Senior Spotlights: Selina Ho and Claire Joseph Dance for Justice, Beauty, and Expression

By Katie Clelland ’21

Throughout her college career, Claire Joseph ’21 has found ways to merge her love of different creative and performing arts, from writing to dance to comedy. She previously worked at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and now works on the New York-based hit show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. “Growing up, I was an actor and dancer. I have always loved comedy and performance. I actually wrote a paper in my Writing 50 class on women in comedy,” says Joseph.

Joseph is no stranger to the spotlight: The English major trained in the pre-professional program at Steps on Broadway, a premiere dance studio in New York City, in ballet, jazz, theater dance, and Horton technique. Leveraging this training, Joseph created and taught the first heels dance class at Scripps, a class devoted to body positivity and confidence in which students learn choreographed routines in high heels. Her class led to a partnership with Reverb Dance Crew, the oldest 5C dance team, where heels and hip-hop classes are now hosted every week for all experience levels.

“Dance has given me an incredible window into self discovery and self awareness,” Joseph reflects. “It has made me in tune with my body and who I am as a person. Bringing that confidence into my writing, I have been able to take something that was a passion for me and transform it into another passion. They are not mutually exclusive. They are all forms of creativity.”

Behind the curtain, Joseph is also an intern for Scripps Presents, the College’s signature event series, through which she performed in the sold-out Wicked Bodies, a work-in-progress inspired by texts depicting witches and healing from Scripps’ Ella Strong Denison Library’s archive .

This blending of creative forms inspired her senior thesis in creative writing, in which she is composing a collection of short stories that focus on dance and other artistic expressions.

Like Joseph, Selina Ho ’21, a politics major and a dance and data science double minor, has also found value in the intersections of dance and other disciplines. “My studies have always seemed to intersect,” she explains.

Ho, whose concentration is in Middle Eastern and African politics, found that her study of the creative arts of the Middle East led to a deeper understanding of the region. “In my course, Raqs al Sharqi (Egyptian Belly Dance), I learned more about dance, music, sexuality, and gender, which impacted how I understood how people write about Middle East politics.”

Ho has danced in and even co-produced a wide array of performances focused on social justice, change, and impact. She worked as a production facilitator for “Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic,” which consisted of two virtual events featuring six dances devised inside Norco prison, a 35-minute dance film, and eleven artists conversing about dance in carceral spaces. “I am passionate about prison abolition and creating art that allows us to envision a world without prisons, cages, or police and instead focuses on liberation, care, and community,” explains Ho, who became involved in the production after taking the course Choreographing Our Stories, taught by Scripps College Senior Lecturer in Dance Suchi Branfman, who is also the artistic director of the prison project.

Ho and co-choreographer and performer Sasha Marlan-Librett ’22 also produced a dance film entitled “From Ruins, a Refuge,” which explored the theme of community juxtaposed with the desolate environment of Joshua Tree National Park, the space where they performed. The performance was produced through a queer lens and was inspired by poetry spanning Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese,” Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s “To the Desert,” and E.E. Cummings’ “maggie and milly and molly and may.”

Outside of campus, Ho’s dance background, coupled with her knowledge of data science, has been the perfect launchpad into the creative industry. As a producing intern at the Los Angeles Performance Practice (LAPP), a nonprofit organization devoted to contemporary artists whose work challenges and advances multidisciplinary artistic practices, Ho works on numerous research projects, including aiding the company with their selections for their residency program. “In my experience at LAPP, I realized how I could use data science to understand the discrepancies in resources and funding for artists in different cities and advocate for greater and more equitable funding. This work also included delving into the dynamics of both public and private grant-giving institutions, allowing me to glean a new perspective of how local, state, and national politics shapes arts and culture.” Just as dance was a tool for exploring social justice, data can be too!

For Joseph, graduation from Scripps will lead her to a master’s program in Irish literature at Trinity College Dublin, in Dublin, Ireland. Ho will begin her post-grad job as a data analyst at the Vera Institute of Justice in April, a nonprofit devoted to criminal justice reform, where she says the “beautiful convergence of the skills I learned at Scripps will help me continue to keep dancing while still always being involved in projects I am passionate about, where art, social justice, and data-driven results work as one.”

Adds Joseph, “I will always dance. It is ingrained in me.”