Education: Bachelor of Arts in Dance, UNC Charlotte
Hometown: Statesville, NC
Laura Dearman started dancing at age four. At the time, she was battling pediatric liver cancer. Doctors were concerned about the long-term effects the chemotherapy could have on her hearing, so they suggested she find a non-verbal form of expression/communication (like dance!) "Long story short," she says, "I didn't end up losing all of my hearing, but I did find a passion that will last a lifetime!"
From Statesville, NC, Laura was a student in the Department of Dance from 2014-2018 and always knew she wanted to move to NYC post-graduation. "I truly can't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with dance!" she explains. Many of our alums choose the NYC life after graduating, hoping to make it in the Big Apple. We chatted with Laura about her transition to NYC and her advice for current students thinking about the move.
// What brought you to NYC?
I've known since I was 13 that I wanted to move to NYC. I was fortunate enough to spend my summers throughout high school living here with my aunt and studying on scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School! From then on, I was hooked. The New York dance scene captured my heart!
// What are you currently working on?
Currently, I'm dancing with a contemporary ballet company, Neville Dance Theatre, as well as other various project-based works. Up next, I'll be traveling to Orlando to perform a collaborative work with composer Angela Rice, choreographer Matthew Brookoff, and a cast of musicians and opera singers!
// What's a typical day in your life?
My schedule varies a lot from week to week, but I often find myself running around the city. If I'm working at the Met Opera, I'll take the 1 train downtown to the Lincoln Center at 8 a.m. to beat the morning subway rush. I'll work for about four hours before running to catch my 1 p.m. class at Steps - or sometimes, run to an audition! Then, it's off to rehearsal. Most of my rehearsals have been in the evening hours in either Queens or Brooklyn. This has made me into an expert at putting my hair in a bun on the subway. When I make it home, usually around 8 p.m., I make a priority of foam rolling, icing sore muscles, and meal prepping so I can do it all again tomorrow!
// What were you most afraid of when you first arrived?
I didn't want to become the dancer that gets so caught up in working their "survival job" that I missed opportunities to dance.
// Describe the moment when you knew you had made the right choice, to move to the city.
When I got my first dance paycheck (though it was small!) I felt the reassurance that I could do this. I've found that the key to achieving any goal is to celebrate the small victories along the way!
// What steps have you taken to establish a career in NYC?
Almost all dancers living in New York City have a "survival job." After some trial-and-error, I've been lucky enough to land a position working part-time on the administrative team at the Metropolitan Opera! It's great because I'm gaining experience in arts administration and I'm surrounded by artists all day long! Thanks to the nature of the position, I have a great deal of flexibility with my hours, which allows me to make it to rehearsals/auditions.
// What about your education at UNC Charlotte prepared you/inspired you to go to NYC?
UNC Charlotte's curriculum does a fantastic job of preparing you not only as dance performers, but as dance scholars. If it weren't for my writing skills and experience as a communications consultant, I wouldn't have been able to get the job at the Met. If I didn't have my job at the Met, I wouldn't be able to afford the time I have to devote to classes and rehearsals. I never imagined I would be a full-time researcher or writer, but the intelligence I've gained from those things makes me more informed in what I do (in and out of the studio!)
// What advice do you have for others who may be considering that move?
SAVE! In my junior and senior year of college, I saved every penny I could to make sure I would be able to move when I graduated. You need to save for any move, but especially to a city like New York. Also, don't hesitate to reach out to your UNC Charlotte dance alumni! There's now a huge network of fellow 49ers in NYC that would be thrilled to help you find your way. We remember being in your shoes! If we can do it, you can too. If you're not sure who to contact, ask your professors to help connect us!
// What was your favorite thing about UNC Charlotte's Department of Dance?
I've always been struck by UNC Charlotte's diversity. As someone who was primarily trained in ballet prior to college, I was amazed at how much I grew by exploring other dance styles. Now, as an alumnus, it's incredible to watch my colleagues develop such interesting and unique careers.
// What do you want prospective students considering the Department of Dance to know?
The sky is the limit! You can mold and use the program here at UNC Charlotte to get wherever you want to go! Don't be so concerned with finding the "perfect" path, make it your own path.
// What advice do you have for current CoA+A students?
1. Use the studio space to make a dance reel before you graduate!
2. Don't forget to record and save your choreography,
3. Submit for the things that you don't think you'll get.
4. Make friends with your colleagues because the professional dance world is really so small!
Photos by Sam Vargas and Robert Valenzuela