I first met dancer Adrienne Howard when I was 14, studying at the Rock School of Pennsylvania Ballet’s summer program. I’m using ‘met’ pretty casually here. She was actually my roommate. That’s right, I shared a dorm room with this successful beauty long ago. It’s my claim to fame. (Horrifying pictures of us to come)
She has had an incredibly diverse professional career- from Broadway to Target Commercials to the Macy’s Day Parade. Here she answers a few questions about her life as a dancer.
(Photos by: Broadway.com, Tyler Mark Photography, my own, and stolen from facebook)
1. Quickly walk me through your dance journey- education, experience, that has landed you where you are now?
I started dancing when I was 4, taking ballet and tap classes once a week. By the time I was 10, I was training about 6 days a week, studying ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, character and voice. I found that ballet technique was the most difficult for me, so the older I got, the more time I spent really trying to understand and execute the art form. I spent three summers studying at the Rock School (formerly of the Pennsylvania Ballet) and one summer with the American Ballet Theatre intensive in New York before getting accepted into Indiana University’s prestigious ballet program. While I did get stronger at ballet over the years, I started to realize that I would never be a true ballerina. I found that I was really comfortable forging my classical technique with more jazz and contemporary movement. By the time I graduated from college, I knew I would be happier utilizing my versatile training in my professional career instead of trying to just do ballet. My first job was dancing for the NBA’s Boston Celtics before becoming a Radio City Rockette in 2009. I recently toured the country with the Broadway musical MEMPHIS, as a featured ensemble dancer in their first national tour, and I’ve enjoyed being back with the Rockettes during this holiday season. I’ve appeared on episodes of the Wendy Williams Show, America’s Got Talent and Celebrity Apprentice, as well as recently being in a national commercial for Target.
2. What is your first memory of seeing dance/ falling in love with dance/ dancing? Are they one and the same? What made you begin?
. I remember, in my beginning years, not understanding a simple barre exercise called a rond de jambe that everyone else picked up so easily. My feet would get all tangled up every time I tried to do it! I couldn’t stop thinking about how to make it perfect, and so I kept practicing it until I got it right. I was so happy when I figured it out, even though it took a while!
As the daughter of a Naval officer, my family and I had to move around a lot, and by the time I was 8, I had already been the new kid four times. I’m an only child, and was a shy little girl, so with my ever changing homes, schools and friends, going to dance class was my only consistent source of self-discovery and growth. I’m grateful that I had that outlet from such a young age.
I fell in love with dance when I saw Fame, the 1980 film about young students at a performing arts high school in New York City. I loved everything about it – the excitement and energy of New York, seeing what auditions are like, how classes were held, what they wore, absolutely everything. I was committed to being a dancer in New York from that moment on. I started thinking that I was going to start a “Hot Lunch” song and dance in my high school cafeteria when I was old enough! Or at least dance on top of a taxi…
3. What are a few goals or hopes that you have for your future career? How does that tie in with the current comunity, travel, transitions, etc?
In terms of my dancing career, I hope to continue expanding my versatility. I’ve been blessed to have every professional job be completely different from the last, and I want to keep that train going. I want to approach every opportunity with wide eyes and open ears, and to absorb as much as I can from it.
In the future, my goal is be an athletic trainer for a dance company or professional production. I have to stay in the dance field somehow!
. 4. What is life like as a dancer? What are the biggest blessings, challenges in daily life?
Life as a dancer, especially in New York City, is highly unpredictable. You could be signing autographs for fans outside a stage door one day, and then a few months later, you’re making minimum wage at a survival job that barely pays your rent. Show business is not for the faint of heart, and everyone in it struggles with it at some point, which is why my performer friends are the strongest, most inspiring people I know. They have literally taught me who I want to be in this world, which is the greatest gift I could ask for.
.5. If you weren’t a dancer, how do you think you would be different, as a person?
Without dance in my life, I wouldn’t know how to express myself. I wouldn’t feel like a complete person. I dance to communicate, connect and relate to others, and without that blessing in my life, I don’t know what I would do!
.6, What relaxes you?
In my spare time, I like doing yoga, trying new recipes and finding interesting documentaries on Netflix
7. Who has helped pave the way for you- mentors, teachers, friends, historical figures?.
All of my teachers hated me, lol.
you mean, Wendy Williams didn’t teach you everything you know about ballet?
(PS insert- I distinctly remember one class at the Rock when our teacher stopped the entire class at the barre to spend no less than five full minutes telling Adrienne how incredibly beautiful she was. I remember ’cause I was really jealous. And completely in agreement)
8. What is coming up for you in the near future?
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 has in store for me. My goal is to continue working hard while keeping an open mind and seeing where it takes me. Determination never goes unnoticed!
9. Favorite theater you’ve performed in, costume you’ve worn, dance flick
Favorite theater – Radio City Music Hall!!! Favorite costume – My opening costume in MEMPHIS as a dancer in a 1950’s blues club Favorite dance flick – Besides Fame, Center Stage! That’s a given 🙂
Adrienne in her favorite costume from Memphis
What I remember most about Adrienne is how unaware she was of her beauty, how humble, fun-loving in the dorms, and hard-working when it mattered. Are you still really good at pirouettes, Adrienne? I remember that too. Many thanks for sharing your story. Cheers to a continued sky-rockette to success! (I just haaad to)
More interviews with incredible dancers- Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Dance St. Louis, Shanghai Ballet and more
And here they are, as promised…..
Rock School of Pennsylvania Ballet 200…1?
4th of July fireworks…Our 3rd roommate is the little frownie face in the back
IHOP (I Have Old Pictures)