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Leading Through a Global Pandemic

Featured Articles - Issue 6

5 Things You Didn't Know

Khiara M. Bridges is not your average law professor; she’s also a professional ballet dancer. Spending the past decade of her career commuting between Boston and New York City before moving to the West Coast, Khiara balanced teaching various first-year and upper-level law school courses and performing all over New York City. Here are five things you may not know about Khiara and the intersection of ballet and the law:

  1. Khiara discovered her love for the law in her second year of law school. “In my second year of law school, I took critical race theory with Professor Kendall Thomas at Columbia and all the lights started turning on. He was introducing me to concepts about life and society that were bigger than law. I knew this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay in the classroom and teach this subject.”
  2. She always wanted to write a book—and has now written three. “I feel like a lot of my adult life has been determined by my childhood dreams. When I was seven, I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer. So, I went to law school several decades later. Also, when I was a kid, I was like, ‘I’m going to write a book.’ I just wanted that to be something that I accomplished in my adult life. That may be what was attractive to me about a Ph.D. path; I knew that a lot of people produce books out of their dissertations. So, my first book is a revised version of my dissertation. It’s an ethnography of an obstetrics clinic in a public hospital in New York City. It was an incredibly rewarding experience all around from the research that I conducted for it to writing and revising it. That was fun.”
  3. Contemporary ballet is her preferred style of dance. “I definitely appreciate story ballets, like Swan Lake. But when I talk about heart-racing, tears-in-my-eyes watching, it’s usually contemporary ballet. I would say that the piece that has resonated most with me is a piece called ‘The Statement.’ It was choreographed by Crystal Pite, who is based in Canada. I saw it in 2016 in New York City, and it was being danced by the Nederlands Dans Theater. It just blew me away. I now describe my life as ‘before I saw that piece’ and ‘after I saw that piece.’ It’s breathtaking and amazing.”
  4. Dance is the reason Khiara can do all the academic things she does. “Dance makes me healthy enough to have the ridiculous schedule that law professors have. I usually go to yoga after I wake up because I am now an older dancer, which means that I have to get ready to dance. So, I take an hour-long yoga class that warms me up and then I go take an hour-and-a-half ballet class. When I’m preparing for a performance, my weekends are filled with eight-hour rehearsals. The physical activity that I do enables me to be focused enough to prepare for class, to have clarity of mind to write my articles and books, to be patient enough to engage with students in office hours. The dancing grounds me; it puts me in the space mentally and emotionally so that I can do all the academic things I do.”
  5. Surprisingly, she takes a day off from academia every week and lets herself be silly. “I reserve Saturdays for nonacademic pursuits. So, I don’t respond to emails, I don’t do any work and I just disengage from academia. I also give myself permission to not dance—but I usually end up dancing on Saturdays because I love it. But on Saturdays, I let myself do whatever it is that I want to do. I usually spend many, many hours watching the worst reality TV. I think people would be surprised to know that I actually very much enjoy mindless TV. It’s like cotton candy for the brain.”

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