Alicia Lundgren ’01 

Q: You have performed as a dancer in some of the most iconic performing spaces in the country including Radio City Music Hall and The Metropolitan Opera. Of all the venues you’ve performed in, which is your favorite? 
A: My favorite place was at the Kennedy Center for the opening of the African American Museum in DC. It was more the event that made it special—basically it was a big picnic with Black celebrities, and an occasion where I feel like all of these people probably would not get together like that again. It was the last year of Barack Obama as president, and he and Michelle were there. It was amazing. As a venue, Radio City Music Hall is awesome. The first time you’re on stage and the curtain goes up, seeing 6,000 people out there is incredible. 

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professional dancer? What training have you had?
A: I started taking dance classes when I was three or four. So probably by the age of six or seven, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I did the Alvin Ailey summer program while in high school where I was exposed to dancers who were my age, but they had more breadth of training in terms of technique. When I came back home after that summer program, I was motivated to work harder. It was a turning point for me. I was the big fish in a little pond and realized what else was out there. That eventually led to the Ailey/Fordham dance program and after college, I started working right away. 

Q: How involved in dance were you at College Prep? What other classes do you remember fondly?
A: I think I took dance classes all four years. I never did a PE class or a sport. I was always dancing. I think I did every dance performance option that was possible. We had two dance concerts a year. The band/orchestra would go on tour with the dancers and do a medley. I played the flute in the jazz band as well. I always had to choose whether to play the flute when we went on trips or to dance, and, of course, I chose dance. I also enjoyed dancing in the musicals.
Q: You started your ninth-grade year at College Prep at twelve years old after skipping two grades in elementary school. What was the school experience like coming in at such a young age?
A: I wonder sometimes if I would have had an easier time if I had entered at the same age as everyone else, but everything was doable. I passed my classes. I think socially , since I was so focused on dance,  I don’t remember ever feeling left out or feeling not included. I wasn’t going to parties. I would finish school and my mom would pick me up. I would get changed in the car on the way to dance class and then I took classes until 10:00 p.m. I’d come home and start my homework and then get up early to try to finish it. I probably felt less left out because I was always busy. 

Q: What was your first big break as a dancer?
A: After college graduation, I was invited to join the Alvin Ailey second company. It was a two-year contract and when I was finished with that, I auditioned for other modern dance companies and got in. I think I’ve just been lucky to be able to work consistently. I don’t see one job as my “big break” since I don’t consider one dance job more important than another. Each has required something different of me and utilizes different parts of my skill set. In the performing arts, and dance especially, it’s tricky because you can be in it for so long and have a long list of credits, but at the same time, you’ll still be going on auditions with people who are 18 and fresh out of school. On the other hand, if you have been in the business for a while, you make professional relationships and get asked to directly book jobs without auditioning.

Q: Was there any show that you felt like you really had to try harder than usual to be a part of, or that you are especially proud of? 
A: Yes, Shuffle Along on Broadway because I got to tap dance and I love tap dancing. The show was with Savion Glover who does hoofing. I didn’t have a lot of experience in hoofing, but I knew it was going to be a really great show. The audition challenged me, which I loved. I love when shows challenge me, whether it’s technical with dance steps, or if it challenges me artistically and I can ask myself: What storytelling am I bringing to this? I worked really hard on Shuffle Along since I was a swing, which is a type of understudy, so I had to learn the tracking and choreography of all eight women in the show.

Q: How long have you been performing as a Rockette? How much precision and discipline are involved in doing that job?
A: This will be my seventh season. The Rockettes is a dance company where we do what is called precision jazz. There are 36 of us on stage at a time dancing and the formations that we’re making are very intricate and specific. Everyone has to move the same amount of steps, or distance essentially. There are strips of tape on the stage with dotted lines and solid lines. We’ll move over five numbers and up three depths. And then on another step, you’re going to step forward one depth, but over two numbers. The whole number you’re clocking the floor and you have to keep track of where you are. It becomes a memorization game. 

Q: You’ve performed in a wide range of dance disciplines. What type of dancing do you enjoy most?
A: I love modern and jazz. Sometimes I wish I could take more classes. I started in ballet when I was little because that’s where everyone puts their little kids, but ever since I was young, I just loved modern and jazz.

Q: The closure of performing spaces during the pandemic has been extremely difficult for performers. How have you coped with these closures?
A: I think it’s been mentally really rough for a lot of performers. For artists and performers, performing is such a big part of who you are, and you wonder: What do I do now? I thought the pandemic would probably go on for a year and now it’s been longer than that, but I think I had already mentally prepared myself that it would go on for a while. Personally, I was okay with taking a break because I’d been really busy. While I was performing before the pandemic, I would miss out on birthdays or weddings and then suddenly I had more time for friends and family through Zoom. That was nice. Mostly, I cooked more which is what a lot of people did.

Q: You are also a choreographer. How does that work challenge you creatively in relation to dancing?
A: Associate choreography kind of fell into my lap. It’s nice being on the other side of the table. It’s like having a wide-angle lens and seeing visually why certain choices are made and it also helps me understand as a performer how I can be better as a dancer. I don’t feel as connected to choreography as I do with the performing side though. I still am drawn more to dancing. Granted, if I was choreographing something and had full artistic control, I would enjoy that. I do like having the experience of being on both sides, but am still figuring out whether I might be interested in working as a choreographer in the future.

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