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Pleasant Surprises from an Unexpected Detour: Broadening the Horizons of a Career in the Arts

5 Sep
My first experience with American Ballet Theatre was going to see Maria Kochetkova perform Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House with my mother. I remember barely being able to keep still in my chair, wanting to pounce up and join in the choreography. I remember leaving Lincoln Center on the 1 Tain with the largest smile on my face, not only feeling more inspired than ever to keep dancing, but also that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
My next experience with American Ballet Theatre was dancing in their three-week Collegiate Summer Intensive in the June of 2016. I soaked in every last moment of being in the studios; I was beginning my Freshman year of college in the Fall and I was getting too old for most Summer Intensives. A classmate had applied to be a counselor for the five-week intensive, and I thought that was something I would definitely be interested in.
The next Spring I composed an email to the Summer Intensive staff inquiring about the Summer Counselor position and was asked to come in for an interview. There, they asked if I would be interested in an internship for the summer with the JKO Pre-Professional Division.
It was incredibly unexpected: I was still only 18 and had only finished my first year of college. But through out my experience this summer, I drew from and continued to refine my knowledge of ballet education and organizational, administrative, and editing skills. I worked closely with the JKO staff preparing for the school year with the students’ registration, refining the student and faculty handbook policies, collecting inventory of the uniforms, and mailing out the teacher and accompanist contracts.
As the school is not in session during the summer I also had the opportunity to assist in other areas of ABT Education Offices, such as Project Plié and the multiple Summer Intensives happening both in NYC and across the United States.
With the internship program we also had other opportunities, such as an exchange program with Roundabout Theatre, a visit to DanceMedia’s Pointe Magazine, tickets to experience some of ABT’s Metropolitan Opera season, and even a backstage tour of the Met. On top of this, every week we would have intern meetings to hear from different departments of the organization and what comprises a career in arts administration: all the way from how ABT functions as a non-profit to grant writing. These lectures were incredibly eye opening for me, as previous to this summer I had only experience as a dancer; I learned of so many more ways the arts can be turned into a career.
Overall, I was immensely moved by the amount of effort ABT placed into the outreach of dance for the youth and in the local schools. In a time where the arts are struggling to remain relevant, ABT is at the forefront of the mission. At the Young People’s Ballet Workshop students from public schools from the NYC area poured into the Metropolitan Opera House to watch some of their peers perform alongside company dancers, and it thrilled me to see the amount of unconfined excitement buzzing in a room full of young students.
I saw them sitting in the seats where I watched ABT perform for the first time, and just looking at the gleam in their eyes and the uncontained smile of their faces that they also were not just inspired to move, but that they could accomplish anything they put their minds to as well.
It was an honor this summer to intern with American Ballet Theatre and to know, that in my small ways, I am helping young dancers to be inspired just as I was and I would recommend this opportunity to anyone interested in any form of arts administration.
Kasey Boekema
JKO School Intern
Summer 2017
Kasey Broekema is 19 years old entering her sophomore year at Columbia University studying dance and English.

Third Time’s the Charm

29 Aug

One story that I am always hesitant to tell at first is the one about how exactly I landed at ABT during the summer of 2017. But, I feel that there is no better way for me to express how honored and grateful I am to be one of the interns selected for this semester:

I had first applied to be an intern the summer after my freshman year of college (2015) and had received an email months later about how my application had been rejected. “No matter,” I told myself. After all, I still had so many years of school left to go and I could “always apply again.” Well, I definitely did keep to my word and applied for a second time two years later. As you may have guessed, I was rejected- yet again. Finally, I decided to apply for a third time and told myself that if I didn’t get it this time around, I would give up and move on to other interests. However, to my surprise, I was checking my email one day when I noticed a message from the Special Events Manager saying that she was having trouble contacting me. Long story short, I had gotten the internship!

I’m proud to say that after my time here at ABT, it was worth the wait! I have been so lucky to have wonderful mentors (Claire and Gwen!) who always made sure that I knew exactly why I was doing something, what it would be used for, and how I could accomplish my task. I can honestly say that everyone at ABT has been more than willing to help interns learn about the organization or a specific department. From my time at ABT, I had the chance to experience first hand things like how to staff a dress rehearsal and consider each step of the event planning process.

Lastly, I would like to say that the weekly intern meetings are an important aspect of ABT’s internship program that really make it stand out from the rest. These meetings allowed us to meet people in other departments and talk about not just job duties, but also their career trajectory and the steps along the way to their current position. They were also really important because it showed me that ABT was investing in our education/learning. They weren’t just looking for an extra set of hands to help out- they were genuinely committed to our professional development so that we can work in all spheres of performing arts administration and the non-profit sector even after our time at 890. 

Jennifer Ly

Special Events Intern

Summer 2017

My Summer at ABT

27 Aug

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern at ABT. While here I was able to learn so much about the inner workings of the company and how a non-profit organization operates. Not only did I get to learn about the Marketing Department in my day-to-day work, I was also able to learn about all different departments through our weekly intern meetings. At these meetings I was able to learn about how a non-profit differs from a for-profit organization, I learned about the Institutional Support Department and what goes into the company receiving grants and donations, and I was able to learn about the Finance Department and what goes into the ABT budget and the different ways to manage and plan the finances so that the company can stay afloat.

Outside of the meetings I was in the Marketing Department helping with various projects and social media. The major project I worked on was an exhibit for the Google Cultural Institute, which involved a synopsis or description and a picture of every ballet the company has ever performed. I was able to work on this project on my own and it ended up being over 650 slides!

My favorite moment from my internship experience was getting a backstage tour of the met and even getting to walk onto the stage. It was so amazing to look out and see all of the seats and lights. It was even more amazing when I were backstage I saw Principal Dancer Hee Seo warming up before her performance of Onegin, which I got free tickets for.

My ABT experience has been a great one and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn in such an exciting and interesting environment.

Elena Schwartz

Marketing Intern

Summer 2017

Perks of Being an ABT Intern

27 Jun
Being ABT’s Special Events Intern for the past spring semester has been an absolute honor. As a former ballet student, American Ballet Theatre was a company that I have always admired, and to be given the opportunity to support the company as an intern is just a dream come true. Perhaps my favorite part of the entire experience was the opportunity to hear from guest speakers weekly, who gave insight into the different departments of ABT and the collaborative efforts that make ABT the top classical ballet company in the country.

This semester, we had the privilege of hearing from speakers from Institutional Support and the Financial department to Stage Management and Public Relations. My favorite speaker was Ashley Baer, one of ABT’s two company managers. I found a lot of my own journey in hers. Ashley was also a former dance student with an interest in combining her own dance experience with business studies. Her job at ABT is so fascinating as she gets to tour with the dancers as well as build valuable relationships with them. Hearing her journey to ABT as affirmed my desire to work as a company manager for a top-tier classical ballet company.

These meetings have been a wonderful way of learning more about the staff at ABT. Everybody here is so dedicated to making the company the success that it is and truly love the art of ballet. It has been an absolute joy to be a part of it.

Emily Newman
Special Events Intern
Spring 2017

A (Not So Typical) Day in the Life

16 Aug

On June 22, I was a month into the ABT internship program and had just finished working my first National Training Curriculum Teacher Training session. I spent the day finalizing exams and certificates, preparing for the next training sessions in July, and chatting with the rest of the NTC staff about the previous night’s performance of Romeo and Juliet in anticipation of what was to come later that night. I was out the door of 890 by late afternoon and rushed over to the Met to begin what I knew would be a night to remember.

 

After meeting the rest of the ABT and Roundabout Theatre interns at the Met fountain, we went inside for a conversation with ABT General Manager, David Lansky. I spent the hour-long talk at the edge of my seat, absorbing every bit of company life that I could. As a longtime ballet dancer and enthusiast, I could not help but be enthralled by the stories that epitomized the old truism, “the show must go on.” Listening to the challenges that arise due to the nature of live performances and how the ABT dancers and staff overcome them gave me an even greater respect and love for this art form.

 

After the talk, we strolled between sets and stagehands and Alexandre Hammoudi’s pirouettes to get a view of what the company sees every day during the Met season. As I stood on the Met stage, I could only think of the history that stage has seen. From Mikhail Baryshnikov to Misty Copeland, the thought of sharing that space with so many who changed the ballet world left me speechless and floating among the clouds. That feeling and the view of the empty audience seats with the lavish chandelier hanging above are two of the most vivid memories I will carry on from this internship experience.

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As I ran to catch a train at the end of the night, I could not help but feel tremendously grateful for the magical day I just had. In addition to another great day in the education department, the talk with David Lansky, and the backstage tour, I also got to see my childhood ballet idol, Gillian Murphy, have a stunning and heartbreaking performance as Juliet. I felt like the luckiest intern in the world.

Although not every day at ABT was as glamorous as this one, it left me in a dream-like state for the rest of the summer, ready to take on more teacher training sessions and share my love of ballet with coworkers and soon-to-be certified teachers. I truly could not be more thankful for the experience and open doors ABT- and specifically NTC- has provided me this summer, and I know that I will forever look back fondly on my summer at America’s National Ballet Company.

Brittany Hurley

National Training Curriculum Intern

Summer 2016

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What a Liberal Arts Education Doesn’t Offer

7 Aug

At Vassar College, “finance” or “business” were esoteric words for a liberal arts student’s vocabulary. As an Urban Studies major, the closest I had gotten to these words in class was when talking about the income inequality gap with an Economics professor. While I love how a liberal art’s education challenges students to become well rounded and exceptional in myriad academic subjects, it is hard to venture outside of academia into the professional world while on campus.

Interning at ABT this summer has granted me the unique opportunity to get the pre-professional experience I yearned for outside of the classroom. While any internship will give a student exposure to the work environment, our Thursday meetings are what gave me tangible information about the mysterious business world. Once a week, as all the interns sat at the round table at 11 in the morning, we’d have the opportunity to hear an employee speak about their responsibilities, challenges, and joys here at ABT. From the finance department to the head of institutional support, I learned what it took to run a national ballet company, and even more so what it took to run a company in general.

As I sat around this round table every Thursday morning, I’d see the varying levels of experience the interns had with this side of business – some came from small liberal arts school like myself, some came from business schools, and others came from music conservatories. Yet despite our spectrum of exposure to the world of arts administration, we always all had something to take away from these meetings. It was comforting to know that we were all here to get a meaningful experience out of the internship, just maybe in different ways.

Outside of these weekly meetings, I was tasked with projects that were outside of my academic comfort zone. In managing the worksheets for the Education Department’s yearly budget report, I was able to get hands on learning into how a non-profit organization organizes their fiscal data. Never had I thought that interning in an arts administration department would give me such experiences.

Along with the many lessons I will take away from my internship with ABT, I get to go back into my beloved liberal arts world with a new set of skills and experiences that no History or Hispanic Studies classes could not have prepared me for.

Max Goldner

Education Outreach Intern

Summer 2016

Center Stage Comes to Life

21 Jun

I’ve probably watched the film Center Stage at least 50 times since it premiered at the turn of the millennium. They call it a cult classic for a reason: growing up as a dancer, an obsession with Center Stage was an understood requisite. From the memorization of every line, to owning and listening to the soundtrack on your Walkman on repeat, to you and your peers begging your pointe teacher to let you perform to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” during your senior year recital, the thrill of that movie became an engrained part of my identity, as I believe it did any dancer born during the 80’s or 90’s. (For the record, our gracious teacher did let us perform “Canned Heat”—albeit somewhat to her chagrin—and we dyed our pointe shoes red, and did the part where they move downstage in the line en pointe, and it was arguably one of the most spectacular moments of my life to date. I say this only half facetiously.)

Given this context, you can imagine the intense restraint of giddiness required for me to maintain my otherwise always cucumber-cool state when I passed Ethan Stiefel (aka “Cooper Nielson”) in the hallway on my first day at ABT. I remember we made eye contact, and I thought to myself, “Could that be…?” My eyes must have given me away, because he looked back at me with a subtle, knowing smirk as though to say, “Yes. I am who you think I am.” It was equally as hard to maintain nonchalance when I started oohing and ahh-ing over a cute dog in the hallway (a typical occurrence for me… one unexpected perk of ABT is that many of the dancers and staff members have very cute dogs that they often bring in to work). I slowly began to lift my gaze up from the lil’ pup, only to discover that the dog’s owner was Julie Kent. (Side note: I have seen Julie Kent a number of times since this first meet-cute encounter, but no matter how accustom I become to passing by her in the office or the studio, it still takes a great deal of willpower to keep myself from shouting out, “I love you! You’re perfect!” Every time. Seriously.)

The final test of the indifferent New Yorker composure I’ve worked so hard to perfect was getting to sit down at our weekly Friday intern meeting with Sascha Radetsky (that’s “Charlie,” for any non-dancers out there). Sascha—(we exchanged somewhere between five to seven sentences with each other, so suffice to say we’re on a first name basis now), spoke with us about his best and worst experiences touring with the Company; what a typical rehearsal day at ABT was like; his experience spending two years away from ABT to dance as a Principal with the Dutch National Ballet; his interest in teaching and writing; and of course, a bit about how he got involved with Center Stage. Fun fact: apparently a different ABT dancer was originally cast for the role of “Carlos” in the film, but was unable to perform. The casting crew then hired Radetsky instead, and changed the character’s name to Charlie.

One of the many great things about my experience interning with ABT has been the setup of its 890 Broadway location. Sure, the offices aren’t glamorous (we are still in the nonprofit world, after all), but they are directly adjacent to the studios where the Main Company takes class and rehearses. I believe this arrangement provides an important cohesion between the art form and its administrative work. As a Performing Arts Administration graduate student, we often discuss the role of an arts administrator within an artistic organization, and the administrator’s relationship with the art form (s)he is working to promote. Anyone who is an arts administrator or is contemplating going into the field undoubtedly has an underlying love of the arts at the core of his or her professional interests, and this is an essential component of the work we do.

Nonprofit organizations—the category into which the arts typically fall—cannot offer financial incentives to compensate for the ‘less attractive’ aspects a job might involve in the way that for-profit corporations can. Instead, nonprofits offer a different kind of wealth: a kind of “human capital” obtained only from intrinsic motivation, and a sense of self-fulfillment derived from the fact that you genuinely believe in the good of the work you are doing—a belief that stems from a personal conviction towards the cause that you are directly serving.

ABT’s studio-office layout really helps to advance this concept. As much as I genuinely loved the substance of the work I did this semester, naturally there were days that writing and re-writing grant proposals could feel tedious or monotonous. During these moments, being surrounded by the art form was incredibly helpful: to hear the music of Shostakovich overflowing from the studio into my office; to pass by Misty Copeland rehearsing on my way to lunch; to recall the gasps from students in the audience as they watched one of ABT’s stars lift another effortlessly into the air during the Young People’s Ballet Workshop the week before… these are the instances that bear a significance beyond explanation. These aspects are significant to a nonprofit arts administrator because they are a constant reminder of why you do the work you do.

To contribute to and be involved with a company that I have idolized and revered from a young age—and to know that my work will help sustain this art form so that future audiences can be similarly inspired—has been a privilege. And of course, brushing shoulders with the ever-beloved stars of Center Stage hasn’t hurt, either. 😉

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2016 Spring Interns with former ABT Soloist Sascha Radetsky

Elizabeth Henderson

Institutional Support Intern

Spring 2016

So What’s Your Favorite M&M Color?

15 Jun

 

Going up the elevator on my first day of my internship, I was extremely nervous. ABT is one of the most prestigious dance companies in the world, and I felt more pressure than ever to live up to its expectations. So when the first question posed to me was “What’s your favorite M&M Color”, you have to understand that I was a little bit confused. I do not know if you are aware, but M&Ms all taste exactly the same. I thought long and hard before I hesitantly answered the intern coordinator Dennis. While this was a silly icebreaker so the interns could get to know one another, this question was the first of many very stimulating and engaging questions posed in our weekly intern meetings.

 

Every Friday, all of the interns gathered around the conference room to discuss a new topic relating to ABT or career professionalism. What I loved most about these meetings was the fact that they gave us a very holistic overview on the ABT operations even though our internship honed in on a single department. For instance, my internship was with ticketing and membership. This was very time consuming so I did not have many opportunities to engage with other staff members about their positions. However, with the intern meetings, I was able to speak to board members, company managers, intern alumni, and even the dancers themselves. We actually had the opportunity to talk with Sascha Radetsky. He shared his experiences about dancing in the company as well as filming Center Stage. I also really enjoyed hearing more about the administrative side of the organization. We learned about the roles of institutional development and company management within American Ballet Theatre. It is incredible to see how much work is put into organizing these efforts.

 

Lastly, it has been great getting to know my fellow interns. We are all here because we are passionate about the mission ABT promotes. I noticed this from the first day we all went around sharing which artificial coloring we like best. Additionally, I’ve used my peers as resources when thinking about my future career. As a sophomore, I find it very useful hearing other’s career paths and experiences. My fellow interns gave me great suggestions as to where I might want to look for graduate schools. Even though I wasn’t directly working with most of the interns, I still felt very comfortable with them. The intern meetings definitely fostered this sense of unity.

And just to answer the question you’ve been dying to know, I chose the color green. However, any color besides yellow would have been correct.

Christina Michalski

Ticketing and Membership Intern

Spring 2016

One of my favorite visitors…….

26 May
This Spring at ABT I’ve had the pleasure of working as the Summer Intensives intern in the Education Department, helping prepare for the exciting summer season where young dancers travel far & wide to learn from ABT’s amazing faculty at their various intensives. ABT’s educational programs are all so incredible & prestigious, all helping to train the future dancers of America. Working in the office alongside the people who make that magic happen has been such a rewarding experience, and has solidified how excited I am to work in arts education in the future.
Although I am pretty confident in the path I plan to pursue, one of my favorite aspects of my ABT internship was our weekly intern meetings on Friday. We got to meet so many people with different relationships to ABT; former dancers, board members, employees, intern alums & more! It was so exciting to meet these different people & hear their ABT stories, and learn about different aspects of the arts from them.
One of my favorite visitors was ABT’s Associate Company Manager, Ashley K. Baer. The company management team takes care of all the administrative needs of the dancers; contracts, comp tickets, benefits, travel & lodging logistics, etc. I loved hearing Ashley’s stories from the road about what it was like on tour with the company and having such a huge responsibility taking care of well over 100 people who aren’t just traveling for fun, but are there to put on a show and make incredible art each night! Ashley spoke a lot about how the ABT dancers are treated like celebrities abroad, and how appreciated dancers are in other cultures, which is something I found so interesting in comparison to America. I really didn’t know a lot about company management before meeting with Ashley, but I absolutely loved getting to hear about this exciting job, and learning about this different area of life at ABT. All of our intern meetings gave us important glimpses into different areas of arts administration, and although I love education, I feel so lucky to have interned at a company that gave us a well rounded experience & helped us learn so much.
Meeting Ashley was so informative & inspiring that if I wasn’t terrified of planes, I’d definitely be wrapping my head around pursuing company management! Luckily, my experience at ABT working alongside my wonderful mentors has helped me learn so much about arts education & I could not be more excited to pursue it in the future after this incredible semester at ABT comes to a close.
Meg Haase
Summer Intensives Intern
Spring 2016

Learning Experience at ABT

23 May
Being an intern this Spring for American Ballet Theatre has been a great experience. I have learned alot in the past 4 months and truly enjoyed dedicating my time to the company. The personnel is great to work with and one of my favorite parts of the day while being in the office is the music that comes from the ballet studios. Throughout the day you can encounter some of the dancers and sometimes even watch a piece of a ballet act.  Working for ABT has taught me how hard-working the staff is as they get ready for the MET Gala and how many people are involved in contributing there funds into the company.  Having the chance to attend the MET Gala and watch pieces of the ballets was a beautiful experience and the building itself is quite admirable as well.     The weekly meetings also helped me learn more about ABT,  my own career growth as well as listening to inspiring stories from the dancers. I would like to thank American Ballet Theatre for giving young adults the opportunity to learn more about the arts and the administrative side to it.
Marlene Coronado
Membership Intern
Spring 2016