Since my time dancing at Chester Valley, I trained at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and received a high school degree (concentration in ballet), a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in contemporary dance and moved to Los Angeles.
A little about the school... UNCSA has a very rigorous and focused dance program. In each day you have up to 3 hours of technique class(ballet and modern), pointe, composition, up to 5 hours of rehearsal and on top of other academic courses. As a contemporary student, we perform at least three times a year: Fall, Winter and Spring Dance and other student choreographed shows. The repertoire that we performed while I was in school was very classical in nature. I performed works by Merce Cunningham, José Limón, Twyla Tharp, Lucinda Childs, and original works created by the faculty. My freshman year, traveled with a group to DC to perform an excerpt of Twyla Tharp's at the Kennedy Center which was such a humbling experience to have so early in my career. In the fall of my senior year, the Limón company hosted a festival celebrating the company's 75th year at the Joyce Theater in NYC where a group of us from UNCSA performed Concerto Grosso by J José Limón. This was truly one of the most exhilarating performing experiences I've had thus far. You can feel the energy of all the performers that have previously graced the stage and the house is quite intimate, so the combination of those elements creates a one-of-a-kind experience.
UNCSA also has a very comprehensive composition course through the four years. The first year you only focus on movement invention, without the stress of a final product. The second year, you create and perform a "Partita" which is a solo movement study to a Bach Partita based off of a shell. The Partita has a very specific compositional formula provided by faculty member, Brenda Daniels. The third year, you create a "Spree" which is a small group study with limited technical elements (warm or cool lights and a 5 minute duration cap). Finally, the fourth year you create a larger group piece and collaborate with a lighting designer. The show is fully produced by UNCSA, but the students organize rehearsal and tech schedules. Fourth-year also comes with the task to create what is a called a "Pluck" solo, self-choreographed, 2-3 minutes long to be performed in the fourth year showcase in NYC. The Pluck Project trip to NYC is student-run with faculty support and I was one of the co-chairs for the Class of 2016. We raised about $20,000 dollars in 6 months to fund a theater rental, airfare for dancers 15 people, t-shirts, etc.
I feel that my time at CVDA has helped tremendously in my career thus far. First, the technical training served as an excellent base that opened many doors for me to further my education. In addition, the amount of performing that we did as young dancers is invaluable. The confidence to step on a stage and feel at home came with a bit of practice for me, so I felt grateful for that incubation time. Growing up at CVDA meant growing up with an extended family that is ever-growing. That family atmosphere created an awareness of others that I don't think I noticed until a few years after I left. A little bit of kindness can go a long way. Mrs. Cathy has also created an environment that allowed me (and other alum!) to explore the many ways one can use dance training, not on stage: i.e. teaching, working backstage, and administratively. These other skills, on top of dance training, have launched me into a very exciting career path.
I moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduating in 2016. I have been freelancing, which is an adventure, to say the least. I have called on ALL of my skills, dance-related and otherwise, and have added some new ones to the list as well. I am fortunate to say that after a year, I have a very busy performing schedule the next few months and I have nothing to say other than that I am so very grateful. So far, I've done some commercial work, some concert work, and an opera with the Cleveland Orchestra. I have upcoming performances with Jessica Kondrath | THE MOVEMENT, Emergent Dance Company, the TL Collective, and Nathalie Wutkee. I have also been working administratively and training with AteNine Dance Company. I've also continued teaching and dabbled in stage management. I say this because even though I have chosen pursue dance, I feel a more accurate description is that I have chosen a career in the arts. I have a passion for movement that drives me, but I've learned that as opportunities arise... why not take them?
Advice to current CVDA dancers.. first of all: enjoy what you're doing. No matter where you see your relationship with dance taking you, what you're doing right now is so incredible. The time and focus required to be a dancer will serve you no matter what path you take later in life. If you think that dance is something that you want to pursue further, I really suggest doing your research. Know what companies are making work and find the ones that inspire you. Find a college program that interests you. Do you want a lot of choreography? Do you want ballet? Modern? More commercial or concert based? Where do you want to be, East Coast/West Coast, Europe? So many options!! It can sound overwhelming, but there's a solution! Reach out!! To me, to other CVDA alums, to friends from summer intensives, anyone! Talk to others about their experiences and let that help guide your process.
Love to all,