At age 3, she started to dance.
At age 5, she knew she wanted to be a doctor.
Now, at 21 years old, Olivia Lynes, a dance major on the pre-med track, is the executive director of the University of Maryland dance group Prima Dolls. A typical week for her includes 25 hours of class, 15 hours of homework, 15 hours of administrative work for Prima Dolls, 12 hours of work at the Eppley Center and four hours of practice.
“I’ve finally started to master planning out what I’m doing,” Lynes said with a laugh.
“My first couple [of] years I was great at planning and writing things down, but in reality I would just sit there and not do my work,” she said.
Originally a kinesiology major, Lynes joined the Prima Dolls as an incoming freshman with the hope that the dance troupe would be enough dancing for her, but by her junior year she knew that she wanted more.
“I wanted more dance because I didn’t want to become a stagnant dancer,” Lynes said. “I want to keep learning.”
Once she knew she could stay on the pre-med track if she kept up with the required classes, she officially dropped her kinesiology major and joined the dance program. The hardest part was telling her parents about the decision.
“They’re really supportive, but it was really hard for me to tell them I was becoming a dance major,” she said. “They thought I was fully dropping my pre-med track.”
She felt like her mom would be more understanding, so she told her first, she said.
“She made sure it was the right thing I wanted to do and I was able to explain to her why I wanted to be a dance major instead of doing it on the side.”
Lynes never actually told her dad, but she thinks he knows about her major, although he hasn’t mentioned it to her, she said.
“If it’s truly something I want to go for they’ll support me,” Lynes said.
Dancing seems to come naturally for Lynes. During practice, with music blasting and feet moving in harmony, she stands off to the side and observes her team,seamlessly joining in from time to time.
“You had it! You did it – what you just did was on it,” she said to one of her dancers, as they learned new choreography.
The encouragement and positivity was always there for Lynes. Getting used to being more than just a member was a hard adjustment for her.
“The first semester took me a while to get settled in being a director and not just a member,” she said. “It took me until the end of the school year for me to fully get comfortable with everything.”
After receiving the phone call from the previous executive director in the beginning of her sophomore year, Lynes was surprised.
“I saw myself always being a part of the team for the four years, but I never even considered being a leader for the group.”
Lynes is in her element during practice. She watches the choreographer and six dance members practice and every once in awhile directs a member in how to better execute a move.
“Try it some more, guys. I know you can do it. I have confidence,” she said to some of the team with a bright smile.
Lynes carries herself with confidence when she dances both in the studio and in public.
“My confidence in dancing has gotten a lot better,” Lynes said. “Now I feel comfortable when I dance in public.”
That confidence stems partially from the dance program. Another part of it comes from her participation in Prima Dolls. When she first saw the group wearing tutus and talking about auditions during her freshman year, Lynes felt like she found her niche.
“It’s a really small group on a huge campus,” she said. “I [felt] like I finally found my group of people.”
The 12 member team will have a total of six performances this semester and although Lynes is not taking science classes this semester, she still plans on becoming a pediatrician. Once she graduates, she plans on taking two gap years to sign up for some more pre-med classes, she said.
Lynes doesn’t mind;dance has been her creative outlet since age 3. Even with an intense schedule, dancing is more than just an art form for her.
“It’s easier for me to dance than it is for me to talk,” Lynes said.“I can express myself way more [easily] physically than I can verbally. I sometimes struggle to get my point across but with dance everything seems so simple.”
Naomi Harris is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.