Ballet Careers

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

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

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."

Instagram

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Ellison Ballet
Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

If you've got your heart set on dancing for, say, San Francisco Ballet, you should attend a school that specializes in Balanchine, right? Not necessarily: It's actually a misconception that you have to train in a particular style or technique in order to pursue a career in that style. Ellison Ballet in New York City—which specializes in Vaganova technique—is living proof: Graduates of Ellison's year-round program and summer intensives go on to ballet companies that perform in a wide range of styles, and use what they've learned from Vaganova to land jobs.

Here are five reasons why studying Vaganova technique can actually make you a sought-after dancer for any number of ballet companies:

Keep reading...
Ballet Stars
Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Are you more of a Giselle or a Juliet?

I've always said that my favorite role is Juliet, because of her vulnerability and maturity throughout the ballet. But now that I've performed Giselle, I find her so incredibly enjoyable, from being a village girl who falls in love for the first time to the most tender, almost weightless dancing in Act II.

Are you more at home in the studio or onstage?

I love the time in the studio. The process of starting from zero to getting better each day is so rewarding. My favorite phrase in rehearsals is "Let's do it again, so I can sleep in peace tonight." I need to feel so comfortable in the studio so that when I am onstage there are no bad surprises.

Keep reading...
News
Getty Images

Dancers certainly don't need anyone to tell them how physical their profession is. But now, we have the data to prove it.

Researchers at InsuranceProviders.com analyzed data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a national organization developed through support from the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration, to determine the 20 most physically demanding jobs in the country. They analyzed the level of strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination required for a host of jobs, and each category was assigned

Keep reading...