Press "Enter" to skip to content

Notable Graduate: Alana Ortiz

Sometimes dreams do come true. And in the case of senior Alana Ortiz, her dreams are about to become a reality this summer.

(Sophia Colmenarez)
(Sophia Colmenarez)

Ortiz auditioned for, and was accepted to attend, the professional division Alvin Ailey Dance Intensive in New York City for the 2013 Summer season. The six-week long program gives motivated dance students the opportunity to continue studying dance in a professional environment.

With one woman in charge of the audition, Ortiz said the process was simple but intimidating.

“She seemed kind, but stern… she did not smile once during the entire process,” Ortiz said. “Being that I am such an extrovert and enthusiastic person, this only added to the nervousness I was feeling.”

Ortiz recalls anxiously dancing her way through these combinations; just as she was beginning to feel warmed up, the dancers were dismissed.

“I was shocked,” Ortiz said. “I had never been to an audition that only took 30 minutes. I left with a feeling of disappointment because I felt that my nerves got the best of me.”

To Ortiz’s surprise, she received an acceptance letter just three days later.

“I could not believe it,” Ortiz said. “I often second-guess myself during audition processes, but I have learned you just have to breathe and roll with it.”

Ortiz has been training to become a professional dancer since she was six years old. Originally from Santa Fe, N.M., Ortiz moved to Oakland, Calif. to continue her dance studies at Mills College. California’s environment was quite different for this young dancer, and she anticipates New York to be even more fast paced and stimulating.

“I have never been to New York City, so I know that will be a culture shock in and of itself,” Ortiz said. “I have heard from several dance professors, colleagues, and friends that New York is the center of the dance world in the United States, and I cannot wait to be immersed in this thriving art world.”

Ortiz anticipates developing new levels of professionalism, along with learning to rely solely on herself to take care of herself both emotionally and physically.

“I know that I am going to be faced with a lot of challenges,” Ortiz said, “but I know in the end I am going to be a transformed dancer and being.”

Ortiz’s daily summer schedule will consist of several technique classes, which will be taught and accompanied by several teachers and current members of the company. Last year’s choreographers included the recent resident choreographer in Robert Battle’s New Directions Choreographers Lab, Malcolm Low; Ray Mercer who is performing on Broadway in The Lion King; former Netherlands Dance Theater dancer, Jean Emile; and former Ailey II member, Daniela Malusardi.

The summer intensive will allow Ortiz to continue to engage in collaborative opportunities, which is one of her favorite things about
Mills College.

“As a dance major I have been able to collaborate and learn about a variety of art forms: electronic music, intermedia arts, photography,” Ortiz said. “I loved being able to collaborate with different artists and share new ideas about art.”

For example, Ortiz’s friend and senior intermedia arts major Carmen Elster collaborated on several different projects to create dance videos that were works of art.

“Before collaborating with Carmen, I was terrified of cameras and the editing process,” Ortiz said. “But sharing these experiences furthered my curiosity and I am now making dance videos of my own.”

Ortiz has no final plans once she steps outside of Mills’ gates and walks onto the streets of the concrete jungle.

“As a dancer, it is nearly impossible to plan for the future,” Ortiz explained. “You never know who you are going to meet and what relationships you will form. I know that in New York I will be working with some of the greats in the dance world, and my plan is to take as many classes as I can in a variety of studios to connect with my colleagues and teachers, and hopefully find a job as a professional dancer.”

Ortiz’s hopes are high, as Ailey has five renowned choreographers to reside in this summer’s intensive, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre members Kirven Boyd, Vernard J. Gilmore, Sonia Dawkins, Carlos Dos Santos, Jr., and Jonathan Lee, who will be setting works with the professional level students.

“I am not too worried about the ‘what next’ as much as the ‘now,’” Ortiz said. “If I continue giving dance my all, the rewards will keep coming.”