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Austin Sora performing on the mainstage at Marymount Manhattan College (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Sora)

4 College Alums on How Their Dance Degrees Have Helped Them During COVID-19

In a year that couldn't possibly get any more bonkers (we wouldn't be surprised, though), the world needs smart, resourceful, and creative people more than ever before. And who does that description remind us of? That's right...dancers. It may seem like jobs for dancers are scarce these days, but in reality, there are plenty of opportunities out there for dancers willing to think outside of the box. A college degree in dance can help you do just that—expand your career possibilities and develop your potential—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Dance Spirit spoke to four alumni of Marymount Manhattan College, a liberal arts school in NYC with one of the most prestigious dance programs in the country, to explore all the ways their MMC dance degrees have helped them navigate the dance world, both before and during the pandemic.

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Meet Britt Stewart, the First Black Female Pro on “Dancing with the Stars”

Britt Stewart already had a full dance career before "Dancing with the Stars" came calling. Growing up, the Colorado native had trained in just about every style except for ballroom, landing a spot in Disney's High School Musical at 15 after she met one of the movie's choreographers, Bonnie Story, at New York City Dance Alliance.

Soon, Stewart was appearing on television shows and touring the world for artists like Katy Perry and nationally with Demi Lovato. "I like to say that 'Dancing with the Stars' is the cherry on top of my dance career," Stewart says. "It came at a time when I had just gotten off of tour with Katy Perry. I was with her for three years, and I loved it, but I was really craving something new."

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Goucher College students performing Women's Resistance (Jason Lee, courtesy Goucher College)

4 Colleges Committed to Diversifying Their Dance Curriculums

In the face of today's racial crisis, many Americans are now reckoning with their own complicity in the oppression of marginalized groups, and asking, "What can I do?" For college dance programs, which help mold the minds of the next generation of dance artists, this is an especially important question. For decades, most departments have centered on white, Western styles—ballet, modern, contemporary—rather than dedicating resources to the world's myriad other dance forms.

Fortunately, some college dance programs have pledged to diversify their course offerings, and to dismantle the layers of white supremacy that still pervade our art on a larger scale. And while many colleges are now beginning this work, a few have made
it a central part of their mission for years. Here are four schools with longstanding commitments to a more equitable dance education.

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Photo by Perla Diaz, courtesy Olivia Wong

Commercial Queen Olivia Wong Talks Hula Hooping, Dream Journaling, and Her Love for Parris Goebel

With a combination of hard-hitting fierceness and feminine sass, L.A.-based commercial dancer Olivia Wong makes even the most intricate choreography look like second nature. Originally from New Orleans, LA, Wong moved to the West Coast to pursue a career in dance, and has since performed with J Balvin at Lollapalooza Music Festival and Becky G at the Latin American Music Awards, in addition to being a featured dancer in Justin Bieber's "That's What Love Is" visual album video. This spring, she graduated with a BFA in commercial dance and a concentration in acting from Hussian College, formerly the Studio School Los Angeles.

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We loved seeing Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert back dancing in the ballroom. (Erin McCandless, courtesy ABC)

"DWTS" Week 6 Recap: Nope, Derek Hough Didn't Propose on Live TV

Please hold for applause: We're now roughly halfway through this season of "Dancing with the Stars," mid-pandemic, without a single case of COVID-19. Apparently we can have some good things this year!

And last night's episode of "DWTS" was particularly dance-tastic, complete with a special dance-pearance by judge Derek Hough. And while we were a little disappointed by certain aspects of his performance (please refer to this article's headline), it was all kinds of amazing to see Derek back dancing in the ballroom. But in case you missed it (or you were too busy voting early—go you!), here are all the highlights from last night's episode.

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