By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Breaking into the professional world can be hard in any profession, and that transition can be twice as difficult in the arts. But several recent dance graduates from Grand Canyon University are defying the odds.
Some are teaching dance. Others are paying their dues first as performers taking on roles in the entertainment business.
“They’re doing so many different things,” Dance Director Susannah Keita said.
After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Dance Education in December, Aubrianna Stough didn’t hesitate to jump into a career furthering her interest in ballroom dance. Stough is teaching and training at the Arrowhead studio of Arthur Murray, the international ballroom dance company, and has plans to perform and compete in ballroom dance once she is certified.
A degree she planned to use for teaching high school dance instead prepared her to teach adults by not only furthering her knowledge of dance but also helping her learn skills in teaching, self-promotion, classroom management and lesson planning.
“I think the biggest thing for me that’s going to help me in my future career at Arthur Murray is just being able to lesson plan,” Stough said. “I have a background in lesson planning, being prepared and just teaching in general because of my degree at GCU, so that was super beneficial.”
Some graduates have their career path mapped out long before they receive their diploma, but not Maritza Palacios. After receiving her B.A. in Dance Education this spring, Palacios wasn't certain what her next step was.
“It’s nerve-racking at first because I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said. “But I feel GCU overall has helped me lean on God, like I know that He’s going to take me in the right direction.”
When the East Valley Academy in Mesa needed a dance instructor, Palacios was quick to jump on it.
“That position came up for me and I prayed about it and it worked,” she said. “I feel more confident than ever.”
Palacios will be starting up the academy's dance program and hopes that she can help students fall in love with dance the same way she did.
“I think having the experience of learning how to dance and being introduced to dance at the high school level really made me want to do that for others,” she said. “I wanted to pass that over to students that aren’t really able to get that in a high school experience.”
Abigail Cavanaugh opted to use her dance degree, which she also received this spring, for a more performance-focused route. She was able to combine her love of dancing, singing and acting by securing a spot in "Newsies" at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. After the seven-week production ends Saturday, Cavanaugh has ambitious goals.
“I will be hopefully going to New York for a few months in the spring to audition,” she said.
Cavanaugh said her time in the GCU Dance Department always made her feel as if her instructors were invested in her training.
“I just really felt like I was really supported and had a lot of mentors in the program,” she said. “It’s one of the most amazing communities that I’ve been a part of.”
Keita compares watching her dance students venture into the creative world to a parent watching a child leave for college for the first time.
“I hope that the world receives them and loves them as much as we have here,” Keita said. “I’m a proud dance mom.”
Contact GCU staff writer Ashlee Larrison at [email protected] or at 602-639-8488.
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