What moments during your time at NJDTE stick out as particularly impactful in your training?
I was fortunate to work with some pretty incredible choreographers at NJDTE. Ms. Turano does an amazing job of bringing in all of these world-class artists to work with the company. I really enjoyed working with Iyun Harrison when he was creating “Vivaldi Violin Concerto.” He had a playful approach to musicality and I enjoyed his somewhat unconventional use of pointe work. Working with Gallim Dance’s Andrea Miller was also a big highlight. She introduced us to this radical new way of moving that I found quite challenging but also really exciting.
I knew that I wanted to pursue dance in college, but academics were also a big priority for me. NYU offered the best of both worlds. In between technique classes and rehearsals, I got to take classes in psychology, writing, and French literature—whatever subjects I found myself drawn to. Also NYU’s dance program is three years long, which was attractive to me because I wanted to get out there and start my dance career as quickly as I could.
How did the shift to medicine occur?
The decision to transition away from a dance career was certainly one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. After two years of dancing professionally, I was suffering from a few chronic injuries and my body was giving me signs that it might time to move on. I felt myself being drawn to medicine, so I started working at a fertility clinic. To my surprise, I felt just as fulfilled working there as I did when I was dancing. I experienced an enormous sense of gratification helping people going through something as emotionally difficult as fertility treatment. I realized that if I could feel such satisfaction doing little things for patients like scheduling appointments or getting their medications approved, then I could only imagine how physicians must feel on a daily basis. I applied and was accepted to the Columbia Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program and now a year and a half later I’m thrilled to be continuing at Columbia for medical school!
Growing up I was not interested in medicine per se, but I have always loved science. I remember dragging my mom to Barnes & Noble when I was younger so I could read about everything from volcanoes, to atoms, to the Big Bang. I was always very curious. For me, science and dance have always been intertwined. I applied that same curiosity toward ballet technique and figuring out how to make it work for my body. Learning about anatomy and body mechanics through the context of dance was an initial spark for my interest in medicine. Many experiences since then have expanded and confirmed that interest, but it all began with having my mind blown at eleven years old at NJDTE learning about how turnout is achieved by the femur rotating in the acetabulum.
Being a dancer gave me so much in terms of discipline, adaptability, and resilience—all of which made pursuing admission to medical school possible.
As dancers we commit wholeheartedly to our craft and that work ethic can be applied to any endeavor. We know how to keep going through fatigue, sickness, injury, you name it. When I was up all night before a physics final last year with a stomach bug, I was able to rely on the lessons I had learned through my dance training to stay cool under pressure and perform well regardless.
We also know how to work as part of a team. If you consider the beauty of a corps de ballet, there’s no denying what dancers can achieve by working together toward a common purpose. Movies and television like to portray the world of dance as being very cutthroat and competitive, but that has rarely been my experience. We know how to support our friends and colleagues (sometimes literally!) and that is another important skill that we bring to the table.
Does dancing in my living room count? I’ll admit that between juggling the premedical curriculum at Columbia and volunteering in a hospital, I don’t get to dance as often as I would like. But dance will always be a part of my life. I savor the opportunities when I get to take a ballet class, but I try to stay active regardless through running or yoga.
Your goals and priorities now may not be the same years from now and that is perfectly okay! Whether you decide to pursue a career in dance or in another field, you should never feel like you are stuck in the career path you are choosing now at eighteen. It is never too late to try something new!
I would say to simply recognize how fortunate you are to train at such a wonderful organization and to not take anything for granted. Being able to study dance at NJDTE is such a privilege and it will all go by in the blink of an eye.
Oh, and whatever you do, do not hit the wings when you exit the stage. You will owe Ms. Turano a trip to Mexico!
A big thank you and congratulations to Sam Parsons. NJDTE wishes you the best of luck, and is rooting for you as you take on medical school!
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