From Washington D.C. to Chicago, and now at Vassar, Anna Beeman ’18 has made her mark on the ballet world. Beeman began dancing at four years old, but advanced her skill at the Maryland Youth Ballet (MYB) when she was eight. She was in the MYB for eleven years until she graduated from high school and began her gap year with the Joffrey Ballet. Beeman then brought her talents to the Vassar Repertory Dance Theater (VRDT) for her college dancing career.
When she was starting out, reaching for higher goals drew Beeman to increase her commitment to ballet. “I did a lot of things when I was a kid…but I always felt like I wanted to pursue ballet. And my goal was that I wanted to be on pointe and from there my goals kept increasing…and I really loved it,” she said. Beeman also noted, “After pointe, I always wanted to be in the top levels of my pre-professional ballet school, so I wanted to work towards that and I wanted to be there by the time I was in high school.” As Beeman progressed, she used her goals as well as people to help her succeed. “My principal, whose name is Michelle Lees, really pushed me. She was kind of like my mentor the whole time, she really pushed me. Out of my original level that I came in to MYB, I was the only one who made it all the way through without quitting or getting injured and dropping out,” she said.
As Beeman’s time at MYB and her high school career came to an end, she had to decide where she would take her dancing next. “I auditioned for [professional ballet] companies in January and February of my senior year and I had already gotten into Vassar at that point because I did ED I. After I got into Vassar, I felt like I was kind of missing something and I was like ‘I want to have some sort of professional ballet experience.’ So I chose the best offer which was from the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. They offered me a trainee-ship position for the year,” Beeman noted. Beeman left her home in D.C. to get the taste of professional ballet she wanted in high school. “I lived in downtown Chicago in my own apartment… and we would just have a technique class like a ballet class in the morning and then we would have rehearsals or supplementary classes,” she said. Beeman had to figure out how to balance her work with the new experience of living alone. She commented on finding that balance: “[Joffrey has] a school as well, so we were in between… It’s a bridge between student and professional…It was interesting because I was literally living on my own. I had roommates and I had people in my apartment but I was cooking for myself, taking care of the apartment, doing errands. I was living in the city on my own so it was really cool.”
Although taking a gap year means a delayed graduation, Beeman knew it was the right decision. “This is one time in my life where I have no academic or financial commitments and I can just do this for myself…It was exactly what I needed to do,” said Beeman.
Beeman’s now-instructor and director of the VRDT, John Meehan, commented on his first contact with Beeman: “I knew that she had been accepted into the College, so I was very excited that she was coming. And then I found out she had taken a gap year to go to Joffrey’s pre-professional program, so then I was very disappointed because she was obviously a very good dancer. But anyway, I was thrilled that she turned up this year.”
Moving into her next stage of ballet, Beeman shifted gears to college life and the VRDT. Meehan and Beeman were equally as excited to work with each other once she arrived at Vassar. “VRDT was a big reason why I applied to Vassar, especially because of the director of VRDT. His reputation really attracted me to the program,” she said. In addition to its prominent director, many other aspects of the VRDT interested Beeman and her fellow dancers.
Natalie Westgor ’17 a fellow VRDT dancer, noted, “VRDT is part of the Balanchine Trust which means that they can stage and perform ballets choreographed by George Balanchine who is one of the most influential choreographers of our time…There are very limited institutions that can teach Balanchine ballet.”
Beeman has already shown her deftness in ballet to her peers and director. Emily Martin ’18 said, “She is a very strong dancer technique wise, but she is also a very personable dancer.” Westgor noted as well, “You can really tell in any company when someone has a sense of real professionalism and training…There’s such a competence to her dancing but she’s such a gracious dancer…She doesn’t have to tell people she was a trainee—it shows.” Meehan said, “She’s a very smart worker. She works hard, she works cleverly.”
Beeman, only less than two months into VRDT, spoke highly of her peers as well as the program. “It’s nice to be able to have that community and we’re all dancers and we all think similarly,” Beeman said. Westgor and Martin also commented on their experience with VRDT. “VRDT does a wonderful job of allowing everyone to…have a really just awesome sense of professionalism but it still allows college students to be college students,” Westgor said. “The community of dancers is very strong and it’s a very good group of people. It’s been very beneficial to have people like Anna with different backgrounds and it diversifies the community,” said Martin.
In terms of her future in dance, Beeman looked forward to her plans post-Vassar. “I want to go professionally if I can and…I want to audition again for companies when I’m a senior and see what I get. And if I don’t get anything, that’s perfectly fine… I know that I’ll still have a degree. That’s why I decided to come to college.” Meehan as well commented on Beeman’s ballet future, a telling testament to her ability. He said, “I think there’s no doubt that she can dance as a professional. She could now and I’m sure she’ll be able to once she graduates.”
Despite Meehan’s optimistic about Beeman’s future, she’s focused on the present. She said, “School is just as important to me as ballet is; Vassar is a great school and to have this program as well was the perfect fit.”