Washington School of Ballet in dance students at the satellite campus in the Anacostia neighborhood of D.C. The community in which THEARC is located has the largest underserved population in the metropolitan area (statistics show 28 percent of residents unemployed and 50 percent of children living in poverty). To create THEARC, developer William C. Smith raised $27 million to bring together nine nonprofit, health, human services, education and arts organizations on a two-building campus.
Some of Toews’ successes as director of TWB@THEARC include increasing enrollment from a projected 60 students to 285; creating a collaborative summer intensive program with artistic partners in THEARC, Levine School of Music and Corcoran ArtReach; starting a “healthy initiatives” program with Children’s Hospital; receiving the 2008 Metrodance DC Award for Best Youth Performance; and successfully writing numerous grants, most recently a $15,000 grant for live accompaniment for the ballet classes.
In addition to AU, JMU and The Washington School of Ballet, Toews has also taught at Dance Place and the Davis Center. She founded K2 Dance Company, which has performed at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Dance Place, the Jack Guidone Theater, THEARC Theater and AU’s Greenberg Theatre. She has also danced with bosmadance, Carla & Company and Sister’s Trousers, all Washington-based companies. Her work has been described by Washington Post critics as “solidly crafted quality,” with choreography that “stands out.” She has presented on dance and education at various conferences across the United States and is a member of the National Dance Education Organization.
In her spare time, Toews enjoys traveling, most recently to Croatia. She is an active member of Hyattsville (Md.) Mennonite Church and, when she has quiet time, can be found drinking coffee and reading the Washington Post.
Toews is the daughter of two Bethel graduates, Jerry and Leann Toews, Goessel, and the sister of another, Annaken Mendoza-Toews, Harlingen, Texas.
Toews will lead a group of her students in a dance performance Sunday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m., and receive the Young Alumnus Award in convocation Monday, March 29, at 11 a.m. , where she will speak on “Leaps and Bounds: From Goessel, Kansas, to Washington, D.C.” Both events are in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center and are free and open to the public. An offering will be taken at the Sunday performance to help the group pay travel costs.
The Awards Committee of the Bethel College Alumni Association names one or more Young Alumnus Award winners each year. The Young Alumnus Award recognizes character and citizenship, achievement or service rendered, honor and recognition received. The recipient must be 39 years of age or younger and present a convocation program for Bethel students, faculty and staff.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.