Artist Profile: Caron S. Kim ’24 on Asian Visibility and Art’s Accessibility

Caron S. Kim '24 is a choreographer, dancer, and actress for Harvard's musical theater productions and the Asian American Dance Troupe.
Caron S. Kim '24 is a choreographer, dancer, and actress for Harvard's musical theater productions and the Asian American Dance Troupe. By Courtesy of Katherine A. Harvey

Caron S. Kim ’24 is known for her choreography, dance, and acting on Harvard’s campus — talents that she has embraced all the way up through her last semester. Just this spring, Kim choreographed the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s production of “Spring Awakening” as well as the Asian American Dance Troupe’s show “Eastbound 2024.” On top of it all, she played Ronette in HRDC’s “Little Shop of Horrors” while finishing up her Sociology degree with a secondary in Theater, Dance, and Media.

Kim grew up in suburban Connecticut as the child of Korean immigrants, whose heritage developed her love for the arts.

“Korean art and culture was a huge, huge part of my life ever since I was born,” Kim said. “I'm pretty sure I consumed more Korean media and stuff like that than I did American.”

K-pop, Korean trot, and music from her parents’ generation also fostered a sense of cultural connection while Kim was growing up.

“Being able to have all of those cultural points as bonding moments between me and my parents was a huge thing, since they’re definitely more in tune with Korean culture,” she said.

She also described her early experience with dance, when struggles with racial belonging and body image at age 10 led her to develop an “intense stage fright.” Singled out as “the chubby kid,” comments from teachers escalated her alienation.

“It got to a point where I decided that it was best for me to probably step away, which I did. And then I didn't do a lot of outward facing art for a while,” she added.

Kim touched on how acting in middle school theater helped to rekindle her relationship with her inner artist. In a fifth grade performance of “Willy Wonka Jr.,” where she “chickened out” of auditioning, she was inspired by a small ensemble number where she was able to briefly perform anyway.

“I was reminded of why I love to do this in the first place,” said Kim. “So that encouraged me to keep auditioning.”

As a result, Kim continued to participate in artistic productions throughout high school and college, even as the Covid-19 pandemic moved everything to an online format.

As part of a Theater, Dance, and Media course that Kim took during her freshman year, she helped write and compose a virtual production titled “NAME:_____,” whose script and lyrics are based on interviews with individuals on “what their names mean to them.” Afterwards, the team filmed clips in their dorm rooms and assembled a Zoom production. As a member of AADT, Kim’s first year also involved spending a lot of time “in front of a Zoom camera.”

Kim credits her desire to pursue choreography without extensive formal training to the abundant encouragement she received from friendships built through AADT, a group open to artists of all experience levels. She highlighted the feeling of inclusive community as part of her experience in HRDC as well.

“I think starting in a community like that really shaped not only my personal confidence with being able to do all of this art stuff, but also just kind of shaped my outlook on art in general,” Kim said.

Since then, Kim’s involvement in the arts at Harvard has grown to over 25 shows, from teaching 21 cast members to tap dance in “Something Rotten” to choreographing a deeply personal dance about achievement and exhaustion for “Eastbound 2024.”

Kim has also been a leader for several Harvard arts organizations, having served as Co-Vice President for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club and treasurer for the Asian American Dance Troupe.

She described the importance of team-wide communication and a unified vision in creative spaces, especially when treating acting, singing, and dance as interdependent modes of emotional expression.

“I really don't like to start creating anything until I've had pretty extensive conversations with the other members of the creative team,” said Kim.

When choreographing dance shows, Kim builds a story from scratch, from choosing music to developing a central theme into a storyline. Musicals offer more initial guidelines, as she must evaluate the lives of her characters outside of the show’s plot and the feasibility of movement while singing.

“We don't just burst out into song and dance, obviously,” she added. “So [I] really try to understand that: Where these people are coming from, and then also how to create, therefore, a movement world that is cohesive with the rest of the show, and then create choreography.”

An unforgettable memory of Kim’s was her first in-person campus performance in an all-Asian production of “Legally Blonde.” The production helped transform Kim’s view on representation on stage, compelling her to continue theater.

“I just didn't think that was ever possible, especially growing up with the arts background that I did,” said Kim. “And sometimes even directly being told before Harvard that I will not be cast in certain roles because they are not looking for Asian people.”

She also provided advice for students seeking involvement with performance arts on campus. Taking open pride in her FGLI background, Kim challenged the “unspoken pact” that prior experience is required to participate in activities at Harvard.

“[Art] doesn't always have to be for people who have been doing this for a long time,” said Kim. “So I think if I'm ever a testament of that — the fact that I've only started choreographing sophomore year of college, pretty concretely, and the fact that I've been able to do it for so long since then — it’s just, I really do encourage people to just go for it and try it.”

—Staff writer Neeraja S. Kumar can be reached at neeraja.kumar@thecrimson.com.

Department of Education Ends Harvard Antisemitism Investigation

The Department of Education ended its investigation into allegations of antisemitic harassment at Harvard.
The Department of Education ended its investigation into allegations of antisemitic harassment at Harvard. By Cam E. Kettles

The Department of Education ended its investigation into allegations of antisemitic harassment at Harvard, after a lawsuit filed in federal court in January contained the same allegations, according to an Education Department spokesperson.

A complaint was filed with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights last fall and prompted an investigation under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

The OCR’s case processing manual allows it to close an investigation if a lawsuit regarding the same allegations and seeking the same relief is filed against the same recipient in state or federal court.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the closure of the investigation.

The Jan. 10 lawsuit, which alleged Harvard failed to combat “severe and pervasive” antisemitism, was filed by six Jewish students at Harvard — including Harvard Divinity School student Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum, who graduated in May and has been an outspoken critic of Harvard.

The University has motioned to dismiss the lawsuit.

The November complaint was filed after a confrontation at an Oct. 18 pro-Palestine protest on the Harvard Business School campus. An Israeli student began filming protesters’ faces as he walked around the “die-in” demonstration, prompting organizers to block his camera with keffiyehs and security vests.

Two members of the “die-in” — graduate students Elom Tettey-Tamaklo and Ibrahim I. Bharmal — were charged with misdemeanors over their involvement in the incident, and Tettey-Tamaklo was placed on indefinite leave from his role as a Harvard College proctor.

The complaint called on Harvard to expel Bharmal and Tettey-Tamaklo and “others that assault or harass Jewish and Israeli students.”

The OCR is still conducting a Title VI investigation against Harvard over a complaint from more than a dozen anonymous students alleging the University failed to protect them from anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab harassment and intimidation.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.