A dancer’s journey does not have to end after graduating high school, there are many paths dancers can take! Many move on to dance at Universities, College for the arts, teaching/choreography, joining a company, or moving to a major city like the big apple ~ NEW YORK CITY.
One of Northlands Alumni Alyssa Ness has been living in New York for years, let’s hear from her!
What was your first year in NYC like as a dancer?
My first year living in NYC as a dancer I was attending Marymount Manhattan College as a dance major. I had been to NYC many times before over the summers growing up, attending dance competitions, conventions, and ballet summer intensives. I always knew growing up that NYC was the place I wanted to be once graduating high school. I loved the hustle and bustle of the city and the endless opportunities for everyone, not even just for dancers. There is something so magical about NYC where it feels like everyone is constantly finding ways to make their dreams into reality. Going to college in NYC was a great way for me to transition into adulthood. Having a community of friends, invested teachers, and a safe place to explore my studies while in a big city was so beneficial for me. NYC can be a scary and overwhelming place when first moving there as it is very different from MN, but it can also be a beautiful place to learn important life lessons and learn how to be independent. Going to school helped bridge this gap for me. It gave me safety and security, allowed me to make connections with teachers and choreographers that could potentially give me a job later on after graduating college, while helping me adjust to living on my own in a big city for the first time.
What opportunity do dancers have in the big apple?
Endless opportunities! It all just depends on what kind of work you want to do in the dance world. In NYC there is Broadway, ballet companies, concert dance, and commercial dance. Concert dance is more in the styles of contemporary and modern, whereas commercial dance is more like jazz, hip hop, etc. There are also the Rockettes too, just to name a few options. There are tons of different paths for dance, depending on what styles you would like to focus on. It’s always good to be versatile so that you can keep all of your options open. Even with Broadway shows, styles are changing so that it not only includes a traditional musical theater dance style. Now there are Broadway shows where tap and hip hop are just as important too.
If you could tell the younger dancer inside you, what would that be?
I would tell myself to dream big. But know, dreams are just dreams until you put in the work. Consistent work. There will be times where you are down, times where you fall out of love with dance, times where people will tell you “you can’t do it”. You can and you will. You will hear a hundred “no’s” before you hear that one special “yes” to booking a gig. Sometimes it only comes down to hair color or your height, which are things out of your control, and that’s okay. Don’t confuse that with your worth or your talent. Stay patient, stay focused, and keep finding ways to stay inspired. Go to class, take tons of different styles of dance, and learn from others. You are and always will be a student first. Versatility is so so important. And I would tell myself to take singing lessons because if you want to be on Broadway, singing is a must. I so wish I would have started singing earlier.
Favorite things about being a dancer in NYC?
One of my favorite things about being a dancer in NYC is the people. I love taking class and being inspired by all of the people around me. There is always someone better than you and it is truly humbling and motivating to be around people who constantly push you to be better. I have to remind myself how special it is to take class from some of the leading teachers and dancers in the industry. It is certainly a tough profession, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is truly a blessing for me to being doing what I love as my “job” in my favorite place. It makes all of the hardships and work worth it. Being a dancer in NYC has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities beyond the competition world and has made me realize that dance is and can be a valid profession. It is a real job, and it is possible to do what you love as your career as long as you put in the work.