Three years ago, Belinda Loi had never taken a single dance class.
Loi is a senior in computer science who now doubles as a hip-hop choreographer at BOSS Dance Company. Loi joined BOSS, a branch of Dance Society, her sophomore year with no prior dance skills. Loi said she had always found dance inspiring but didn't really find an outlet for it until coming to UT.
Once she joined BOSS, Loi discovered that choreography might be her calling.
"Essentially, I wanted to get up to choreographing because I think that's the fun part," Loi said, "because I like creating."
Last year, Loi had her first opportunity to choreograph when she was asked to create a minute-and-a-half routine for the Confucius Institute. This year, Loi choreographed her first full piece for the BOSS Dance Company Annual Showcase.
In addition to choreographing for BOSS, she also worked on the event planning committee her junior year and now serves as historian for the group.
With a limited background in dance, Loi dedicated much of her time to perfect her skills. She spent around six hours per week practicing on several different dance pieces. Her dedication and drive to perform helped her earn her choreographing position.
When she first tried out for BOSS three years ago, Loi said her audition was "terrible."
"But what I did, because I was really passionate about it," Loi said, "I practiced every day, every single day – and I hope it showed."
It did show, as Loi made the audition and was cast in her first performance.
Her peers pointed out Loi's perseverance and drive made an impact on other choreographers and dancers at BOSS.
"It still amazes me that she just started dancing three years ago, standing in the back of other choreographer's pieces just to learn movement," Lindsey Bacon, BOSS choreographer and UT alum, said of Loi's progress.
"Belinda is fierce when it comes to dance, whether it's choreographing, teaching or performing," Sharon Eun, law school student and BOSS dancer, said. "You can tell her drive stems from her passion of the art."
For this year's showcase, Loi taught her hip-hop routine to 15 other girls, most of whom were new to dance. Loi said one of the main traits she looks for when casting a dancer is a passion similar to hers.
Loi likes to give people who, like her, had no previous training in dance.
"That's one of the things I was really proud about my piece for this year," Loi said. "I was able to teach people that had never danced before."
On top of dancing, Loi is also working on graduating with a degree in computer science by the end of this year. Last semester, Loi was taking 24 hours of classes, working as a server at Bonefish Grill and interning at Oak Ridge National Library. All of this while being heavily involved in dancing and choreographing at BOSS.
"It's not something that I dread; it's a good outlet," she said. "As a computer science major, yes it is hard, it's a little demanding, but to be able to dance, and to have a hobby like that, it's a good stress reliever. If I'm coding, or doing some homework problem and I want to take a breather, I go practice."
Loi's post-graduation plans are not set in stone, but she said she is leaning toward graduate school.
As for dance, Loi hopes to continue on with her beloved hobby. She has reached out to a local dancer who is starting a professional dance group in Knoxville called Grounded Contemporary Dance Company; after agreeing to choreograph a piece for the group, Loi will perform the routine in February 2015.