King's Alumna Dances in Radio City Christmas Spectacular
December 17, 2013 - 12:00am
"King’s didn’t just give me an education, it helped me find my identity in God. King’s made me become a storyteller and able to communicate beautiful things without words."
On November 13, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular opened, as it does every fall: a harbinger of the coming Christmas season in New York City. But this time, something was different, and a little more magical. This time, there was a King’s alumna on the stage – recent graduate Eliza Cunningham.
When she came to King’s in 2009, Eliza (formerly Ohman) knew she wanted to be a professional dancer. She was hoping to book something her freshman year, as there’s pressure to start young in the dance world, but mid-way through the year, something shifted. "Dance was an idol in my life," she says. "I didn’t know who I was without it."
So Eliza took a risk and decided to just be a college student for a while. She became an asset to the King’s community, working as a student services representative and serving in house leadership as helmsman and president of the House of Barton.
Her senior year, Eliza started to seriously pursue dance again. Dr. Harry Bleattler, the chair of theMedia, Culture, and the Arts program, worked with her to create a practicum course, which allows MCA majors to earn credit hours for practical arts experience. Eliza was able to earn twelve credit hours her last semester for taking classes at Broadway Dance Center, a studio in the theatre district.
It was there that she was picked up by Clear Talent Group, the agency that now represents her. Since graduating in May, Eliza has booked jobs with Macy’s, Target, Sega, and, of course, Radio City. That’s quite an impressive feat, since, according to Eliza, dancers can expect to book only one or two out of every ten auditions. "You go into the field prepared for rejection," she says.
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Since October, Eliza has spent eight to twelve hours a day rehearsing for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. She’s part of the blue cast, one of two casts which perform 16 shows a week. Her life has transitioned from studying and house meetings to cross-training and workout classes, ice baths, and "drinking water like a camel."
But the long days and hard work are worth it. Being part of the show has been an incredible experience for Eliza. She’s surrounded by "high caliber artists" and has become well-practiced in precision dancing, the hyper-clean style of dancing that the Radio City Christmas Spectacular uses. "It’s not about sticking out; it’s about blending in," she says.
So far, the dress rehearsal has been Eliza’s favorite part of the season, since it’s the first time the dancers get to perform for an audience. "You interact with the audience and hear the excitement," she says, and "you suddenly want to give them your best performance." Does she get nervous? She does, but says "I like feeling nervous, because it reminds me of how grateful I am to have a job."
What’s next for Eliza? She would love to do a Broadway show. But, "I just feel so honored to be able to dance," she says.
The King’s College might seem like an unusual choice for an aspiring professional dancer, but when asked if she’d choose King’s if she had to do it over, Eliza says she would. Learning about the movements and philosophy of art inspired her to pay attention to what she was saying through her dancing and made her a better artist. "King’s didn’t just give me an education, it helped me find my identity in God," she says. "King’s made me become a storyteller and able to communicate beautiful things without words."
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