MFA Monday: Stephanie Todd Wong
It’s a new day, a new MONDAY. We welcome Stephanie Todd Wong to the Frame Dance blog. Enjoy her experiences today and for the next two weeks!
The Highs and Lows of My Personal Experience
I received my MFA from George Mason University in 2004 and I look back on those three years through a lens of extremes. Fondness, frustration, pride, uncomfort, growth are all words I use often when telling others about my experience. For me, it was a life changing experience full of highs and lows, as I believe it should be for everyone.
Structure and resources: I suddenly had both! Class everyday, someone consistently asking me questions, challenging me, reserved studio time for rehearsal and dancers waiting for me, deadlines etc. It is amazing the work you can create when you have what you need to create it and the structure to both support and push you to produce your best.
Friends and colleagues: Some of my dearest friends were either colleagues I met while in school or my professors. The dance world is a small one and the relationships I built while in the program are just as important to me now as they were then. Our paths cross consistently and we still find ways to help and support one another.
Growth: I exited my MFA program a completely different artist than how I entered. I fully embraced the journey and allowed myself to be changed by it. The growth I experienced during those three years is probably one of things I’m most proud of.
University politics: I wasn’t prepared for the reality of the politics I was exposed to during this time. I’m not sure if it was because of my specific program or the difference between being an undergrad versus a grad student, but the politics involved were much more evident. There were times I had to fight with administration to do what was best for me and I found it very frustrating. But it was also an important part of the learning process.
Exhaustion/Life Outside the Grad School Bubble: Or should I say the lack of my life outside the grad school bubble. An MFA program is intense with a lot of demands on your time. I taught adjunct while I was getting my degree and between teaching, my own classes, readings and assignments, rehearsals and performances, I was rarely anywhere other than the studio.
Cost: Grad school is expensive and I’m still paying back my student loans. And while I don’t love writing those checks each month, it was worth it for me.
Stephanie Todd Wong moved to Houston in 2008 after spending ten years in Washington DC as a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher and dance administrator. Stephanie holds a BA in Dance from Mercyhurst College and received her MFA in Dance from George Mason University in 2004. While living in Washington she was a dancer in the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company, which performed in various locations in DC and New York City. She also had the privilege of working with Lorry May, founding director of Sokolow Dance Foundation to learn and perform Anna Sokolow’s The Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter. As a choreographer, Stephanie’s work was presented at both Joy of Motion and Dance Place. Stephanie also spent time teaching dance and worked to create a high school dance program for The Flint Hill School in Vienna Virginia. Beginning in 2007, Stephanie began working for Dance/MetroDC, the local branch office of Dance/USA, serving as its Programs Associate and ultimately its Interim Director. In this role she was responsible for creating and executing all the organizations programming, including the Metro DC Dance Awards, a region wide awards program that took place at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Stephanie became Executive Director of Dance Source Houston in 2011 and currently sits on the Advisory Board for Arts + Culture Magazine and an Affiliate Working Group of Dance/USA.