Former Cougarette brings high standards to Broadway

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Bree Hafen, a former Cougarette, will have the opportunity to bring her award-winning choreography to Broadway. (Photo courtesy Bree Hafen)

Mother, Latter-day Saint, teacher, TV show contestant, award-winning dancer. Bree Hafen holds many titles but has recently added “accomplished choreographer” to the list, which has given her a lot of national attention in the dance world.

Hafen got her start as a dancer at a young age by performing at theme parks like Six Flags and Disneyland with her sister, Logan Smith.

“Bree has always had a natural talent for dance and performing, but she has put in the hard work,” Smith said. “I know a lot of dancers who are very talented but aren’t willing to sacrifice what it takes. She is the definition of overachiever.”

In high school, Hafen continued her dancing and became a Sterling Scholar in dance at Timpview High. Eventually she was accepted to BYU and became a member of the Cougarettes, an event that would impact her future career.

“Being able to fuse the gospel and the spiritual side of dance with the technical and artistic side of dance seemed like such a natural marriage to me,” Hafen said. “So much of the dance world is not quite as wholesome and guided by high principles. To be given the opportunity to dance in a place where I knew all the girls there had the same values and we would never be asked to wear or dance something inappropriate was extremely special. All of those things shaped the future of what I have done with dance.”

In 2003, Hafen became the president of the Cougarettes and started choreographing pieces for her team. Little did Hafen know, her career in dance was only just beginning.

After moving to Dallas and having two kids, Hafen found herself with the opportunity to audition for the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

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Bree Hafen holds a poster that shows the support she received while competing on “So You Think You Can Dance.” (Photo courtesy Bree Hafen)

“I thought, ‘What the heck,'” Hafen said. “I really didn’t expect it to turn into anything. I was wrong. Everything in my life changed!”

She made it all the way to Vegas week when she began to have hip problems. MRIs made it clear she needed double hip surgery.

“I realized very soon it was over and that I wasn’t going to be able to do the show,” Hafen said. “I realized that my dancing days, or at least my real performing days, were coming to an end.”

Hafen then turned to another strength: choreography. Hafen’s choreography sets her apart because she focuses on uplifting themes and LDS standards, which contrasts with much of the dance world. Her former instructors at BYU can attest to her example.

“We all have a great sense of pride in seeing her represent all of us so well,” said Jodi Maxfield, Hafen’s former Cougarette instructor. “Bree has gone out and is being a positive influence to many, many young people that she is working with.”

With encouragement from her friends, Hafen entered one of the biggest choreography competitions in the U.S., the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Out of 300 applicants, she was one of 15 chosen to bring a piece before a panel of esteemed teachers and choreographers from all over the world.

To Hafen’s amazement, her show was chosen as one of the top three in the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Now she will have the opportunity to bring her show, “Positive Space,” to New York City for four performances on Broadway. Hafen, however, still faces one large hurdle: finding a way to fund travel expenses, production costs and many other things in order to make her dream come true.

Whatever happens, Hafen says she will continue pursuing her goals and dreams and encourages others to do the same.

“Everyone has their dreams, I call them aspirations … and there are so many times in your life where you will doubt yourself. I think that God put us on Earth to make experiences and make our influence known,” Hafen said. “Don’t go out there and be intimidated. Don’t let the world creep in and tell you that you can’t do what you do with morals and values because it’s absolutely possible.”

Hafen has started a Kickstarter account, where those interested can see her video and donate to her cause.

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