Senior year of high school is stressful. The question of your future seems to be taunting you. What’s my dream college? Do I stay close to home or move away? How many schools should I apply to…5 or 15? What will be my safety school? Do I need more than one? As you grapple with these, you’re afraid the choices you make will define the rest of your life. And if you’re an aspiring dancer, you have one more provoking question to face. Do I even go to college?
I knew I had the talent to be a professional dancer but I was never one of those dancers that knew dance was all they wanted to do. I envied those dancers. I knew I loved dance but I was equally captivated by math and history. I wasn’t ready to give up my intellectual pursuits. My teachers at Miami City Ballet School all had one piece of advice for me. “You can go to college anytime. You can’t dance anytime.”
My issue with that advice was that the idea of college meant so much more to me than just academics. I wanted the full college experience. I wanted to live in a dorm, join a sorority, and interact with other students my age. I didn’t want to be the older student only there to get her degree. But if I went to college after graduating high school, would I be sacrificing my only window to dance?
After my Senior Showcase, Edward Villella, the Founder and Artistic Director of Miami City Ballet, approached me about joining the company. I confessed to him about the difficult dilemma I was facing. I had been reticent to tell him but found he was completely supportive. I still remember perfectly what he said to me at our meeting. “I could be selfish and ask you to stay, but this needs to be your decision.” Edward himself had gone to college before joining New York City Ballet and at a time when college before dancing was unheard of. In our meeting, he recognized that times had changed since then.
Ultimately, I made the decision for myself. I chose college and attended Princeton University right out of high school. At Princeton, I learned that college didn’t mean sacrificing my love for dance. In fact, Princeton is where I rediscovered it. I branched out from my balletic comfort zone into other styles of dancing, such as modern and hip-hop. I performed works by renowned choreographers, such as Twyla Tharp, Ze’eva Cohen, Susan Jaffe, and Mark Morris. I became one of the Artistic Directors of diSiac dance Company, a student-run dance group on campus where we ran, casted, and choreographed our own shows. I believe I am a more mature, well-rounded dancer today as a result of my experiences at Princeton. So when asking yourself whether to go to college or dance…remember that it is possible to have the best of both worlds.