Throughout each stage of Amelia Stoesser’s (C ‘25) life, one hobby has remained consistent: dancing. “It was the only thing that I didn’t quit growing up, so I stuck with it,” she laughs. From performing in her living room at the age of two to joining studio dance companies and later taking on the role of captain of her high school’s competitive dance team, Amelia has always made time to dance. When she arrived at Penn freshman year, Amelia began dancing right away and eagerly joined Sparks Dance Company.
Founded in 1989, Sparks is Penn’s student–run dance company specializing in a variety of styles including jazz, contemporary, ballet, tap, and hip–hop. Each year, the group performs two shows entirely choreographed and produced by its members. As president of Sparks, Amelia handles all of the communication with the Dance Arts Council (DAC) and makes the schedule for “Spark Sunday,” their weekly Sunday rehearsals.
As a pre–med student juggling a busy, class–filled schedule, dancing for Sparks allows Amelia to separate herself from academic stress. “Throughout high school, and especially now, when I go to rehearsals for Sparks, I can put everything off to the side and not feel guilty because I'm still doing something that I enjoy," she says. "I also just love all of the people and spending all Sunday with them."
Recently, Amelia was busy ensuring everything ran smoothly before Sparks’ spring shows on April 7th and 8th. Amelia provides a glimpse into the hectic show week, saying, “My G–Cal is super scary. It’s filled with many hours of tech rehearsals.” The group had meticulously planned each detail of the performance, even coding the lighting for every dance down to the millisecond.
Through choreographing her own dances, Amelia taps into her creativity. She explains that what makes Sparks unique is that anyone in the group who wants to choreograph their own dance has the opportunity to do so. “We do a ‘show your dance’ at the beginning of each semester where everyone brings their song and dance ideas. We all get to have our own creative freedom,” Amelia shares. The Sparks performance showcases a variety of dance types as members from all different backgrounds and levels of experience bring their individual styles. “I’m performing in five dances this semester, and they all have super different vibes,” she says.
In addition to performing for the Penn community, Sparks is also highly dedicated to community service, putting on shows for senior citizens and teaching dance warm–ups for kids in the Philadelphia area. Amelia takes pride in Sparks’ commitment to service, saying, “When something has a larger meaning, besides just putting on a show every semester, it makes everything feel a bit more purposeful.” She especially loved their recent visit to a senior living center where they performed a dance from a musical: “All of the people in the home were so excited. It’s nice to make other people smile."
In addition to her time spent with Sparks, Amelia prioritizes giving back to the community in other ways. She’s a counselor over the summer for Camp Kesem—an organization that provides a free week of summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer—and spends time during the year fundraising and creating programming. Amelia also volunteers for Be Body Positive Philly, a non–profit organization and after–school program for students in Philadelphia that runs self–care workshops, aims to reduce healthcare disparities, and empowers youth by encouraging body positivity.
Balancing her role as Sparks president and packed schedule as a pre–med student, along with her other involvements and responsibilities, Amelia strives to take it one day at a time. She says, “Don’t look back. I think it’s really easy to dwell on things, like an exam that didn’t go well or a conversation you had that was awkward. I’m involved in so many things that I find that if I take time to rethink things, I just end up really exhausted.” With reference to her love for dance, Amelia continues, “Just keep moving. There’s always tomorrow.”
Feeling that many people forget that they’re allowed to take breaks, Amelia advises other busy college students to follow through with their passions. “If you don’t take time for yourself to do something that you really love amidst all of the academics, life isn’t going to feel as good.” So for anyone hesitating to continue that hobby or recreational activity from childhood, Amelia says, “Just because it’s sometimes more overwhelming to get involved in college doesn't mean that your involvement with fun extracurriculars has to stop after high school. Finding a way to keep you moving and a way to give you purpose and socialization outside of academics is just so important!”