Dancer, Traveler and Total Girlboss: Kimberly Chok

Kimberly Chok is a senior at Montclair State University currently earning her BFA in Dance. Originally from South Jersey, she now lives a life that is totally her own in Montclair just a train stop away from New York City. With dance as her true passion, she also yearns for travel, exploration and knowledge. Kimberly’s fierce personality and extraordinary talent truly make her someone to look up to. Here, she shares her experiences and lessons she’s learned from dance, traveling and independence. 

 

HCM: What age were you when you started dancing?

Kimberly: I was 2 and a half years old! 

 

HCM: When did you realize that dance was your passion?

Kimberly: I think it was always a passion because I feel dancing or a physical display of emotion is an innate thing even when you’re a baby. It’s a natural thing I guess. I think it was always a passion I just didn’t realize it was what I wanted to pursue.

 

HCM: Did you know you were going to be a dance major? Were there other options?

Kimberly: Oh I did not think I would be a dancer at all! I always loved dance — it’s all I ever talked about, it's all I ever did, but it was never a serious career path for me. I always thought I would be a physicist because I was always winning science fairs and when I was 13 I had interviews with Johns Hopkins University and Princeton. I was an AP Physics kid in high school. But eventually, I realized I couldn’t live without dancing or art in general and needed it to be something that was part of my life forever. So I think that’s when I chose to switch.

Photo by Kimberly Chok

HCM: What are some of the biggest performances you’ve done in your dance career?

Kimberly: It would definitely have to be the Joyce Theater. It was in New York and it was under the Martha Graham Company, which is a huge modern pioneer company that still exists today. That was probably the biggest one I’ve ever done.

 

HCM: What are some valuable lessons the Montclair State Dance Program taught you?

Kimberly: I’ve definitely learned a lot from the program, it’s among the top in the country. The MSU Dance Program is amazing, you learn so much. I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned was to own my strengths. With dance, there’s a lot of perfectionism and technique and that’s all you ever learn — technique, technique, technique. But I think being at Montclair with so many different types of dancers, not only style-wise but stylistically, I really learned to stop trying to be good at all these things that don’t define me and to start owning my strengths and owning the things that do define me as an artist instead of worrying too much about my weaknesses. I mean we all want to improve ourselves, but at the end of the day what’s gonna get me the job are my strengths, not my weaknesses.

Photo by Kimberly Chok

HCM: I know you love to travel, so what inspired you to start traveling?

Kimberly: I think I always had an urge to travel. It started with visiting different states with my family when I was little, but it was right after my family took a trip to Tennessee that I really felt this urge where I couldn’t stop wanting to see more, learn more and experience things. It could go back to just being an artist and wanting to absorb things like a sponge. You know, going to New York, to Maine, to Canada is not much different from here, but being down south was such a culture shock that I wanted to learn more about how many different ways people live, what they find joy in, food, culture and all that. It was the urge to learn.

  

HCM: How often do you travel and how many places have you been to?

Kimberly: I travel I guess fairly often for someone my age. In total for more major traveling experiences about twice a year. I’ve been to Tennessee, Virginia, Rhode Island, Chicago (IL), Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Iceland and Estonia. There’s probably a couple more, but I guess for now I would say 13. And then this summer I’m going back to France, probably stopping in Germany and probably going back to Estonia. 

 

HCM: What was your favorite country/place to visit?

Kimberly: My favorite country to visit…. That’s really hard because they’re all so unique! I think my favorite country experience-wise regarding people would probably be Estonia. I went to Tallinn and Tartu, which are very stereotypically European. All the apartments and buildings are colorful, bright pastels with cobblestone streets. And people literally do sit outside cafes drinking their coffee all day long drawing, writing poems and stuff. So I think that was the best country experience-wise. But, sightseeing and being wowed I would probably say Spain. Spain was just wow! There were so many things to be intrigued by that it was like you couldn’t stop being awed.

Photo by Kimberly Chok

HCM: When did you first start traveling alone and what was that experience like?

Kimberly: Traveling without my parents I was pretty young. I was maybe ten or eleven when I started going to New York by myself by taking the bus in from Atlantic City. But, the first time I was really on my own was when I was 16. I went to Joffrey Ballet School in NYC and I trained by myself at the school. I was living there on my own — I had to make my own food, go to class and take the subway every day and all that. It was such a great experience. I was changed after that. My first time flying alone was actually when I flew to Chicago to visit one of my friends from Joffrey for the first time.

 

HCM: How do you balance school, performances, traveling and your social life?

Kimberly: Um… I don’t! Haha! I would not call it balancing at all. I wouldn’t even call it managing. I would almost call it… taking it one thing at a time. There’s no way to balance things, especially in the world that we live in where there’s so much going on. Sometimes your day is compiled of 100% work and you work yourself ‘til you’re fatigued and crazy. And sometimes the next day is 60% relaxation and 40% dance! I wouldn’t call it a balance I would just say that I take everything one step at a time and I worry about things as they’re coming up.

 

HCM: Being that you’re living on your own now, do you have any advice for people first starting to live on their own/have their own place?

Kimberly: Yeah! So I think my first bit of advice is to not freak out. The initial reaction for some people is to panic and that takes a lot of time and emotional space that you don’t need to take because we have so many resources. When you leave your parents that doesn’t mean that they’re gone, it means that they’re there as a resource for you and I think that it’s best to take things one step at a time. There are so many things to worry about — you have your rent, utilities, your job, school work, groceries, electric bill, all those kinds of things. It’s very plausible that one of those things, if not a few of them, can slip away from you because you’re worried about the others. So I would say remember what your staples are, things that you need to keep on surviving like your shelter, water bill, electric bill, your job. There are only a few main components of your life that you really have to worry about. Other things are luxuries, not necessities. When you’re first moving out don’t even worry about all the extra stuff like cable or “I’m gonna throw a party!” I think you should focus on yourself and how to build yourself as a human. I would also say, and this is a really important one, it’s okay to be scared. It is totally okay to be like “I’m panicking, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m scared,” but I think the most important thing is the ability to stay calm while recognizing that it’s okay to be scared since this is completely new. Use your resources, ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help and if worse comes to worst, you know, a lot of people have it a lot worse than we do.

Photo by Kimberly Chok

HCM: Any tips on how to gain self-trust and confidence when it comes to independence?

Kimberly: Yes, like I said before it’s okay to be scared. That’s something that you have to carry with you throughout your life and something that you learn right at the beginning. As much experience as you gain getting older and learning new things no one ever has it all figured out. No one. Our parents don’t, their parents didn’t, every step of the way something new will be thrown at you and it’s important to remember that no one has it all together. Even if they seem like they do, no one does. So I think confidence comes from knowing what you as an individual are capable of and what you want. Because if you know those two things then there’s no way you can’t be confident in what you’re doing. 

 

HCM: What are your plans after college? Where do you see your career going?

Kimberly: I definitely want to be performing in some type of way. I’ll be doing sports team cheerleader auditions, auditioning for cruise lines, circuses, Broadway shows, television, basically just anything. I’ll take what I can get — can’t be picky in show business! But the plans are to stick to what I love, provide for myself, and just do what makes me happy! 

I don’t see myself doing anything specific. I’m a little bit more ‘go with the flow’ I guess, but I definitely see myself performing for or interacting with companies that are politically active. NYC Ballet just got new administration because of a sexism scandal so I’m definitely geared towards a career path that I know is making progress especially in show business. Show business has a lot of problems with white-washing and sexism, which plays into every career, but in show business, it’s really quite extreme. I definitely see myself doing something or presenting myself in a way where I can help politically motivate the progress of the world.

 

HCM: Do you have any final words of wisdom or advice for your peers that you want to share?

Kimberly: We are all riding the struggle bus together. Take things as they are, turn them into something else, make them pretty, make them ugly. Explore, learn a lot and eventually, you’ll learn how to be unapologetically yourself in a world where everyone else should also be that way.

Photo by Kayla Dilworth