The Life of a New York City Ballet Dancer at FCLC


Paul Kolnik

Ashley Laracey in SWAN LAKE Act I Choreography by Peter Martins. (PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KOLNIK)


You may have walked past a poster of her at Lincoln Center, awed over her bold, long lines and delicate footwork in a Balanchine ballet at the Koch Theater or perhaps seen her in Lowenstein. New York City Ballet (NYCB) soloist Ashley Laracey is one of Fordham’s very own. Laracey is one of about 40 current dancers from NYCB and the School of American Ballet (SAB) working towards a college degree. Among her include Megan Fairchild, Robbie Fairchild, Ashley Bouder, Jonathan Stafford and Tiler Peck who have taken or are currently taking classes at Fordham.

Laracey enrolled at Fordham in 2007 and hopes to graduate with a degree in communication and media studies and a minor in psychology in 2019. Not to be confused with the Ailey BFA Program, NYCB and SAB dancers also attend Fordham as part of the Professional and Continuing Studies School (PCS), working to get a BA. Because of the demanding schedule of these professional and semi-professional dancers, they can only take one or two classes per semester, taking an average of 12 years to complete a degree.

Glen Redpath, the associate director for admissions for the Fordham School of PCS, works closely with these dancers to get them through school.

“It’s a funnel…we try to get the dancers to start at a young age and understand it’s not so scary. Taking one or two classes every semester can be part of their life just as ballet class, rehearsal, physical therapy and their other duties as professionals,” Redpath said.

From each graduating class of SAB, only about two get chosen to be an apprentice for NYCB, and the rest go off to other companies

“Peter Martins is the artistic director, and he decides on what the company needs. If you don’t get chosen, you’re done and you have to go,” Redpath explained.

Traditionally, ballet dancers reject college in order to take advantage of their bodies at their prime. After retiring from the stage, some choose to go back to school while others may stay closely connected to the dance world, going on to choreograph, teach and become ballet masters.

One may believe it’s rather daring for someone to simultaneously wear the hats of a professional dancer and a student, especially at a world-class ballet company like NYCB. Laracey explained, “I chose to head back to school when I felt a desire to learn and use my brain in a different light. I was in a place in my career where I felt secure but also needed something else. I wanted balance and a sense of normalcy.”

A typical day for Laracey starts at 7:00 a.m. Company class at NYCB is from 10:30-12:00 p.m., and then she is in rehearsal until 6:00 p.m. After rehearsal, Laracey has about two hours to sew pointe ballet shoes, do her hair and makeup and anything else that needs to prepare her for a performance. Shows run from 8:00-11:00 p.m. After a show, Laracey heads home for dinner, rolls out tight muscles, ices and heats before going to bed and doing the same thing over again.

On Mondays, her day off, Laracey takes a night class at Fordham. With such a full schedule, Laracey explained, “I try not to put too much pressure on myself to rush to finish since I have a very demanding career. This semester, I am only taking one course because my husband and I got a puppy! Life is about balance, and I try to insist on maintaining an equal pull between my dancing career, family and school, plus fun!”

Although not your typical Fordham student, Laracey is a prime example of Fordham’s diverse student pool. “It is nice to be in an environment with other working professionals all wanting to learn and better ourselves,” Laracey said. She is also a member of two honors societies: Alpha Sigma Nu and Alpha Sigma Lambda.

Although 12 years of undergrad work seems daunting, it provides a great opportunity for dancers who want to receive a college education while getting to be a professional on stage.

Laracey said, “I look at my course log and see how far I have come and think how great it will feel once I am finished. I hope to graduate before I retire from NYCB—that very much motivates me!”