A transfer student from UNLV, Davis is making inclusive strides for the future of dance transfers
Considering herself a “super senior,” Athena Davis has taken the long way to get to where she is today. A contemporary dance major, president of the Dance Major Student Representatives Council (DMSR) and choreographer for the DancEnsemble choreography team, it stands as a reason to ask: Who is Athena Davis?
Like many BYU students, Davis’ road to becoming a BYU Cougar was unconventional. Completing both freshman and sophomore years in her home state’s University of Nevada, Las Vegas, she had zero intentions of “bleeding blue.”
In high school she studied fashion in hopes that she would attend the Fashion Institute in California after graduation, though she ultimately decided to attend her local university. She was a Vegas girl enjoying life as a Rebel pursuing a degree in dance while working as a costume seamstress for a theatre.
This would all change, however, when her mother suggested she try some classes out at BYU through the school’s visiting student program, just to experience something other than what she’d always known.
Davis joined the visiting student program and took an ASL class and a Beginning Contemporary Dance class during the summer to get her feet wet.
“I took contemporary dance because it fit my schedule well and I just wanted to see what the dance department was like. I wasn’t even considering transferring and anytime someone suggested that I was offended. I would say, ‘No! My school is UNLV, I'm just here visiting. I'm never going to go to BYU.’ And then I ended up falling in love with it,” said Davis.
She returned to UNLV to finish out her sophomore year and started to work on the transfer process – which was not easy. Once at BYU, Davis decided to continue to major in dance.
“I noticed how people who graduated from the BYU dance department have a lot more opportunities than what I’ve seen people at home do. I’ve found people appreciate dance for what it is. I thought if I graduated from BYU, I would have more skills to be able to take to professional companies,” she said.
Coming into a new university as a transfer student, Davis noticed a disconnect between how she was treated versus her peers. “People kept treating me like a freshman, but I had two years under my belt,” said Davis.
People would suggest taking part in freshman performances, but Davis didn’t want to be further linked with the younger students when she already had half a college degree’s worth of experience to build on.
Davis took her frustrations to her advisor and asked why there were no resources for transfer students within the Department of Dance. Over the course of two years, Davis has been able to build up her for-the-students resume and now acts as a link between faculty and pupils.
Beneath the DMSR presidential position, Davis has student committees dedicated to mentorship, community outreach and activities. She added that the Department of Dance also has representatives from each area of dance. “There's a BFA, BA and Dance Ed rep. It's just to make sure that everyone in the department feels seen and heard.”
Department of Dance PR Coordinator Erin McClellan had this to say about the senior: “Athena cares deeply about her fellow dance majors – especially those younger and those who've transferred to BYU. She has made it a personal goal to make sure all dance majors feel informed, included and excited to be dancing at BYU.”
Davis is expected to graduate with her BA in dance with an emphasis in contemporary this coming April. She hopes to start teaching in a studio and to also place on a performing team. She is considering getting her master’s and teaching at the university level down the road.