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Alison Stroming Spills On What Life's Like As A Dance Theatre of Harlem Dancer

Alison Stroming (photo by Aaron Pegg)

Alison Stroming is the kind of person who can do everything. She's a dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has 80,000 followers on Instagram (and counting), where she spreads positivity and words of encouragement to the next generation of dancers. In 2010, she walked away with the Miss New York Outstanding Teen title (part of the Miss America Organization). She recently started her own dance-clothing line, and she has multiple modeling credits with national advertising campaigns, like American Eagle, Free People and TUMI. With so many talents, it could be hard to pick a focus, but Stroming—with her pristine technique, inherent grace and compelling stage presence—says she is committed to her ballet career. If you're in New York, you can see Stroming perform with DTH April 4–7 at New York City Center.


On joining DTH "A few years ago I came to New York on vacation and decided to take class at DTH with a friend who was in the company. She had mentioned that they were looking for an extra girl, but I really didn't come to class with the intention of auditioning. After class [artistic director] Virginia Johnson asked if I was available to come back the next day to take class and learn some rep. I did, and from there, I was hired. It really just happened unexpectedly, and I'm so grateful it did."

Her daily schedule "I wake up at 7:45 each morning to commute from midtown to Harlem for company class from 10 to 11:30 am. Our average workday ends at about 6:45 pm, with an hour-long break for lunch. The schedule changes daily, but because we're such a small company, we all have to know every single part, so everyone can expect that they will be called for rehearsal each day."

On her as yet unnamed new line of leotards "I'm always the girl in class with the crazy leotards, so it's been fun for me to start a dancewear line that matches my style. Right now, I have three or four leotards that are sold exclusively at JUMP dance convention, and they've been doing really well."

On the surprising challenges of a beauty pageant "I thought, 'This will be easy. I'm just going to strut around in a bathing suit.' But no—it was really hard. As a dancer, I never speak in public, so the interview was really difficult. It was my first and last pageant, but I won. Then I got to do a year of charity work with the organization."

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Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

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@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

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Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

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