Kraus: ‘It’s like leaving a home’

Maya Kraus flashed a radiant smile, laughing as she apologized for the noise in the background – the source of which was her three daughters huddled around a karaoke machine belting “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo.

Leota, Kraus’ youngest daughter, was celebrating her sixth birthday that day, and Kraus was dealing with the aftermath of hosting a 10-hour birthday party the day before. Despite this, Kraus smiled as she folded the laundry from the day before, happy to have the ambiance of her daughters’ thunderous covers of iconic songs.

To Kraus, this chaos was like a dance, one that she gracefully navigated and freestyled her way through.

To Kraus, that is dance.

“[Dance] is not just New York City Ballet. It’s hip hop, it’s people like Lil Buck, it’s people walking down the street and watching them it’s – oh my God,” Kraus said, interrupting herself and setting her laundry aside as her eyes suddenly lit up. “I could watch a kitchen full of chefs and waiters and bussers and hosts…just watching their movements. Watching people go into a subway: that’s all movement.”

Having taught dance at Castleton University for the last decade, Kraus has passed on this philosophy and way of viewing movement to numerous waves of Castleton students. But at the end of the Spring 2022 semester, Kraus will be leaving her part-time faculty position at the university to begin working as a full-time dance instructor at Skidmore College.

In the interim, she is working part-time at both colleges.

Kraus teaches seven credits at Castleton University on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

She teaches nine credits at Skidmore College on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That’s a total of 16 credits spread over two different schools every single week.

“I’m definitely between two places right now,” Kraus sighed, the weight nearly visible on her shoulders. “It’s very weird to be in this liminal space of feeling like I’m constantly saying goodbye.”

Kraus paused, the song blaring from two rooms down had now switched to “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. Her daughters proudly cried out the lyrics while Kraus listened, forming her next thought tenderly. 

“It’s like leaving a home,” Kraus said, Platten’s song reaching a cacophonous and courageous chorus in the background. “But there’s excitement, there’s a little bit of victory for me because it took me a while to get my masters.”

After graduating from Fordham University/Alvin Ailey American Dance and Theater School with a bachelor of fine arts in dance, Kraus immediately began her dance performance and instruction career. It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that Kraus began to pursue a master’s of fine arts in interdisciplinary arts, with a concentration in performance creation, from Goddard College.

Last summer, after many years of intense work and dedication, Kraus had her MFAIA in hand, and this full-time position at Skidmore College is a testament to that.

“There’s this accomplishment of that, but then Monday, Wednesday, Friday it’s looking at this thing that I’m coming from,” Kraus said, the weight on her shoulders reaching her eyes. “I feel like I haven’t been able to process that grief yet, of leaving a place where all my kids toddled down the hallways and, in my office, all their drawings are on the back of my door. I can’t bring myself to take them down yet.”

As those same kids continued to sing in the background, Kraus grappled with the weight of this transition. 

“You never know, as an educator, if what you did mattered,” Kraus said, her eyes growing distant as she recalled the past 10 years of her life. “At least in higher ed because … you rent them for four years and then they leave. And you hope that you did, said something positive and that they’re taking that somewhere else. You hope you didn’t damage them at all as they go into the world. You hope that you catered to their critical thinking and outlook.”

But though Kraus may doubt the impact of these past 10 years, her students are resolute on the significance of her legacy.

When asked if she could describe a favorite memory with Kraus, Castleton alumna Cydney Krone stated that there were simply too many. 

“I can’t pinpoint a memory or moment, all I can pinpoint is her and how much of an impact that she has had on me and on everybody else,” Krone said, her voice growing emotional. “It’s too hard to pinpoint one thing because every moment with her was a favorite memory. She was just that special of a teacher to me.”

Junior Mason Parece concurred, emphasizing just how impactful her lessons and methods of teaching have been. 

“She taught me that any movement is dance and any dance is good enough,” said Parece. “I don’t consider myself a dancer, I never have, I probably never will but … she’s like ‘yes, that movement, even though it’s not technically correct, although it might not technically be a dance move, it is dance, and that is a way to express yourself.’ I think that’s a really important lesson to learn. If it’s movement that makes you happy, that’s enough.”

So as Kraus prepares to conclude this act of her career and begin choreographing her way through whatever comes next, she leaves behind a legacy of movement and inclusivity that will live on through the countless lives she has changed.

“You never know, as an educator, if what you did mattered. But that actually goes along with performance. With performance art, there’s no visual representation at the end, there’s no painting, and it’s the same with teaching,” Kraus said, that familiar light returning to her brilliant eyes. “Your audience was there.”

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