You could say Alexandria “Ali” Darr was born to dance.
An arts enthusiast since childhood, Darr’s love of dancing blossomed in high school but took on new meaning during her four years as an undergraduate at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“PBA is where I found my passion for dance and almost more a purpose in it, instead of just awards or achievements,” Darr said shortly before graduation. “The Lord has just taken it and made it much bigger in my life.”
Darr’s studies at PBA ended on a high note recently when she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in dance. During the May 5 commencement ceremony she was recognized as the outstanding graduate in the School of Music and Fine Arts.
“Two years ago I definitely didn’t think I’d still be in school let alone continuing or thriving in anyway, but I feel like Jesus most of all has pulled me up…it hasn’t been my own strength,” Darr said before graduating.
The 21-year-old who grew up in Celebration, Florida, also reminisced about PBA and the experiences that helped to shape her academically, personally and spiritually.
“From the start I was a fan of PBA just because of the warmness of the campus…The people are just so warm and so inviting," recalled Darr, who had applied to only one other university before choosing PBA for its Christian-focused dance program. "When I stepped on campus I knew this is where I was supposed to go.”
Darr also spoke of the invaluable support received from fellow students, friends and faculty members, particularly during a rough patch in her sophomore year when her parents divorced and she also lost some loved ones.
“If it weren’t for the Christian community, the Christian foundation, I would have probably not continued school if I had felt alone and isolated in the environment,” she said. “But here I just felt so accepted and so loved. The community, that’s probably what I’ll miss the most.”
As the youngest and only girl of four siblings, Darr is the second in her family to attend PBA and also win an outstanding graduate award. Her eldest brother Andrew majored in theatre arts and graduated magna cum laude from the university in May 2010. He was recognized as the School of Communication and Media’s outstanding graduate.
“I am just beyond blessed and just so proud,” her mother Julie Darr said. “It’s been four years that have flown way too fast, but it’s been an amazing four years."
Both Darr siblings participated in study aboard experiences while at PBA and benefitted from the close bonds they forged with their professors, their mother noted. In reflection, Ali singled out dance professors Jin Hanley and Dr. Kathleen Klein, as being most influential on her PBA journey.
"PBA has been a wonderful experience for both of my children that went here, " the proud parent said.
Ali Darr studied abroad in Florence, Italy in spring 2017 while at PBA, and also participated in dance mission outreach in Colombia. In 2014 she did a summer intensive program with the Rockettes dance company in New York. She served in myriad roles including as peer mentor, chapter president of the national dance education organization and administrative assistant in the Rinker Center for Experiential Learning.
“She’s a leader with a pure heart for Christ and a strong passion for dance,” a professor said of Ali in a salute to her achievements.
As the next chapter unfolds, Darr is gearing up to return to Italy this summer to work as an au pair for three months in the northern city of Turin where she plans to perfect her Italian and soak up more of the culture. From Italy, she’ll then fly directly to Omaha, Nebraska to begin a new job teaching, dancing and doing choreography in a studio that was started by a woman who had worked as a dance missionary in Afghanistan for 10 years.
“I plan to work hard for her and just learn so much from her about dance ministry and how to run a business and teach, and of course continue dancing and learning,” Darr said.