Why I’m already planning my return to the Vail Dance Festival
Aurora Vaughan, class of 2021
Rachel Neville, courtesy of Vaughan
âUSC Kaufman prepared me for my career both inside and outside the studio,â says graduate Aurora Vaughan (she / they). âInside the studio, I learned to extract information from movement and look for context in everything. Outside of the studio, my time with Kaufman Connections gave me the tools to be able to teach dance with confidence and joy .” She also notes how classes like Dance Leadership taught her financial and marketing skills, which helped her when applying for jobs and budgeting for herself as a graduate.
In addition to training for the physically demanding work of a dancing career, USC Kaufman constantly challenged Vaughan to think deeply about dance: âNow that I’ve graduated, I realize what dot i like to continuously dissect and rediscover dance as a cultural / artistic practice, even though i practiced and rehearsed alone. I miss the intellectual rigor that was encouraged to us. “
During their final year, Vaughan signed with Go2Talent Agency. And over the summer following graduation, Vaughan applied for and participated in the b12 Summer Research Festival, a month-long contemporary dance workshop in Berlin. They stayed in Berlin for a few more weeks to experience the independent dance scene, before heading to Amsterdam and London. Today, she lives in Brooklyn and dances for Nimbus2, a Jersey City-based company, and teaches dance in studios across Manhattan.
Ausia Jones, class of 2020
Lee Gumbs, courtesy of Jones
The graduates of the Class of 2020 have entered a very abnormal dance industry. For Ausia Jones, she spent the first few months of her graduate studies choreographing, painting and reflecting on herself. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before she landed a contract with Les Ballets Jazz de MontrÃ©al.
Prior to graduation, USC Kaufman’s Career Services Department groomed Jones and his peers with portraits, resumes, and reels. But Jones says the support has gone beyond those dance career necessities. âThe students received an allowance for senior projects and a career allowance, for professional projects and development,â explains Jones. âI was also able to meet with several professors from USC Kaufman to discuss my career goals. Depending on my ambitions, the professors actually contacted specific companies and administrators on my behalf or gave me the name. These connections have enabled me to, in some cases, have private hearings in the United States and abroad. “
Additionally, Jones says USC Kaufman prepared it for the ever-changing industry landscape: âThe world of dance continues to evolve, and USC Kaufman embraced it from its inception with the idea of ââthe “New Movement”. The idea of ââcreating hybrid dancers who have basic knowledge and exposure to multiple dance styles and dance concepts touched me as a motor, creator and thinker. were able to train me with physical and mental preparation for the career that I enjoy today. “
Adam Vesperman, class of 2020
Mike Esperanza, courtesy of Vesperman
When he arrived at USC Kaufman in 2016, Adam Vesperman was quickly introduced to a whole new world of dance. Before college, he mainly focused on commercial dance – he grew up as a competitive kid and even performed in Billy Elliot: The Musical in the West End in 2011. Learning concert dance forms through the work of choreographers like Crystal Pite, Dwight Rhoden and Paul Taylor was exciting for him, but blurred preconceived future plans. For clarity, he turned to his professors and the career services department at USC Kaufman. He says: “The career services department was able to help me decipher where I wanted to be, what kind of dance I wanted to do and how I could get there.”
Vesperman explains that the career department provided him with tools to manage the business side of a professional career. âI have acquired a lot of skills to represent myself and defend my cause as a freelance artist,â he says. âHow to read contracts, communicate with an agency or employer, put goals into action, budget money, use social media and networking, and the list goes on and on. We have learned the importance to become a human Swiss Army Knife: to have many skills and to be adaptable. “
After graduation, Vesperman, who is represented by arts agency McDonald / Selznick Associates, moved north to the Hollywood area and performances began to pick up. Like many dancers at USC Kaufman, he earned several professional credits while still a student. To date, he has worked on projects for Phoebe Bridgers, half â¢ alive, Julianne Hough and Delaney Jane, and has starred on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” and “The Masked Dancer”, and has done campaign work. for fashion retailer Pull & Bear.
Jessica Muszynski, class of 2019
Anne-Sophie HÃ©roux, courtesy of Muszynski
For Jessica Muszynski, the versatility of the USC Kaufman program sharpened and strengthened her love for dance: which I really enjoyed and what I had a knack for. âShe continues,â I discovered that ‘outside of dancing on stage, choreography is something I wanted to pursue. The total joy of creating and presenting my 30 minute senior project made me apply for festivals and writing scholarships after graduation. “
Muszynski mentions how the program establishes support systems for years to come. âThe relationships I have built at USC Kaufman are timeless,â she says. “There are times and conversations from those years where different professors and peers gave me deep encouragement to the lowest that is just etched in my memory, and I still think of them and smile today.”
After his stint at USC Kaufman, Muszynski joined Victor Quijada’s Montreal company, RUBBERBAND (Quijada is Artist in Residence at USC Kaufman). When tours and performances became restricted due to the pandemic, she explored the local dance community. Soon enough, she met other dancers – Claire Campbell, Hannah-Jane Clutchey, Emma-Lynn MacKay-Ronacher – and together they formed the Bulbe Collective, a dance group featuring emerging artists.
Zach Manske, class of 2021
Ray Nard Imagemaker, courtesy of Manske
âUniversity life was very busy most of the time,â says Zach Manske, âbut I like this lifestyle and it has prepared me for life in a company.â After graduation, he moved to Michigan to begin rehearsing as a dancer with the Grand Rapids Ballet. Thanks to his stint at USC Kaufman, the transition hasn’t been a dramatic change of pace. “I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh my God dancing all day, every day is a foreign thing,’ but it was set in stone throughout those four years.”
Continually rehearsing and learning from new reps at USC Kaufman foreshadowed the opportunities he would have at Grand Rapids Ballet. “I was the only new member of the company this season, so I had to learn a lot of things quickly because everyone already knew a lot of the reps that we do.”
His time at USC Kaufman also made him well balanced as he entered the professional world. In addition to embodied practices, the faculty encourages intellectual dialogue about dance. Manske describes how “there are always discussions about how we can move forward the field we’re in, which is important. I feel like USC Kaufman is developing artists who use their agency to create the change they want to see. “