When Alison Stroming was a 15-year-old student at American Ballet Theatre's Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis School, she had a chance encounter at the water fountain with none other than Misty Copeland. "I was grabbing a drink, and when I turned around, Misty greeted me with a 'Hey girl!' My mouth just dropped," remembers Stroming. Copeland ended up taking Stroming under her wing, helping the young dancer carve out her place within the cutthroat dance world. "To this day, I turn to her for advice," Stroming says. "She's more than a mentor—she's become a big sister and a friend."
This relationship with Copeland inspired Stroming to launch AS Mentorship, a new program that allows Stroming to build relationships with 15 handpicked dance students over the course of a year. We caught up with Stroming to talk about the importance of a program like this, how she selects her dancers, and how dancers can find mentors of their own.
DS: Why do you think mentorship within the dance world is so important?
AS: You can't make it in the dance world alone. The more mentors, supporters, and trustworthy people you have by your side, the more success will follow. In every stage of my life, I've had people to look up to. It's so special to have someone invest their time and energy into you. It's also crucial in that it serves as a support system—you always need someone to turn to.
DS: How did you choose your mentees for the program?
AS: I announced my mentorship program on social media, and the application was on my website. It consisted of a few personal questions regarding the dancer's training, goals, and aspirations. To my surprise, I received 92 applications over the course of two weeks, and ultimately narrowed the list to around 30 girls. I held one-on-one video meetings with the remaining candidates, and then finally selected my group of 15. Each of them shows tremendous potential, maturity, and showmanship.
DS: What are the most rewarding, and challenging, parts of the program for you?
AS: The most rewarding part is the satisfaction of helping my girls achieve their goals by nurturing and providing them with the tools needed to be the best versions of themselves. Coming from both the comp/convention and ballet worlds, I understand the stakes firsthand, and believe that I have a lot of valuable knowledge to share. As a mentor, the feeling of paying forward is so rewarding.
The most challenging part of my program? Staying organized and on top of everything! In addition to my personal work and career, I manage my dancewear line on my own, which is at once stressful and fulfilling.
DS: What advice do you have for dancers who might be looking for their own mentors?
AS: Don't be afraid to ask people! It can be as simple as sending an email, or, if you have a connection to someone you admire, asking for an introduction. You'll never know what's possible unless you try! Whenever you take a class with a new teacher, don't be afraid to introduce yourself afterwards. You just have to go for it.
If you have a mentor, the best thing you can do is show that you're serious about your career and education. Attend classes, go to auditions, seek out new opportunities. Take time to write down your goals, objectives, and hurdles you're facing, and bring them to your mentor. Always be patient, trusting, and open. Ideally, your mentorship will blossom into an incredible friendship that's mutually beneficial!
The 2020 AS Mentorship recipients are Olivia Beauchamp, Sophia Grace Capecci, Delaney Diaz, Emma Grisham, Suvannah Hunter, Bella Jones, Isabella (Izzy) Keesee, Audrey Mayernik, Josabella Morton, Addyson Smith, Sienna Smith, Maia Smyl, Kennedy Rae Thompson, Bailey Toney, and Iliana Victor. Follow their journey on Instagram!