Dance student Rebecca Betteridge '19 recounts the impact that Pat Hon has had on Cornish's Dance Department, alumni, and the local dance community. Hon retires this year, and her legacy will be celebrated following the April 21 performance of Cornish Dance Theater (more to come!).
One of the most talented, beloved, and inspiring people at Cornish has been Dance Department Faculty member Pat Hon. After an illustrious dance career across Europe and later as a demonstrator for former Graham dancer Mary Hinkson, Pat joined the Cornish community in 1978. Despite not intending to become a teacher, she has spent the past 40 years at Cornish as a tremendously insightful and passionate professor who brought Graham-influenced modern to a multitudinous array of dancers.
In her years with the Dance Department, Pat has seen the transformations that the dancers at Cornish have undergone as a whole throughout the generations. Because Pat taught both modern and ballet techniques, she had the unique perspective of seeing dancers change in a more comprehensive capacity. In her observations of the evolution of Cornish dancers, she remarked, “Now they’re so much more diverse, so much more exciting, so much more… weird! But above all, they do stay the same; very committed dancers.” The dedication on the part of the dancers comes from a deep respect and passion and it is achieved, in part, by following the example of teachers such as Pat.
Of course, four decades is quite a commitment, and when asked why she chose to stay with Cornish, Pat replied, “I stayed because I enjoyed it. The kids were good to work with, they were scared of course because it was a very big change [to study Graham technique].” Mary Hinkson, former director of the Martha Graham Company, was one of the main influencers who convinced Pat to work for Cornish; and we are grateful for her presence.
An inspiration to students, dancers, and teachers alike, Pat has impacted the lives of all who pass through the third floor of Kerry Hall. She recognizes the power of her influence and notes by saying, “Some students, after a few years, say that they always remember what I say to them, and somehow it always sticks in their memory banks. So whatever they do, they think about me. They make use what I ask of them, and I think that’s a good thing to know as a teacher.”
When asked if she had a favorite memory at Cornish, Pat fondly recalled collaborating with Bern Herbolsheimer, a former Music Department faculty member/composer, to create works for professional ballet companies (such as Atlanta Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet) in addition to works for Cornish itself. She reminisced, “I would choreograph, I would tell him what I needed, and he would say ‘Oh well, does this work? Would that work?’ and those are wonderful memories.” Pat created beautiful dances for Cornish and we are honored to have had her fine-tuned choreographic skill and adoration of movement within the community. Her exploration of artistic integration embodies the Cornish spirit of collaboration.
Pat’s zeal, passion, and intense love of dance have been so ingrained in the Dance Department. Even as she enters her retirement and new phase of her life, we will all strive to keep those essential values alive within ourselves and within Cornish.