Urbanity Dance, located in Boston, MA, was founded in 2008. In addition to providing dance education and community engagement opportunities around the Boston area, the company has evolved from its original six dancers into three performing groups: the professional company, the Junior Apprentice program and Urbanity Underground. Urbanity Underground follows a nontraditional company model, and seeks to provide a dance community and high-level performance opportunities to dancers who have chosen to follow non-performing career paths. Dance Informa had the opportunity to connect with a few members of Urbanity Underground to learn more about the program. Here’s the inside scoop.
What’s your involvement with Urbanity Underground, and what do you like most about dancing with the company?
Kate Shepard, 26, member since 2017
“The program is an audition-based company comprised of dancers who trained and performed at a high level and are now pursuing a career in another field. Our season runs from September to May, with performances throughout the year. We rehearse every Sunday for approximately five hours, starting with company class taught by rotating company members, teachers, and choreographers in a range of contemporary styles, and then we have rehearsal in the afternoon. I’ve been fortunate to dance in the Fall Crawl, NeXt, Creative Class Show, and other performances along the way. I also take contemporary drop-in classes during the week after work! This year, I am honored to be a member of the Gala Committee, assisting with planning Urbanity’s fundraiser.”
Carrie Kerstein, 34, member since 2008
“We can take open class several times a week, and have company class and rehearsals on Sundays. We typically have the opportunity to perform in three shows each season depending on our availability. During the past 12 seasons, I have performed, choreographed and taught in the school. I have met some of my dearest friends dancing with Urbanity! The camaraderie among the dancers is incredible. Although we all lead busy lives, our common passion for dance unites us. Each person is motivated to be in the studio by a deep love, and arrives at classes and rehearsals fully committed.”
Colleen Roddy, 28, member since 2015
“The best part about Urbanity Underground is how the community has turned into a second family. The studio is a place where we can all come together and continue to share our passion for dance.”
Casey Marchek, 27, member since 2017
“The best part is the opportunity to connect with all types of dancers. Urbanity’s dance community is huge! We get to dance and perform with the daytime company members and with junior apprentices, as well as work with amazing teachers and choreographers.”
Genevieve Mudd, 28, member since 2012
“I have had the pleasure of teaching company class, choreographing for various shows and performing for corporate gigs, including an improvised flash mob engagement! There are several shows a year organized based on different concepts, some including visiting choreographers (our NeXt show) and others providing an opportunity for in house work.”
What do you do outside the studio?
“I work at a creative communications agency in Boston that specializes in creating marketing assets for commercial real estate projects, corporate rebrands and materials for innovative products.”
“I spend the workweek taking care of my two young nephews. I spend most of my free time writing and producing my own music, studying Russian and watching TV with my partner.”
“I am an acute care physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital on the Surgical and Critical Care Team. I work with patients after major illnesses, injuries and post operatively to enable them to get back to the activities they enjoy. Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am working with patients across our Intensive Care Units and Step Down Units to build their strength and endurance. Outside of my full-time job, I also teach in the Urbanity Community Division and at Weymouth Club, and substitute and guest teach around New England. I enjoy taking spin class and shopping in my free time.”
“I am a full-time pediatric occupational therapist working in early intervention. My job consists of helping children ages zero to three and their families to promote engagement in meaningful daily activities that help with independence and development. I specialize in feeding and motor-based delays. In simpler terms, I help kids learn to walk! At my company, I created a dance-based community group to help toddlers with body awareness and motor planning. I am also recently married and am enjoying building a life with my husband in our home in Dorchester, MA. We love exploring Boston, eating good food and discovering new breweries!”
“I am a speech-language pathologist at a pediatric private practice. I work with children ages two through 18 years to help them become better communicators. This includes children who stutter, children who have difficulty producing certain speech sounds, and those with language disorders or autism spectrum disorders. Urbanity allowed me the flexibility to complete my master’s degree while dancing and performing. I have recently returned to my alma mater, Emerson College, as a part-time graduate instructor. Another of my passions is food. I am an avid home cook and restaurant explorer. I have also increasingly enjoyed running in the past few years and plan to run my first marathon later this year.”
How do you balance dance and other activities?
“Balance has always been a challenge for me because I don’t like to say ‘no’ to any opportunity. In recent years, I have been able to balance Urbanity, my job and hobbies by sometimes stepping back and saying no, which helps me to enjoy everything without being so run down. For example, to balance taking an extra course for work and being in a friend’s wedding, I decided to only take classes at Urbanity one season, which gave me much more energy and appreciation for my time in the studio.”
“As Urbanity Underground dancers, we are appreciated for our whole selves, and given the flexibility necessary to engage in careers (or undergraduate and graduate study in some cases) while continuing to grow as artists. Our diversity of experiences in and out of the dance field is celebrated. We are offered a great deal of freedom in terms of how much time we are able to commit in terms of classes and rehearsals. For example, we are able to request casting consideration for a greater or fewer number of pieces depending on our availability. I thrive on a very busy schedule, and dance is an important part of that. Sometimes that means I’m grading graduate students’ papers during breaks in rehearsal! Over the course of my rigorous educational pursuits, dance has given me a welcome physical and mental outlet.”
“The balance between work and dance has always been important to me. Double majoring in business and dance, I always knew that I needed to have both in my life. Dance is my passion, and class is my emotional and physical outlet, so maintaining this balance is key. Classes at Urbanity have always grounded me, and even now, while we all shelter-in-place, the online virtual classes bring me a sense of connection. After class, my dance friends and I hop on a Zoom call to talk about the combo, our day jobs, what we’re making for dinner and how we’re all here to support one another through it all.”
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
“I hope to continue dancing and making music! I would love to be in the financial position to focus all my attention on creative ventures.”
“I hope to still be dancing in the next five years and continuing to teach. I hope within 10 years I can set choreography that is performed across the country.”
“My dream is to keep dancing as long as humanly possible! I’ve learned how to be smart with my body as I’ve gotten older, and I hope to continue dancing for many, many years to come.”
“I plan to be in Boston for a long time and eventually raise a family here! I hope to continue to dance with Underground and be an active supporter of this wonderful community.”
For more information on Urbanity Underground, visit www.urbanitydance.org/underground.
By Charly Santagado of Dance Informa.