Graduating Senior Spotlight: Althea Downing-Sherer and Josie Hermiston
Friday, May 10, 2024

Nearly every year, the University of Iowa Youth Ballet and Community Dance School says goodbye to seniors graduating from its program. Out of these wistful departures, a new tradition has been started. During the Spring Concert 2024, An Evening of Saint-Saëns, graduating seniors Althea Downing-Sherer and Josie Hermiston will be performing a duet choreographed by UI Associate Professor of Instruction Kristin Marrs.  

Both dancers have achieved much during their time with the UI Youth Ballet.  

Josie Hermiston 

Little Josie dancing in loft
Josie Hermiston as a young dancer.

Josie Hermiston began dancing with UI Youth Ballet during the summer of 2012, directly following kindergarten. At 6, she started in Pre-Ballet. After progressing through the UI Youth Ballet levels and entering Ensemble, Josie decided to start assistant teaching. Josie began this endeavor her freshman year of high school, the spring semester of 2021, where she assisted for Level 1A. The following academic year (fall semester 2021 and spring semester 2022), Josie assisted for Level 1B.  

Josie participated in 10 total Spring Concerts with the Youth Ballet, starting her first full year in 2013 going through 2019, then picked back up following the pandemic from 2022-2024.  

She has two distinct concerts that provided the foundation for her love of dance. Josie remembered her first spring concert in 2013, Here Comes The Sun, and Artistic Director at the time, Jason Schadt was setting the finale bows. She recalled watching all the Ensemble dancers run in and have their special moment. Now, the moment comes full circle as she gets to have her moment with younger dancers watching from the wings.  

The second spring concert Josie fondly remembered was the Spring Concert 2015, Alice in Wonderland. She mentioned that watching the Ensemble dancers on pointe inspired her to keep dancing today. 

Josie was particularly excited to perform a duet choreographed by Kristin Marrs because it was yet another full circle moment for her, as Kristin choreographed Josie’s first Ensemble piece. She also thoroughly enjoyed contributing to the choreography of the piece. Kristin Marrs had assigned them homework in preparation for the first day of rehearsals – each dancer was to create 3 different dance moves. If you attend the Spring Concert, you will see these as a refrain that comes up throughout their duet!

Following her graduation from Iowa City High School, Josie plans to attend the University of Iowa and major in Secondary Education, specializing in science. Josie also anticipates teaching for the University of Iowa Youth Ballet and Community Dance School throughout her time as an undergraduate student. 

Althea Downing-Sherer 

Little Althea dancing in loft
Althea Downing-Sherer as a young dancer.

Althea Downing-Sherer has been dancing with the UI Youth Ballet and Community Dance School since 2009. She started in Wee Dance at the age of 3.  

Althea participated in 10 spring concerts with the UI Youth Ballet. During her first spring concert as a Pre-Ballet student, Althea recalled getting lucky and was the lead for the non-Ensemble section. She fondly remembers playing “a creature that was lost during a storm,” and thoroughly enjoyed the acting portion. Like her counterpart, Althea also fondly remembers the spring concert, Alice In Wonderland (2015). She was particularly inspired by the soloists for each character, such as Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. Althea also cherished the Spring Concert 2023, Coppélia. There was much acting and storytelling involved that sparked her joy.  

Althea was grateful to be working with Kristin Marrs on a senior duet as, like her counterpart, this experience was a full circle moment. Kristin Marrs choreographed the first Ensemble piece Althea performed in, which was “The Nightingale.” Althea recalled a great appreciation for Kristin’s attention to storytelling in her pieces. According to Althea,  

“For Josie and I's duet, the focus is on change and leaving things behind, which are fitting themes for the stage of life we're in. I think it's been really fun to dance in a piece that's reflective of my current emotional reality and everything!” 

Following graduation, Althea will be attending college at Barnard College of Columbia in New York City. She will be majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration. She is excited that the college has an amazing dance program with many performance opportunities. She plans to continue dancing and performing during her free time. 

The UI Youth Ballet and Community Dance School looks forward to seeing many more students progress through its program and being able to showcase their achievements through this tradition.