Then & Now - Marissa DeBenedictis & Autumn Steed
We recently caught up with two Academy of Dance Arts alumni to find out what they are up to now and how their dance education prepared them. We are excited to have both Marissa and Autumn back as guests for our Pandora's Box - The Lesson concert!
Q. Where did you study dance as a child?
A. When I first started dancing at the age of 3, I danced at my local dance studio called Copeland Dance Academy which ended up closing years ago. At a young age I was more into the competition style of dance jazz, lyrical and contemporary. Around the age of 14 I started taking ballet classes at The Academy of Dance Arts with the famous Sherry Moray and Irina Starovoitova which are the teachers that turned me into the ballet dancer I am today.
Q. When did you realize this was more than a passing interest?
A. When I started taking classes at The Academy, I was just trying to increase my ballet technique but still very much in the competition world. As I started taking more ballet classes I realized how much I loved it. My second-year training at The Academy I knew that I wanted to train full time with Sherry and Irina. And that’s what I did.
Q. What life lessons did you learn from your dance education?
A. The biggest life lesson I learned from my dance education is that if you put in the work, you will get rewarded. The dance world consists of so much self-discipline mostly when you get to the professional level. Sherry and Irina showed me the self-discipline I needed to make it in the professional world. And really did make me work for it so when I did finally go out into the professional world, I had tough enough skin to get through anything!
Q. How have you applied those life lessons in your career?
A. In the professional dance world there is no one that holds your hand and helps you along the way. When things get tough it’s so easy just to give up because you have no one really pushing you along like you do when you are a student. The drive that Sherry and Irina instilled in me is how I got to where I am today. If you do put in the work, you will see the results.
Q. How have you applied those life lessons is life?
A. I always say dancers always have the best work ethic. Because of how we are trained and so disciplined when we get to the real world we thrive and overachieve in any job we do. We are taught as young kids that you have to try your best no matter what, even if someone is not there pushing you every step of the way. So, in the real world the same things apply if you work hard, you will get rewarded.
Q. What’s one piece of advice would you pass on to other dancers?
A. One piece of advice I would pass on to other dancers is to make sure to speak up and stand up for yourself. Some of the best dancers are natural pleasers who never want to fail. And because of that it’s easy to lose your voice. Never sacrifice your physical or mental well-being to please anyone.
The skills of discipline and determination that I have acquired throughout my dance education (specifically during my time at ADA) have set me up for success both inside and outside the professional dance world. Although very difficult to balance at times, I put in the extra work to follow all of my passions. I have always known that I wanted to become a professional ballet dancer, so I have worked very hard to put myself on the best path to achieve that goal. I firmly believe that the effort a dancer puts in outside the studio (whether dance-related or not) can lead them to becoming a more well-rounded dancer and person, as a whole. My ability to graduate high school early and recently graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science all while pursuing my professional ballet career was never easy, but entirely worth it - I make my own path in life.