MFA Monday: Lauren Ashlee Small

MFA rightPart 3 After a year and a half in New York City I knew it was time to go. I missed my family and having a community I could go to when I needed a hug or a pause from the daily grind. I missed academic study. The intense focus on the physical aspect of my training and performance left me feeling underdeveloped. The analytical, question-asking side of my dance experience was not being explored to its fullest and had not been since college. I moved home to Illinois once again and asked myself if it was time to go back to school. I had been studying various graduate programs since senior year. I knew that I wanted an MFA in Dance… until I moved home to apply for the fall semester. All of a sudden a billion questions surfaced that had never before been an issue for me. I questioned whether dance was for me at all. If I had not stayed in New York City and sustained a life of prominence within an elite professional company was I cut out to dance at all? Was I getting too old?

I questioned the choice of a dance career and then the choice of an MFA over an MA or a teaching degree or a completely different field altogether.

If I had not scaled the heights of artistic prestige with my BFA, then why in the world would I choose to pursue an MFA? Was grad school really worth sacrificing my time and money?

Lauren Ashlee SmallI could find a new job, pay off my student loans, and financially prepare myself for life. Question after question invaded my mind and immobilized my assurance. I received news that my application and audition had been well-received and I was accepted to the MFA program for which I had applied. All of my certainty began to collapse and crumble very quickly into nonexistence. I could not say yes. I waited indecisively as long as I could before the deadline, denied the offer, and asked if it was possible to defer my enrollment to next year. Deep down I did not believe I would go at all, but, for a moment reverted to my old habit of keeping several options open and never really saying no. I knew this was what I had dreamed of and that I would feel perpetually unsatisfied without it, but my doubts overshadowed my intuition like the giant warrior, Goliath, standing ominously above the small shepherd boy, David. I blamed my decision on finances, not feeling certain the MFA route was for me, uncertainty as to the profitability and financial security of a life in the arts. In reality, I had simply justified allowing my head to unrightfully win the battle against my heart. Stay tuned for part 4 next week.

Lauren Ashlee Small is originally from Springfield, IL. Her training began at Springfield Dance and the Springfield Ballet Company and continued in college where she completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at Belhaven University. Lauren went on to study in The Ailey School’s professional division as a recipient of The Oprah Winfrey Foundation Scholarship and to perform with Amalgamate Dance Company and Dance Into Deliverance. Her choreography has been featured at The Ailey School, Belhaven University, American College Dance Festival, Undertoe Dance Festival at the 92nd Street Y, the New York Jazz Choreography Project, and in Amalgamate’s 7th Annual Artist Series. Lauren has interned with Free Arts of Arizona and Amalgamate Dance Company and was a guest artist at the 2012 Teen Arts Performance Camp in Washington, DC and Emmanuel Ballet Academy’s 2014 summer intensive in Juarez, Mexico. 

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