Roderick Phifer in Trey McIntyre's The Boogeyman . Bill Hebert, Courtesy BalletX.

How BalletX's Roderick Phifer Leapt from a BFA to Company Life

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. Roderick Phifer graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in dance in 2017.

While walking out of a technique class during the first semester of his senior year at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Roderick Phifer was approached with an unexpected offer. BalletX needed a guest artist for an upcoming performance, and after seeing Phifer perform in one of his senior shows, a UArts alumnus dancing with the company had offered up his name. Phifer ran straight from his technique class to a company class with BalletX, and the troupe's artistic leadership quickly gave him the green light to perform. "It was so last-minute, that, I kid you not, I had three rehearsals," he says. He performed with BalletX as a guest artist that fall, auditioned for an open company position in the spring and had a contract by the end of his senior year.


Roderick Phifer, dressed in black pants, ballet shoes and an open black, sheer shirt jumps in the air against a blue background.

Roderick Phifer

Gabriel Bienczycki, Courtesy BalletX


Looking for something different: Coming from a competition studio, Phifer was looking for a collegiate program to round out his dance knowledge and to catch up on ballet. "We solely trained to compete and focused mainly on contemporary, tap and hip hop," he says. "I knew that I needed a little bit more knowledge on what actually was out there in the dance world."

Incorporating improv: At UArts, Phifer took a mandatory improvisation class, and like many dancers, struggled at first with the practice. "Even to this day, I wouldn't say it's my favorite thing to do, but now I'm just so much more comfortable with who I am, and what I bring to the table."

A group of dancers in brightly colored pants and tunics hold back Roderick Phifer, who stands in a parallel lunch with his arms spread in both directions.

Roderick Phifer with BalletX in Matthew Neenan's Credo. Bill Hebert, Courtesy BalletX.


Favorite part of college: The friendships. "I learned to find a brotherhood somewhere that wasn't home, and somewhere that was completely out of my comfort zone."

Loving to learn: "UArts put me in that position where I had no other choice but to be ready and willing to learn something new." This attitude has helped Phifer at BalletX, a company focused on premiering new works regularly. In his three seasons with the company, he has learned 25 to 30 new pieces.

Advice for dancers considering college: "You want to be in an environment where you're having fun or you're learning to have fun with the things that you're doing," he says. "Take care of who you are because you're a person first, before anything else."

Latest Posts


Gavin Smart, Courtesy ROH

Calling All Ballet Lovers! World Ballet Day 2020 Is on October 29

While very little about this year has felt normal, we're excited to share that one of the dance community's landmark events is returning despite the pandemic. October 29 marks World Ballet Day 2020.

This year's iteration of the annual social media extravaganza features three of the world's leading companies: The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. Additional participating companies, which include American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and Boston Ballet, have just been announced. Last year's World Ballet Day was the biggest yet, reaching over 315 million social media users around the world.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett

Osiel Gouneo on His Cuban Roots, His Favorite Roles and His Grandfather's Powerful Life Lesson

In Pointe's Fall 2020 issue, Bayerisches Staatsballett principal Osiel Guneo talked to us about his career, life as a new dad and what he misses most about his home country of Cuba.


Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Are You Rethinking a Dance Career Due to COVID-19? Read This Advice First

Olivia Duran started ballet when she was 3 years old, and it was love at first plié. From there, "I just kept going," she recently recalled over the phone, "and that was that!" Soon, she found herself at Elmhurst Ballet School, the prestigious training program affiliated with England's Birmingham Royal Ballet. She completed the school's full eight years of coursework, but as she neared the professional world, Duran felt more drawn to life as a cruise performer than as a traditional ballerina. Her final year was marked by audition circuits in London, which eventually landed her a contract with MSC Cruises.

After graduation in 2019, Duran returned home to Hampshire, UK, for a few short months to wait for the contract to begin—but with the onset of COVID-19, cruise ships stopped sailing and the job never came to fruition. Her stay at home became far more indefinite, and she was left to consider a life without dance at its center.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks