Jolie performs in the 2024 show Mainstage.
Jolie Che performs in the 2024 show Mainstage. Choreographer: Melanie Kloetzel Tim Nguyen

June 4, 2024

Class of 2024: Student helps people with cancer ‘dance for health’

Combined degrees in dance and kinesiology fuel Jolie Che’s passion to understand the experiences of people living with and beyond cancer

When she was in high school, Jolie Che would come to campus to watch her older sister, Kaili, perform as part of the university’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in the Faculty of Arts. “I saw how much she loved it and thought: ‘I want to do this for my life as well’,” says Che. 

But she also enjoyed learning about anatomy and sport injury rehabilitation in a high school sports medicine class. “I really loved the science aspect of sport: How can you prevent injuries in your body? How does the body work? I thought it was this lovely opportunity to tap into both sides — science as well as that creative and physical side of dance.”

While taking her combined degrees in dance and kinesiology, the only combined program of its kind in Canada, Che taught dance classes to children and volunteered with the National accessArts Centre for disabled artists. She performed in a number of “amazing shows” on campus and beyond, in everything from contemporary and ballet to jazz, tap, and West African. Che is also an accomplished figure skater and competed in ice dance across Canada.

Jolie Che

Jolie Che

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

While at UCalgary, she volunteered with the PEER Program at Kids Cancer Care. “It's really lovely to connect and bring my love of exercise and teaching to working with children who are living with and beyond cancer,” she says. 

“We always look at dance science from either dance for health or health for dance. So in this case, we are looking at dance for health. Anybody can dance at any age and with any kind of background experience, I’ve always thought of dance as an activity of communion.”

Her passion for dance and health was further fuelled in a fourth-year kinesiology course with Dr. Sarah Kenny, PhD, associate professor in the faculties of Kinesiology and Arts. Che has just started working with Kenny in a master's program to explore the experiences of dancing for people living with, and beyond cancer. 

“We're going to be looking at perspectives from the caregivers, the participants and the dance instructors,” says Che.

The qualitative research program will help identify gaps in dance science, says Kenny, who has worked with Che on other research projects. 

“She is so full of joy and curiosity and has this passion for life and I think that's carrying her through these really incredible experiences,” she says of her new grad student. 

The research will explore “what it is about the dancing that's supporting these individuals,” says Kenny. “Moving with music and moving with other people are two elements that we're understanding as being unique from other kinds of exercise and physical activity.” Che is excited about the master's research, and the prospect of pursuing dance science in academia. 

But she hasn’t ruled out becoming a professional dancer. “For right now, I'm just following my curiosities and what opportunities open up through my next two years,” she says. “It's still up in the air but I know that I have a lot of options and I think that's a lovely part about combining two areas of study.”

Performing in the show, DNCE@Noon 2022.

Performing in the show, DNCE@Noon 2022. Choreographer: Laura Lindgren

Tim Nguyen

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2024.

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community. Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch. 

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