Alumni Spotlight: Sara Rodriguez

12 February 2018 Published in News and Announcements

We spoke with Ballet Alum, Sara Rodriguez about her experience at the U and life after graduation

When did you graduate from the U?
I graduated in 2014. 

Which Program were you in?
I was in the ballet department. 

What have you done since graduation?
Since graduation, I’ve been freelancing in New York City, which is both amazing and wildly challenging. I realized while still in school that I would not be happy in a ballet company, but that I still wanted to dance, so as a freelancer, I get the chance to do whatever I want for the most part. The only downside is that it can be unstable at times, and so I’ve never had less than three or four jobs at once. It’s been a journey, but I’ve danced for quite a few different choreographers here in the city and have found myself much more at home in the commercial dance scene—both as a performer and as a choreographer. I’ve done a little bit of everything from dancing in televised flash mobs directed by Derek Mitchell (he’s now a resident choreographer for Hamilton) to choreographing music videos for up-and-coming artists. Really, I’ve just taken opportunities as they come, so my resume is eclectic, to say the least. 

What are you up to now?
At this point, I’ve been in the city for three years and I feel I’m finally starting to do what I’ve been wanting to do. I’m dancing work I want to be dancing, and I’m getting to choreograph more, which is exactly what I hoped for. Most recently, I’ve begun creating video work (in commercial dance they’re called concept videos) as an outlet both for my activism and my art, and I have plans to continue producing meaningful work in that way. I was also invited to present my choreography at a RAW Artists showcase this month, which I’m so excited to do with my amazing group of dancers (one of which is a fellow ballet department alum!). Otherwise, I teach quite a bit and choreograph for competition teams. Something new for me this year has been getting to teach on the convention circuit and judge some competitions, which I’ve been enjoying so far since I get to travel to different cities throughout the country and see what’s going on in the competitive dance scenes there. Most of all, I love working with kids from all over. It’s inspiring to remember being one of those kids and seeing how life can take you all sorts of places. 

What was the most valuable thing you learned from your time at the School of Dance?
The most valuable thing I learned from my time in the Ballet Department was the importance of showing up; getting the part starts with preparing for the part, which includes how you come into the space. Is your hair done? Are you dressed like you want to be there? Does your body language say you want to be there—or does it say you’d rather still be in bed? Because if that’s what it looks like, there are plenty of other people who will gladly take your spot. Especially being here in the city, where there are so many talented dancers and so few well-paying jobs, I often find myself thinking about how crucial that is and how lucky I was to learn that at the U. 

What do you wish you had known as a School of Dance student?
I wish I had known that everything would eventually work itself out, and that it wasn’t the end of the world that I didn’t want to be in a ballet company anymore. I wasted a lot of time trying to maneuver myself into an image and a way of life I never could have fit for so many reasons, and I would beat myself up when I couldn’t “just make it work.” If I could go back, I’d tell myself to relax, everything will work itself out, you’ll find your voice soon, so just enjoy this time and focus on your training. The rest will come. 

How did your time at the U support your career?
My time at the U supported my career in that it prepared me to function like a professional before I ever was one. I learned what it means to have a job to do and find a way to do it. I also got some great technical training, which I do feel makes a huge difference, no matter what gig I’m working at any given moment; choreographers I’ve worked with and critics who’ve reviewed my performances often reference a sense of refinement and innate musicality in my movement and I have no doubt that these qualities are rooted in my solid classical training from the U.