This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.
As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.
Nishihara loved the way her professors asked her to think critically. "They really challenge you to think for yourself and evaluate your strengths and your weaknesses, so that when you're being trained, you can apply everything in a way that works best for you," she says.
Nishihara and Marty Davis in Stoner Winslett's The Nutcracker. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.
Favorite Nondance College Course: Kinesiology
"It gives you a better physical understanding of what the body is capable of and how it moves," she says. "It's something every dancer can benefit from."
Classes at the University of Utah ranged from Cecchetti to contemporary to Russian to Balanchine. "That challenged me to be a lot more versatile, and versatility is something that comes in handy when you're looking for a job."
Nishihara and Davis in Philip Neal's Gargoyles. Sarah Ferguson. Courtesy Richmond Ballet.
Leaping Into Company Life
During her sophomore year, Nishihara decided to do a round of auditions with some older classmates, thinking the process would be less intimidating with friends. "I got really lucky and was offered a second-company contract with Richmond Ballet," she says. With the help of her professors, she was able to finish her degree remotely while dancing in Richmond.
Advice for Bunheads Considering College
"Don't limit yourself to dance. You get this opportunity when you're on campus to see so many more things, so enjoy being in such a diverse environment."