Tuesday, February 16, 2021
By Claudia Zequeira
She always wanted to be professional dancer, but when a dance injury sidelined her, Kristina (Kris) Stevens, part-time faculty, dance, returned to school. And that school turned out to be Valencia College, where Kris is now a pivotal part of managing the Dance department.
At Valencia, where she started working in 2004, Kris also serves as dance performance production coordinator, in which she helps produce concerts for the dancers.
“I’m in charge of most of the administrative tasks that go with the Dance department,” said Kris, who also teaches ballet here.
“We basically run a dance company out of the Dance department in the sense that we have a touring group of students, and they go all over the country, so it’s my job to help organize that, including arranging contracts and airline tickets and many other things.”
Although dance majors returned to in-person rehearsals in spring 2021, much of Kris’ job these days takes place on Zoom, as many productions and special programs were halted due to the pandemic.
But that has not stopped her efforts and creativity.
“I enjoy being able to organize projects and help bring them to life,” said Kris. “I love to be able to take somebody else’s vision and make it actually happen from a logistical and administrative perspective.”
To that end, and with the help of Digital Media Professor Howard Tate and others, Kris organized the digitally broadcast Choreographer’s Showcase last November. Now in its 22nd year, the event is designed to showcase student choreography and serve as a creative outlet for their work.
Kris is currently conducting a similar effort for Valencia’s Spring Dance Concert, which was canceled last year due to COVID. The concert will be recorded in Valencia’s Black Box Theater and then broadcast digitally in April 2021.
And since dance students missed out on the opportunity to attend an American College Dance Association event last year (where they typically both learn and present work), Kris is working to invite former guest artists to present master classes to students virtually.
“We’re going to use the money that we would have used [to attend the American College Dance Association] and we’re going to bring in guest artists virtually so the students can have a Zoom master class from these artists,” she said.
Recently, Kris arranged for choreographer Jon Lehrer, of the Jon Lehrer Dance Company, to teach students online.
“We were able to bring him in for residency virtually this January,” said Kris. “We were hoping to have him in person, but of course we couldn’t, so the dancers learned a piece by him that they’ll be performing for the Spring Dance Concert.”
Kris earned an Associate in Arts as well as an Associate in Science in Business Administration from Valencia. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in humanities from Rollins College.
Before joining Valencia, she danced professionally with The Georgia Ballet in Marietta, Georgia, under the artistic direction of Iris Hensley, and received additional training from Janusz Mazon and Gina Hyatt-Mazon.
Kris also previously performed at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland, and attended summer programs at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Joffrey Workshop in San Antonio, and CalArts. She also earned a partial scholarship to attend the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.
Along the way, she fell in love with teaching (Kris also teaches dance at Rollins College). But she also fell in love with Valencia, a place where she has found both an opportunity to grow and the support of colleagues and College leaders alike.
“I am trusted to do my job to the best of my ability, and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” she said. “And I am supported in the fact that I have a family,” she said. “I feel that my hard work is rewarded.”
Her frequent demonstrations of hard and efficient work have even earned her the nickname “The Kris.”
“It’s a running joke around here that if you need something, you need to go ask ‘The Kris’ because I will get it done,” she said. “Everybody needs a ‘Kris.’”
Her supervisor, Suzanne Salapa, professor, dance, and Dance department chair, said Kris is “the glue of the department and an invaluable employee.”
“As an alumni of our dance major program, she understands the artist point of view,” said Suzanne. “She is an exceptional production coordinator of all of our on-campus and off-campus productions. She is the best!”
Rob McCaffrey, interim dean, School of Arts and Entertainment, referred to Kris as the “backbone” of our dance seasons at Valencia.
“I’m constantly impressed by her technical prowess and ability to coordinate our rehearsal and performance schedules,” he said.
Besides counting her colleagues’ support as a key factor in her decision to remain at the College, Kris said she also enjoys being here because she is in sync with its mission of providing affordable opportunities to students. In addition, she enjoys Valencia’s strong community ties.
“As dancers, we go and perform at so many schools locally. We also host the Summer Dance Institute program, which is a great, affordable opportunity for high school students interested in dance. There is just so much that we do with the community. I love that.”
Kris is also inspired by her students, many of whom go on to succeed in their careers and often return as alumni to give back some of the support they themselves received.
In her free time, Kris loves to read and spend time with her family and her children. She also manages to find time to teach at a local studio, which her children also attend.
“I still teach at a local dance studio,” she said. “So, yes, I have three jobs aside from being a mom.”
Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.