Q&A with Andrea Bergeman Rak
The Academy of Dance Arts is thrilled to welcome Andrea Bergeman Rak to our faculty lineup! We recently found out some interesting facts about her and wanted to share those with our community.
How long have you been dancing?
I started dancing at a local dance studio around 4. I think I did that for about a year, and then I wanted to dance more, but focus more on ballet. At around 6, I was old enough to start at the more serious ballet studio nearby, Seiskaya Ballet Academy. From then on, my life outside of school was all about ballet.
What or who inspired you to become a dancer?
I think I was the type of little sister who wanted to do almost everything my older sister did, and ballet was one of those things. I remember thinking how exciting it was to watch her perform exciting roles, go away to summer intensives around the country, and be able to dance the way she did. When she got her first job and I got to go visit her, I was in awe of how she could make a living by dancing all day long, performing in theatres, and enjoying life in a ballet company.
When did you get your first professional dance gig? After graduating high school, I took an additional year to train to get myself ready to audition for companies. At 18, I felt I was ready, and attended as many "cattle call" auditions in NY that I could make it to. It was tough. Every weekend for 2-3 months, I would take the train, or my mom would drive me the two hours through traffic, for me to pin a number on my leotard and be one of three or four hundred dancers hoping to get that coveted contract with a ballet company. The artistic directors generally travel to several cities in search of dancers, when oftentimes there are only one or two positions that are actually available, so it's extremely cutthroat. In the auditions, the directors would "cut" dancers about every 10-20 minutes, and you just hold your breath and hope that your number will be called to stay in the room! I was lucky enough to have gotten two different offers from these auditions, but the best offer was for an apprentice contract with Ballet Memphis, where I danced for my first three years as a professional dancer.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
My mom would always tell my sister and I to be happy and thankful that we can dance - to be happy that we have the means to dance, to be able to come to class, move to music, and perform - to do what we love to do. I have always tried to think of that when something doesn't feel like it's going the way I want it to. If we dwell on the negatives - the role we didn't get, the score on a competition, the job or dance intensive we didn't get into, it will only hinder us, and the negativity will come through in our dancing and in our overall attitude. We have to remember how fortunate we are for what we have in order to put things in perspective and be able to move forward and grow as dancers, and as people.
What do you want to tell younger dancers who have big aspirations?
Every dancer has something unique to give to this world. There will always be someone who can lift their leg a little higher, jump a little higher, or do more pirouettes than you, but it's a special combination of what you can bring to the dance world - your joy for dance and the feeling you bring to your movements, coupled with the attention to detail that you have focused on in your technical training, that creates a special artist that audiences (and ballet company directors) want to see.
What is one fun fact about you?
I'll give you 3! I speak Swedish, I play the violin for fun, and I like to draw and paint!
In her career as a professional ballet dancer, Andrea Bergeman Rak danced for Ballet Memphis, Peoria Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, and English National Ballet. Principal roles she has danced professionally include the title role in Firebird; Snow Queen, Sugar Plum, and Dew Drop in The Nutcracker; Don Quixote pas de deux; Emilia in Jose Limon’s Moore’s Pavane; and principal roles in Loyce Houlton’s Carmina Burana. Andrea has also performed works by noted choreographers including George Balanchine, Dwight Rhoden, Lila York, Frederick Ashton, and Trey McIntyre. With English National Ballet, Andrea performed in Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Albert Hall.
Andrea has taught at the Ballet Memphis School, Indianapolis School of Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre School, Seiskaya Ballet Academy on Long Island, the School of Classical Ballet and Dance in Des Moines, IA, Los Gatos Ballet in California and DanceWest Ballet in Naperville, IL. Andrea is also a comprehensively certified Pilates instructor, a certified yoga instructor at the 200 hour level, and has worked as a master instructor for Peak Pilates.