Alison Stroming joined Dance Theatre of Harlem in September 2014, having previously danced with Ballet San Jose and Canada’s Alberta Ballet. She was born in Brazil and adopted when she was 8 months old by a family in New Jersey with deep roots in the dance world. She started dancing when she was 2 and took jazz, tap, modern, and ballet classes with her siblings, one of whom is Break the Floor and Jump Dance Convention creator, Gil Stroming. Alison received formal ballet training at The School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. A diverse and talented dancer, Stroming also demonstrates for Jump and models when her schedule permits. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. She recently spoke with TWD about DTH, training for a diverse performance repertoire, advice for aspiring dancers, and more.
How did you come to join Dance Theatre of Harlem?
It was very last minute! I was actually planning to go back to Ballet San Jose for another year. I was in New York and friend who is in the company told me she’d heard DTH had a spot for a girl and that I should audition. I did, and Virginia [Johnson, DTH Artistic Director] offered me the job. I had to decide there and then because the contract for Ballet San Jose was due the next day. What made me want to join DTH was the touring and performing opportunities. It’s a touring company, so we’re on the road all the time. The touring and performing is pretty much my favorite part of the job. I like being on the road and exploring different cities, performing at hundreds of theaters for different audiences. It’s a blast! And it’s a company full of such history. To be a part of it is definitely an honor.
The DTH repertoire covers a broad spectrum of ballet choreography. How does one prepare for that diversity?
Here at DTH we do everything! We’re doing Nacho Duato this year, so I’m looking forward to that. But it’s not just DTH; it’s ballet as a whole now. It’s important to try different styles and not be scared to try something new. Step out of your comfort zone and get into a contemporary class or a jazz class. I’d recommend starting at a young age and maybe going with a friend so it’s more comfortable. It’s fun. Having that background has helped me to adapt to new styles and work with different choreographers. I love it.
What’s one of your favorite pieces to dance?
It’s cool to think that DTH has rep that only DTH does. One of my favorite pieces I’ve done so far is Return by Robert Garland with music by James Brown and Aretha Franklin. It’s a signature DTH piece and it was a blast! The music is so much fun and it’s a different side of doing ballet. I can let go and have a good time—it’s pretty much a big party on stage.
DTH also has an extensive outreach program. Could you please tell us about that?
We do lecture-demonstrations in every city we visit on tour, showings for a bunch of schools, from elementary to high school students. They’ll get to see a little of our rep, an example of a ballet class, ask some questions. We also do a lot of master classes. I think it’s great for us to be serving as role models and inspirations. Some of these kids have never seen classical dance. It’s really cool to think that you’ve inspired someone. It’s really special and reminds me of why I love what I do.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to be dancing as long as I can and to just see where this journey of dance takes me. I do really want to be a principal with a major company and I do really want to dance in Europe!
What advice would you offer aspiring dancers?
I think it’s most important to stay focused on yourself and your goals. It’s also important to stay focused on owning your classes and being the best dancer you can be. There is a lot that you can’t control. There will always be someone with a higher jump, prettier feet, or prettier legs. But if you spend your time worrying about what is outside of your control you’ll rob yourself of what you can accomplish, so it’s important to stay focused on yourself.