DANCE ALUMNI


Featured dance makers and movers


Abbey Gauger 

"May 2017 summa cum laude, Graduate, New York Law School"

AbbeyGauger1

What was your dance training and background before coming to UA?

Like many, I have been dancing from a very young age… but my dance studies intensified around 4th grade when I became very involved in musical theater. I danced with a local studio studying ballet, tap, and jazz, but also with the preparatory program at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Most of our training was geared towards jazz, musical theatre dance, tap, and contemporary. I danced with CCM through high school, and really discovered my love of tap. I struggled to find a lot of rhythm tap dancers in my hometown of Cincinnati, so I began attending conventions in New York and LA each summer, as well as practicing independently.

 Why did you choose UA for your undergraduate degree? 

I was looking for a dance program that offered tap dance as a part of the core curriculum, and offered classes where I would be able to grow my tap skills. Many dance programs, if they offer tap, only have an introductory level or two. Additionally, I wanted to attend a school where the dance program would allow me to double major, as I was also pursuing a degree in psychology. UA was very open to this, and that made my decision easy.

What was an important learning experience for you during your time at UA?

I learned to set personal goals, rather than set goals based on the successes of my colleagues—I think that is a really important lesson. We all, of course, will (and should) be inspired by those around us, but in order to reach our maximum potential our goals should be defined based on our own capabilities, not the capabilities of others. We all watch other students in class, see the choreography they produce, and watch them land roles we coveted, but we have to remember that we are not unsuccessful, just because someone else is successful. We have to learn to measure and define our own worth, independent of those around us. Keeping this mindset actually ends up motivating you more, because you can “surpass” the success of others, but still be compelled to push forward. I learned to do this with dance, and it is something that has really stuck with me.

How did UA’s Dance Program prepare you for a career in dance or your current field of work?

My route after the dance program is a little unorthodox. I am now in my third, and final, year of law school at New York Law School, and will graduate in May. Following graduation, I will work as an Associate with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York City, hopefully in the Litigation group. However, the dance program has helped prepare me for my career immensely. It provided me with a strong foundation in diligence and discipline, both of which are critical in law school. It also taught me how to handle competition amongst colleagues, as you are often competing against your friends for spots in dance pieces. This is unavoidable in law school as well, where you are constantly competing against your classmates to earn the highest ranking.

The dance program was also an incredible outlet for creativity. Having the opportunity to choreograph works for a main stage four times, as well as take classes in dance education, expanded my creative outlet and taught me a lot about how to digest big projects. The ability to be adaptable and creative has also greatly benefitted my legal performance—I can excel in oral arguments and other public speaking engagements, because I fortunately do not have stage freight. (This skill helped me earn the spot as commencement speaker for graduation, and I cannot wait to deliver my speech on the Lincoln Center stage in a few short weeks!) I can also think quickly on my feet—a skill absolutely necessary for litigation. The dance program without a doubt made me a better student and prepared me to be a better lawyer.

If you could provide advice for an incoming UA students, what would you tell them?

Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. This includes your daily, core classes. The opportunity to take ballet five days a week, for an hour and a half, is such a luxury, and one that I promise you will miss after graduation. Every student should prioritize exposing themselves to all sides of the art form: training, creating, performing, and learning from the faculty and visiting companies. I know schedules can be very overwhelming, especially if you are adding on additional classes for a different major/minor as well, but don’t let the countless opportunities the dance program puts in front of you to slip away.

How has dance affected your life and your career?

Dance is not what initially drew me to law school, but it what made me fall in love with the law. Since beginning school, I have worked for organizations such as Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and with the Intellectual Property group at Cleary Gottlieb, where I get to work with artists and help them protect their creations. I love being able to work in an area I am so passionate about, and feel that my background in dance allows me to connect with clients on another level, because I understand their needs and creative thinking.

I would also say that dance has entirely shaped my way of thinking, and taught me incredible discipline and focus. I came into law school competing against students with backgrounds in pre-law, or other related fields, and I had no experience with the law. However, my dance background gave me the work ethic and stamina to study my way to the top, and I am graduating first in my class. It also taught me both attentive to detail and mindful of the big picture, which is an important skill when studying and applying the law. This skill also helped me earn an Executive Editorial position on our school’s journal, New York Law School Law Review. I know the skills I have learned from dance and the passion I have for the arts will continue to be a driving force, and asset, in my legal career.

AbbeyGauger2

Kelli Sanford

Recent recipient of the "2016 Akron Arts Alive Award for Outstanding Artist in Dance"

RED2013_Headshots-85

Night One 304 of 340 (2)

What was your dance background?

Coming from a very small town in Fowler, Ohio, my dance background before coming to The University of Akron consisted of 13 years of training at my hometown studio, Jill’s Danceshop, where I studied Jazz, Tap, Ballet, and Pointe from the age of 5 to 18 years. I was a dancer on the competition team and competed both as a soloist and team group member at local competitions.

Why did you choose UA's Dance Program to advance your undergraduate career?
 
The main reasons I chose to come to the UA Dance Program for my undergraduate career was the diversity of dance styles that it offered, and the affordability. Also, the UA Dance Program provided a lot of performance opportunities and choreographic opportunities for students.

What was your favorite memory in UA's Dance Program?
 
Having live music by great accompanists (on piano and percussion) in technique classes. I would always strategically place myself directly in front of or across from the musicians in my technique classes, especially in Modern, to really feel the music through my body. The energy from the musicians was special and such a great opportunity to develop my musicality of movement. You don’t always get to have live music in class and that was a huge plus to the UA Dance program.

Tell us about your life after UA's dance program. How did your experiences at UA prepare you for your post-college career in the arts?

My life post-UA has skyrocketed! Two years after earning my B.A. in Dance from UA, I went on to study at Case Western Reserve University where I earned my Master of Fine Arts degree in Contemporary Dance. The UA Dance Program made graduate school an easy transition because the UA program's versatility in dance technique and dance academics prepared me for the challenging aspects of graduate school.


Do you have any current projects or experiences that you are doing or just finished that you can share with us?

I am currently the Executive/Artistic Director of RED Company (Real.Edge.Dance) located in Hudson, Ohio. I founded this professional nonprofit modern dance company in 2011, and it is currently in the Sixth Season/Year. Just this past year I officially established the RED Dance Center in Hudson, Ohio where the company has its official independent residence and also the RED School of Modern Dance that offers technique classes in Modern and Ballet for teens and adults. Most recently, I was awarded the “2016 Akron Arts Alive Award for Outstanding Artist in Dance” from Summit Arts Space. Other professional and notable accomplishments and experiences include teaching at The University of Akron, Kent State University Stark Campus, Case Western Reserve University, Canton Ballet and receiving the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Pancoast Fellowship Award that enabled me to travel to Australia to study Aboriginal Culture & Dance. I also performed professionally as a featured soloist with Tikvah Company of Artists, Opera Cleveland, and Louder Than Words Dance Company. In December 2012, I performed “From There to Here” at the prestigious International University Global Theater Experience conference in Vienna, Austria and later in July 2014, I presented my dance work “SKINS” at the San Diego International Fringe Festival in San Diego, CA. I am also  a Certified Pilates Mat & Machine Instructor receiving training from Body Technic Systems Inc., and the owner of PHYSIQUE KINETICS LLC where I offer personalized Pilates training. Lastly, I have found a second passion in bodybuilding and last year competed in the National Physique Committee (NPC) Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Championship on March 28, 2015 in Lakewood, Ohio where I won the title of Overall Masters Womens Figure Champion.

What advice can you give to our current UA dancers?

Advice to current UA dancers…. well that’s easy…WORK! If you are going to make it in the arts/dance and want to have a career, you need to put in more effort than you think to succeed; you have to put yourself out there…the world of dance doesn’t come to you… you have to go to it! Dance is a very “greedy and needy” art form that requires 110% commitment physically, emotionally, and mentally. Dancers need to not only train in technique, but also need to cross train to prepare their bodies for the demands of physically movement. Dancers need to have the mindset to always keep developing their “artistic instruments” and have the qualities of perseverance, self discipline, and confidence to have any longevity in dance. Dance is not an easy profession to survive in. To thrive one must recognize the vast amount of sacrifice that sometimes comes with dance. The only way to succeed is to be adamant and consistent with your goals and desires. You have to be proactive in seeking dance opportunities no matter how small or big those opportunities may be, for every opportunity MATTERS and will make you a better dancer and artist. I will also encourage dancers to seek dance opportunities everywhere whether it's a local dance company or out of state. There are so many places to go to have a career in the arts.

Lauren Dangelo - BFA in Dance (2014)

The Akron Experience in a word, Commitment

UA Dance Program Alumni Lauren Dangelo

Commitment: the first word that comes to mind when alumnus, Lauren Dangelo, reflects on The University of Akron Dance Program. She states, “I made sure that I had a high level of involvement while in the dance program. Guzzetta Hall [Center for Dance and Theatre] was definitely my home away from home.” Long days of rehearsal and the energy that it took to be a part of the program was a big commitment; but in the end, it was what prepared Lauren for a professional career.

While at the University of Akron, Lauren was greatly involved in opportunities offered by the UA Dance Program. She choreographed and danced in an array of performances and collaborated with student colleague, Leah Abay, to create their own BFA showcase. This allowed her to truly understand the “behind-the-scenes” aspect of concert dance.  Her level of commitment was recognized with a 2014 Senior Dance Award. After graduating Magna Cum Laude, Lauren went on to be a trainee with the Charlottesville Ballet in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Currently, Lauren describes herself as a freelance dancer. She works with Verb Ballet on an array of different projects and teaches and dances for Cleveland City Dance in Shaker Square, Cleveland, Ohio. Recently, she began to collaborate with Cleveland photographer, Thomas Sawyer, to create The Monotype Collective. Lauren describes the dancing and the cinematography as completely organic because every component of the collection is created on site. Their future goal is to expand their work by collaborating with an assortment of brands, companies, studios, and other creatives, to bring together multiple mediums within the arts. Lauren states, “I believe it's really important for the arts, no matter what medium, to stick together. It's wonderful to see a community of different artists working together to achieve a common goal, and I want to be a part of that.”

UA Dance Alumni - Lauren Dangelo

Lauren encourages UA Dance Program students to get involved, keep an open mind, and leave all doors wide open. Lauren offers advice, “You never know what something will be like, or how that opportunity or connection you made will benefit you in the future. The opportunities that the University of Akron's Dance Program has given me have been endless!”

Check out Lauren’s work.

The Monotype Collective

 

James Robey

Dance-maker, educator on rewarding career path

James Robey

What was your dance background before coming to UA?

I trained at a small recreational studio in Medina County. Most of my training was in Jazz and entertainment and I knew I would benefit from a solid ballet training and gaining more experience with concert dance. The University of Akron offered a dance program that provided me with the opportunity to gain that experience and training.

Why did you choose UA and how did the dance program prepare you for your career? 

I could go on forever with this question. The University of Akron is really invaluable to the community. Location played a big part. I was a first-generation college student in my family so college seemed as if it may not be possible. The University of Akron being only 45 minutes from my home allowed me to commute and provided a dance program that fit my needs.

Getting to work with passionate faculty members such as Jerry Burr, Kathleen Davis, Inna Stabrova, Priscilla Wagner, Tom Smith, Margaret Carlson and Marc Ozanich everyday really inspired me and prepared me for the rigor of a professional career both nationally and internationally. Also, studying in Northeastern Ohio really teaches you a “work hard, be nice” mentality that you often can’t find anywhere else.

James Robey - UA Dance Alumni What is your favorite UA memory? 

I have many memories from being at The University of Akron. One that stands out was during my senior year when I got the opportunity to experience Horton technique with former Alvin Ailey dancer Milton Myers, who I ended up working with later in my career. Through this experience I was able to explore Horton technique, which seemed to fit my body well and make a connection with a well-known dance professional that carried on after my studies at Akron.

You have worked in so many different areas of the dance world.
Is that what you envisioned for your career? 

What has been the most rewarding? I never envisioned my career path being what it is today. I always knew I wanted to perform and that my fall back would always be dance. I love all aspects of the art form and knew I would always be a part of it somehow. Teaching has been the most rewarding part of my career. I have had so many teachers who have inspired me and allowed me to guide other dancers.

If you had to provide advice for an incoming UA dancer, what would you say?

I would tell them to work hard and make connections with people. A lot of dancers today have experience in competition and become accustomed to a “me vs. you” mentality. It is so important for dancers to understand ensemble work. Learning how to work together with other dancers along with their technical training and UA’s dance program provides that.

Read James' Bio

Kelsey Schlabaugh - BA in Dance with a Business Cognate (2013)

Tap dancing her way from UA into the streets of Chicago


Kelsey, why did you choose UA's dance program for your undergraduate career?

It was just far enough that I could still travel home occasionally and one of the more affordable universities with a dance program. I observed dance classes on a visit and MaryAnn Black's tap and jazz classes were big selling points.

Why did you choose to move to Chicago to pursue your career?

Every time I visited Chicago for auditions, job searches, or weekend trips it always felt right. The tap community here is very diverse and there are many avenues that can be explored within it. 

I actually first came across jorsTAP Chicago on a Google search. It still amazes me that I am dancing with the company that I once spent evenings watching on YouTube. 

How has UA's Dance Program prepared you for a successful dance career?

Dancing at UA taught me the importance of professionalism in the classroom and rehearsal setting. It's not always just about the dancing, your dependability and how you carry yourself play a large role as well. 

Do you often street perform and what are your street performances like?

My friend Carmen and I try to get out once a week to street perform, however weather and scheduling can sometimes affect our plans. It is a common misconception that performers are doing this just to hustle people for money. That is not our motive. We decided to peddle because we want to further develop our technique, improvisation, and performance skills in order to engage an audience. It is always fun to see how street goers will react to our dancing and it gives us an outlet to share our art form with others. 

What are your future goals and endeavors?

There are so many incredible tap dancers in Chicago. Being surrounded by so much talent it's easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others which is why I want to continue to build my own voice as a dancer through the development of my technique, improvisation, and choreography. I am always working to find new performance opportunities. Staying challenged keeps me out of my comfort zone.

What is some advice that you would give current UA dance students?

Network, network, network! It really is incredible how small the dance world is. Making meaningful connections leads to more opportunities. Be persistent. Lots of doors will close, but eventually the right one will open. Love yourself. Draw from those that inspire you and draw from within as you continue developing yourself as a dancer and individual.  

Karen Ziemba

Started at Akron, Starred on Broadway

University of Akron dance alumni

Story and Photos


Share Your Alumni Story


We enjoy hearing what our alumni have been up to since graduating! Share your story with us or sign up for the DTAA alumni e-newsletter. 

Alumni Update Form