By Kylie Madry

For 24-year-old Emily Bernet, starting a dance company with her best friend Taylor Rodman was never in the plans.

“It was another, ‘we’re crazy people’ kind of move,” Bernet said with a laugh.

The two say their company, Bombshell Dance Project, is about what it means to be a woman in a time when women’s rights are changing.

The name Bombshell started as a joke, Bernet admits, “but it has this kick to it.” The two dancers are athletes, after all — not Hollywood bombshells — but “we’re obsessed with contradictions,” she said.

Bombshell Dance

Scene from the Bombshell Dance Project’s “Meant To Be Seen” (photo by Lynn Lane)

Their pieces, with names like “There I Said It,” “Meant To Be Seen” and “Like a Girl,” are powerful, explosive. The women get physical, and take up space in a world that has a different idea of what a female dancer should look like.

“It’s crazy how many pieces you’ll see where like, the girl is running away and falls down, then the boy comes and picks her up,” Bernet said. “We’re interested in something else.”

Bernet and Rodman both grew up in the Dallas area, meeting at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

“We would always laugh about how we would spend our lunch hours choreographing dances. Like, we were the nerdiest kids!” she said.

The dancing duo parted ways for college, with Bernet staying in town at SMU and Rodman heading to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

“I was drawn to the opportunity to get an academic education outside of dance, but I also really wanted a conservatory,” Bernet said. “[SMU] ended up being the perfect combo.”

“It was another, ‘we’re crazy people’ kind of move,”

Aside from her B.F.A. in dance, Bernet chose a minor in arts management — which she says provided her the skills to start her own company.

“I felt so lucky that I had the jumping-off point of being able to remember my arts management classes and thinking, ‘OK, this is how you start a 501(c)(3),’” she said.

While in school, Bernet became a founding member of the Dallas branch of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, the company launched in 2010 in South Korea by another SMU alumnus, choreographer Joshua L. Peugh.

After graduating, Bernet stayed on at Dark Circles and Rodman came back to Dallas to work with the group — but soon, both wanted more opportunities.

“We’re both just kind of stubborn and want to do everything, and [starting our own company] seemed like the way to do it,” Bernet said.

Now the pair have grown the company, adding SMU senior Haley Tripp and two others to the ranks, as well as creating a second for 15- to 18-year-old dancers.

The second company gives young dancers experience on stage — not just for free, but with a stipend added as well.

“We want to teach these girls that their work is worth something,” Bernet said.

Though starting a dance company at 22 years old isn’t typical, the two are typical in that they know how to juggle several jobs at once.

“There are just so few dance jobs that you can make a full living out of,” Bernet says.

For her, that means teaching fitness on the side and working in communications for a local start-up.

“My main focus now is growing our company,” Bernet said. “I want to reach a point where it takes all of my time.”

Follow @smumeadows and the author at @kylie_madry.