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

Collaboration and connection doesn’t end after four years.

Alumni of the Division of Dance are recognized nationally and internationally for the outstanding nature of their contributions to the art. Many of our recent graduates have entered the profession with significant success.

FEATURED | Recent Alumni

About EMILY BERNET (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’16)

I was a founding member of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in Dallas, performing with the company from 2014 to 2017.

What are you working on now?

I am the co-artistic director and choreographer of Bombshell Dance Project. I founded the project alongside Taylor Rodman in 2016. I am also currently working with a startup company called Alto in social and digital marketing. I started with Alto in late 2018.

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

From dancing professionally and teaching, to starting a dance company, SMU gave me the tools I needed both artistically and academically to be a problem solver and take on anything my career has thrown my way.

What advice would you give students?

Take every opportunity to try new things and to put your work out there. Ask a lot of questions. And always surround yourself with wonderful people who believe in your vision.

FEATURED STORY: Dance Alumna Emily Bernet ’16 Is Building Her Own Career. Here’s How She Did It. 


About SAMANTHA CHIESA (B.F.A. Dance Performance; B.S. Sport Management ’16)

Touring company member, MOMIX (2016–18)

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

One of the most impactful experiences in SMU’s dance program was the Senior Dance Concert. I choreographed a piece for the show that included a large-scale metal sculpture (for which I received a grant to design and construct). The process of creating, rehearsing, costuming and lighting my own show helped give me an incredible understanding of what it takes to be a professional working artist. I also included footage from my work in the audition video which helped me land my job at MOMIX. The Meadows Dance Program is not easy but neither is the dance world. Expect to be challenged daily.

What advice would you give students?

Find what drives you as an artist. Not every class or discipline will be your forte but it is important to seek out these challenging experiences. Everything you encounter during your time here will serve to direct you toward the path you should follow. I personally loved athletic, modern work and using props. This led me toward my current career touring with a company that frequently uses large-scale props and is known for their physically challenging work.


About REID CONLON (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’17)

  • Apprentice with Elisa Monte Dance 2017–18
  • Company Member with Amy Marshall Dance 2018–Present

What are you working on now?

Mainly freelancing as a dancer here in New York City since I graduated in 2017. I am also a company member of Amy Marshall Dance Co. as of 2018.

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

SMU’s Dance Division shaped me into the dancer I am. It broadened my horizons to the entire world of concert dance, as I had primarily grown up in a competition-style studio. I was introduced to Graham technique, which shaped my body into a stronger vessel for movement; I dove deep into the roots and history of jazz technique and was truly able to shine; and I fine-tuned my technique through the extensive ballet training offered at SMU. I owe the dancing ability I have today to the expert training I received from the faculty at SMU, and I am a more well-rounded dancer because of it.

What advice would you give students?

Take every single class that you can (classes are very expensive in the “real world” and can be hard to fit in while juggling other jobs). If you have a faculty member you feel comfortable and close to, have them be a mentor. Ask them how you can improve and for any advice/wisdom they can pass along to you. Develop other interests outside of dance (you never know what could be useful later in life). Audition for anything and everything. You don’t have to accept every job thrown your way, but at least you can say you put forth the effort.

Never forget where you came from.


Alumni Dance

“It all comes down to the tools you have in your bag.” — Albert Drake BFA, Dance ’12

About ALBERT DRAKE (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’12)

From 2011 to 2017, I was dancing as a founding member of the Bruce Wood Dance company of Dallas, Texas. There, I held titles of dancer, choreographer, répétiteur of Bruce’s works, and artistic associate of the company. Since graduating, I also danced with Jonah Bokaer Choreography, touring multiple states and countries around the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform many other’s works, including my own, in galas around the country. As a choreographer, I worked with a broad range of artists, from students of studios and performing arts schools to professionals of the dance community. I’m now at a point in my career where I want to explore teaching, which is how I landed myself here at SMU.

What are you working on now?

Visiting Artist in Residence, Meadows School of the Arts at SMU since fall 2018

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

It all comes down to the tools you have in your bag. It’s here at SMU where I began developing myself as an aware and conceptual dancer that can utilize creative approaches to movement and choreography, and as an individual with confidence to pursue a competitive career in dance. I was able to explore and hone skills in multiple textures of movement that allowed me to be a very versatile aspiring artist.

What advice would you give students?

Because the arts are ever-evolving, you will need a very strong foundation in the roots of the medium you choose to pursue. From there, begin to figure out what it is about your art you value, and why. It’s essential to grow with it and include your personal experiences and personality in the mix of all that exploration. In my opinion, it all comes from the inside out.

FEATURED STORY: BADGE OF HONOR: SMU DANCE GRADS IMPACT TEXAS DANCE


 

About ALEXANDRA KARIGAN FARRIOR (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’07)

  • Associate Artistic Director and Company Member, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
  • Adjunct Faculty, Texas Christian University
  • Company Member, Amy Marshall Dance Company
  • Company Member, BODYART
  • M.F.A. in Classical and Contemporary Dance from Texas Christian University

What are you working on now?

Dance Faculty, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

At SMU, I performed classical ballets, Graham repertoire and Forsythe repertoire, as well as works by Alison Chase. All strengthened my versatility and thus marketability as a hopeful professional. I explored different ways to partner, express emotion, tell a story and shift my weight. My experiences helped me narrow down the genre I wanted to pursue after graduating. I loved performing classical modern and contemporary work, which ultimately influenced my search for dance companies.

What advice would you give students?

More often than not, choreographers hire dancers they know or who have worked with someone they know. Therefore, reach out and introduce yourself to industry professionals that come through town. Always be courteous, responsible and professional in all of your interactions; it is a tight-knit community both within the university and the profession. Involve yourself as much as you can. Don’t forget to make time for yourself to reflect on and nurture your passion and practice.


About DEEPA LIEGEL (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’17)

  • Apprentice Dancer, Limon Dance Company, 2017–18
  • Dancer, Barkha Dance Company 2017–18
  • Lead Dancer, Broadway Bares: Games Night 2018
  • Guest Artist, Bollywood Boulevard National Tour 2018
  • Freelance Dancer, Monica Kapoor Choreography, 2018

What are you working on now?

I’m an apprentice dancer at the Mark Morris Dance Group (Sept 2018–present).

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

SMU made me the most well-rounded artist and dancer I could be at the time. It gave me an excellent springboard into the professional concert dance world. The training at SMU taught me discipline, dedication, focus and how to find passion in movement every day. I was taught not to take dance for granted and how to push myself to achieve my goals. I also discovered the importance of community and supporting other artists. SMU physically, emotionally and mentally pushed me to my limits and encouraged me to expand my boundaries. I grew so much during my four years that I emerged a completely different dancer, artist and human.

What advice would you give students?

Take more notes to reference for the future when you don’t have someone telling you what to work on. Go to every class. Go to as many shows as you can, particularly ones NOT in your department or major. Find a dance teacher, professor or other industry professional and build a mentor-mentee relationship with them. When auditioning, don’t feel the need to audition for everything and anything just to get a job by graduation. Take time to discover what interests you as an artist and where you want to lend your talents.

FEATURED STORY: From Bollywood to Broadway, How SMU Meadows Dance Alumna Deepa Liegel Found Her Home in New York City


 

About JOHN MINGLE (B.F.A. Dance Performance ’12)

Cincinnati Ballet Second Company member from 2012 to 2013 (immediately after graduating from SMU). Performed works by George Balanchine, Septime Webre, Victoria Morgan and Devon Carney.

Dayton Ballet, company dancer from 2013 to 2015. Performed featured roles in works by Amy Seiwert, Jessica Lang, Septime Webre and Stephen Mills.

What are you working on now?

I am a company dancer with Alabama Ballet, which I joined  in 2015. While dancing with the Alabama Ballet, I have had the privilege of performing featured roles such as Cavalier, Chinese Tea, Lead Spanish and Herr Drosselmeir in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker; Fall River Legend by Agnes des Mille; the Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle; Von Rothbart in Swan Lake; and Madge and Gurn in La Sylphide.

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

The SMU Division of Dance provided me a great deal of insight into the entire dance world. I grew up primarily trained in classical ballet and always wanted to have a career as a ballet dancer. Now in my seventh year a professional dancer, I am so grateful that I was exposed to the Graham technique at SMU. It made a tremendous difference in the quality and range of my movement. I became a stronger, dynamic and more informed dancer. Additionally, the academic side of the program taught me how to articulate dance not only in movement but also in words. I have found that these two major experiences of my time at SMU allow me to stand out not just as a dancer but also as an artist.

What advice would you give students?

Be open to new and challenging experiences! When you are challenged, you grow as an artist. You grow as a technician. You grow in more ways than you even realize. The real dance world is full of harsh challenges, both technical and artistic, but your growth is worth it. Most importantly, remember that you possess a unique set of skills and ideas. Never compare yourself, or your work, to that of other dancers. Learn and absorb from the dancers that inspire you but never compare your journey to theirs.


About JOSHUA L PEUGH (B.F.A. Dance Performance; B.A. English 2006)

After graduating from Southern Methodist University, Joshua moved to South Korea to join Universal Ballet Company. Since then, he has created work for festivals in Asia, Europe and North America, winning awards for his choreography in South Korea, Japan, Canada and the U.S. He was the recipient of the Grand Prize at the McCallum Theatre’s 18th Annual Choreography Festival.

He was chosen as one of Dance Magazine’s 2015 “25 to Watch,” and was named “an important discovery” by The New York Times. Joshua recently served as choreographer for legendary soprano Kathleen Battle’s concert Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey. Joshua is the 2018 recipient of the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence. He has been commissioned to create for BalletX, Ballet Memphis, BODYTRAFFIC, Bruce Wood Dance Project, Company E, Dallas Theater Center, Eisenhower Dance, Korea National Contemporary Dance Company, MADCO, METdance, Tulsa Ballet, WaterTower Theatre, and Whim W’Him, among others.

What are you working on now?

Founder/Artistic Director Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

How did SMU prepare you for your work life?

The faculty’s commitment to artistic excellence has served me well in my career as a dancer, choreographer and as a leader; their guidance and encouragement has literally led me around the world. My friendships with classmates in the Divisions of Dance, Theatre, and Music have contributed to incredible professional opportunities as well as exciting and successful artistic collaborations.

What advice would you give students?

Approach every day at Meadows with curiosity, an open mind and an open heart. Give yourself permission to change your mind. And, always “test the spirits.”

FEATURED STORY: Aladdin by Joshua Peugh (’06): One of Best Performances of 2018


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