Saturday, July 26, 2014

Interview: Lara Spence

Photo by Jaqi Medlock
I share so much of my own dance life online and it's time I start spreading the news about other dancers in New York City. Meet Lara Spence, an amazing dancer from South Africa whom I worked with under choreographer Jeremy McQueen last year. Read what she has to say about being a foreign dancer in the Big Apple.
Where are you originally from and what brought you to New York City?

- I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa. Born and raised! So New York is the first place that I have lived in, other than South Africa although, I managed to travel and work in some amazing places before sticking to New York City. I came here to train in dance. This was the ultimate destination so I saved up and I moved here.

How long have you been here and what schools/companies have you danced with?

- In November this year (2014) it will be 3 years in the city. I started at Broadway Dance Center, with their International Student Visa Program for 6 months. While training in this program, I auditioned for the Ailey School and in September 2012, I started a year Independent Study Program at the Ailey School. It had always been a dream to train at the Ailey School and every minute of it was completely worth the hard work!

The first company I worked with was LEON Dance Arts. Since them, I have worked with Jeremy McQueen, Spark Movement Collective, Earl Mosley, Asterial Dance, Xhale Dance Company (now Michael Susten and Company) and currently a full time company member with Nimbus Dance Works.

What has been the best part of dancing in NYC thus far?

- Definitely the massive amount of opportunity! There is so much going on and it is easy to completely fill up a day doing things that I love. The people that I have had the opportunity of working with have been absolutely amazing! I have been blessed with environments filled with talented and generally good people. For this reason, work just simply does not feel like work.

What has been the hardest part?

- Training at the Ailey School was the hardest thing that I have ever done before entering the working world in New York. An incredibly intense program with such enormous value. Since then, living. Haha. This is a hard city.

As a foreigner, how do you balance life in this expensive city - are you able to have outside jobs besides dance?

- Unfortunately, as a foreigner, I am restricted to working in the dance industry only. However, I have been extremely lucky with the work that I have. I perform, teach and assist. I also have a side job at a fitness center to help cover my monthly costs.

How often do you get to visit home? What do you miss most/least about dancing there?

- Getting home is pretty tough. Firstly it is very expensive and secondly it is far away! A 21 hour flight on average. So it isn’t exactly a weekend trip. Taking two weeks out, to go home can be hard to do, but it is very important to make time to see my family and take a second to break from the rush of this amazing city! So I am to visit once a year. I miss Cape Town because it will always be home and it is a gorgeous city. However, I was frustrated with the limited opportunity most of the time and I wouldn’t change what I have in New York for anything. I love my life here now.

What are your dancing goals for the next season?
- My goals for this season are to continue to grow. I want to get involved in projects and expand my network. This is also my second season with Nimbus Dance Works and first as a full time company member. I am extremely excited to be working with this amazing company and can not wait to see what this next year brings!

Any advice for other foreign dancers hoping to make it in the Big Apple?

- Don’t give up! It can be hard for anyone in this industry. Foreigner or local. It is unsteady and unpredictable but I think we knew that already and probably wouldn’t have it any other way. It is spontaneous and exciting! I have often felt completely overwhelmed and in need of family support. If trying to establish yourself in New York wasn’t hard enough, adding the fact that we have to fight to legal work and live here, sure puts on added pressure. The rewards are great, so stick it out. See New York as your blank canvas… Now color it and create it into the image you want for your life. That is possible here and I think that is why New York holds a very special place in many of its visitors’ hearts.