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Interview with Faith Anderson - Winner in Dance

Faith Anderson is the winner in the dance category of Scholarship in the Arts. She has been a dancer her whole life and plans to attend the dance program at Skidmore College this fall. She will soon be starting a mentorship program with Diane Harris, where she hopes to develop her choreographing skills, as well as develop professional skills for a future dance career.


AB: So, to get started, how did you first get into dance?

FA: Well, I was a little kid, so I can barely remember at this point, but my sister took gymnastics and we knew someone who went to the studio I've been to my entire life. And I was always a very independent kid, I guess, so just dancing around without my mom worked for me. And I just remember whenever we got to not follow the teacher and... improv, as you call it, was like my most fun, I love just dancing and doing whatever, and then I just carry through it. And of course, there's been rough points, like, "Do I really want to keep doing this?" But I still love it at the end of the day.

AB: Alright. And what style of dance do you do?

FA: Mainly ballet, but I've learned modern, contemporary, a little bit of jazz, and musical theater, but I'd say ballet and modern are my strong points.

AB: And what's your favorite thing about dance?

FA: That's hard. I feel like it depends on what I'm doing. If I'm choreographing, it's kind of the freedom of the movement, but especially when I'm performing, which I think has to be one of my favorite parts. It's bringing out the character in your character; is it really just a ballerina or does she have a story? You're like, why is she dancing and being able to fill in that character?

AB: Do you choreograph often?

FA: I try to. I've choreographed pre-professionally before, and I really love it. Right now I'm doing my sister's wedding first dance. I feel like subconsciously whenever I listen to a piece of music, I start choreographing it in my head, and sometimes it doesn't always get out on paper or out on other bodies, but I always keep my mind active.

AB: Alright. For your application, you were allowed to choreograph. Did you choreograph for your application?

FA: I did partially. I did a pre-choreographed piece. It's called The Dying Swan from Carnival of the Animals. And I kind of interlocked it with my own choreography to the same music. So I don't know if you'll see the video, but there's the variation, which is what you call it, and then my choreography in between in a different style. So it was ballet and modern.

AB: All right. And obviously, the submissions were different this year, as you mentioned in the video. How did you adapt to the digital application process?

FA: Yeah, it was hard because normally for dancers, you have to show off your technique and kind of what you've learned your entire life when you take a class with them. Whereas just with a video, you kind of have to think, what have I been working for my entire life and how can I showcase it in less than three minutes? And I really thought like, okay, I love choreography and I love ballet, classical technique, whatnot. So how can I combine the two? And my dance teacher suggested the idea of creating two pieces within one, and then we went from there.

AB: Was there anything that you found, particularly, like, especially better or worse, about the digital format?

FA: I think it's harder because you can't meet people in person, especially with the interview. There was a delay when we were talking, so I was really nervous because when I finished talking, they would still be nodding and then they would smile a couple of seconds later, but it was like, "Okay, I didn't do anything wrong." So I think just being in person can make things so much better because you get that connection. And you just get a better feel for people when you're in person. But I think you didn't really miss anything online.

AB: Alright, it was a struggle for everyone to adapt to that whole thing, especially for a lot of art programs, it's better in person. And then you won, congratulations!

FA: Thank you.

AB: What does that mean to you?

FA: I think it just means being recognized for not only my ability, but my passion for the arts in general, because it's not just a dance scholarship, it's a scholarship with Shoreline Arts Alliance, which also isn't just from my town. It's a Shoreline company, basically. So I think to me it kind of meant that I have a place in the dance community that wasn't just my dance studio, and then that I could be recognized because there's always that self-doubt, especially since I've only danced at one studio. Am I really actually good or am I only good here? So getting that scholarship assured me that. No, like, you are qualified and you're doing this well, and it assured me, and it made me so hopeful for the future and what I can do with it. With encouraging words from the judges and my soon-to-be mentor.

AB: Yes. And of course, you got your mentorship. Do you know who your mentor is?

FA: Yeah, I do. Do you want to know?

AB: Yes!

FA: I have Diane Harris.

AB: Alright.

FA: So I've actually taken classes with her before and her son is in my grade, so I know her. Yeah, she's a great teacher. She's a great person. I think she was one of the first teachers that I was actually... not scared of, but shocked by. She would not have us bring our water bottles into the dance studio, which seems like a strange thing, but it's just one of the first teachers to take me out of my comfort zone and keep pushing me. And I think that's really important to have as a student, and not get too comfortable. I'm excited to see how she will push me further. And also she doesn't do just dance, she always talks about nutrition, and how to be a better dancer and how to bring dance outside of your life. I'm remembering, I had a back injury in middle school, and I went to doctors and the physical therapist, and they're like, "we don't know what's wrong with you," and I actually met with her, and - I think it's called the holistic healing - and she was like, "so you have some scar tissue here, here some stretches to work it out." And that was just a moment of clarity for me.

AB: And you've obviously learned with her before. Have you started your mentorship?

FA: I just got the email yesterday, so I am emailing back.

AB: Do you anticipate it being different from previous lessons you've taken with her? And how so?

FA: The last time I took a lesson with her was many years ago.

AB: So it will definitely be a difference.

FA: Yeah, so I think there's a big difference in that. And also the fact that it won't be a class, like, I think she'll help guide me and how to get out there as a dancer, and how to take my career forward, rather than just being someone in the studio taking classes, which I love, but I'd love to also take my choreography out there, and start auditioning for places. And I think she'll really be good about how I do that and who I should look for. And I'm excited to see all the wisdom she gives

AB: Absolutely. And one of the best parts about these mentorships is that they help teach artists good professional skills. Do you see yourself becoming a professional dancer?

FA: I would love to. I'm really superstitious, I got them from my dance teacher. So if I put it out there, it's putting it out in the universe, I don't want to jinx it, I really hope so, and I think part of the reason I hope so is because I still don't know what direction I want to take it in. And of course, I can do everything. But I don't know if I just want to focus on being a choreographer, or focus on being a dancer. And then there's different avenues, like the Rockettes, or a ballet company. I think that's something Diane can help me with. But that's what I'm excited to learn, especially going into college, and with a mentor, and just learning more experiences outside of our small town.

AB: Absolutely. And while you're figuring all that out, what's your next step? Like you said, you're going to college, what place are you going, or are you applying?

FA: I’m going to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. They have a pretty strong dance program, from what I’ve been told. Unfortunately, I was unable to see a class, which is what I would have liked, because of Covid, but they have a residency - New York City Ballet has a residency every single summer, so there’s definitely avenues there, working with New York City Ballet. And I think from there, I want to try and find a studio in Saratoga Springs that I can teach at, because I love teaching, I’ve been teaching at my studio for the past couple of years, and I think really just seeing in a more academic sense what works with me maybe I’ll find out that [unclear], or maybe I’ll figure out that I don’t actually like performing, which I doubt will happen. But I think it’s really just seeing what’s in the big open world, and what opportunities are there for me to take.

AB: You talked a bit about what kinds of different paths you can take in dance, which is so great, that there’s a lot of places you can go, but do you have a specific biggest goal in dance, even if it’s completely unrealistic? If you could do anything, what would you do?

FA: My dream growing up was always to be a prima ballerina, even though I feel like that notion has gone away in a sense. But I’d say… there’s Tiler Peck from New York City Ballet, and I think she - kind of like she was very popular, and she’s still very popular, but she was kind of coming into her role when I was in middle school, and I’d love to follow in her footsteps of being a dancer at a company, and also being like a resident choreographer, because I love the idea of having my artistic vision out there, and also since I love teaching, with choreography you’re teaching but you’re also performing, and my dream would be to choreograph for the likes of New York City Ballet, or even Broadway or Rockettes.

AB: Anything else you want to say, anything you’re doing next?

FA: I think I’m good. I’d say… another thing about Diane Harris, and my start to dance was, I was in elementary school, and in fourth grade, I’d always look forward to it, Diane came and during math and science class period, we’d learn a dance with her and she explained to us as fourth graders dance isn’t just silly moving around, it can teach you new ways to think about math, about science, how you can turn, how you can count differently, and as someone who hasn’t always been the greatest math student, or, I kind of have a harder understanding of numbers, having her say there’s other ways to think about it, other than the way they’re teaching you, was really helpful ,and I would love to bring that to other elementary schools, and be able to tell kids ‘you can dance, and you can think in other ways and that’s fine.’

AB: That was great, I love that. Alright, well, it was great talking with you! I can’t wait to see what you do next, I’m sure you’ll be a big success!

FA: Thank you.

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