Student Features

From Dance Company to Jacob’s Pillow

For Bryanna Bradley ’17 of Cambria Heights in Queens, N.Y., this summer surely will be one to remember as she will study dance at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., during its Improv Traditions & Innovations program.

Chosen for the two-week summer intensive after her audition in New York City, Bradley is just one of 24 dancers from around the globe who were selected among hundreds to participate. As remarkable as this achievement is, what makes it even more amazing is that before she arrived at MCLA, Bradley had never taken a class in modern dance or ballet.  

“Although I took tap lessons from a very young age, I did not want to do ballet or take other dance classes,” Bryanna explained. However, “When I was looking at colleges, I definitely knew I wanted to dance. I saw that the Dance Company performed at MASS MoCA. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is really cool that they’re performing at the museum. I have to be involved.’”

Upon her arrival at MCLA, she joined the Dance Company and began to explore a variety of dance genres.

“My sophomore year I took ‘Dance I.’ That’s where I learned ballet and modern dance. I started to dabble in different styles,” Bradley said.

An English/Communications major with plans for a career in broadcast journalism, Bradley recently began to rethink her career goals. “When I first came to MCLA, I thought dance wasn’t a ‘real’ profession or something that I could pursue for a career. I didn’t have the confidence to assume the identity as a dancer.”

Seeing her talent and abilities, other members of MCLA’s Dance Company suggested that she try choreography. “I ended up doing a modern piece, after only having taken one solid class in modern. People really liked it,” Bradley said.

“Then I took an MCLA class at MASS MoCA. That really changed my perception. It was the first time I’d taken a formal dance class and I learned much more than dance steps,” Bradley explained. “I also learned dance theory, history of dance, history of ballet, history of modern dance, and modern issues in ballet, such as the lack of people of color in ballet.

“That class changed my perception and what dance could mean to me,” she added.

While her original intent was to become a lifestyle anchor on the local news, Bradley realized how much she loved dance and dancing after taking several extracurricular courses.

After taking a class on “Culture and the Body,” which examined – among other things – the cultural relevance of different hair styles and tattoos, as well as a course on African-American literature, Bradley realized that she loved analyzing cultural literature.

“I can see myself using dance as a form of text. I think of dance as just as important as a novel or a poem. I would love to become a professor and teach a course on dance as a text,” she said.

“It’s so crazy, because I came into MCLA thinking I would do one thing. Now, I’m completely on the other side of that. It’s because of MCLA’s interdisciplinary nature. I’m so grateful that I had these experiences both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Bradley recently combined her interests in dance and analyzing text at MCLA’s Undergraduate Research Conference, when she presented a paper on “African American Entertainment Tradition.”

“It was a really great experience. I would love to get into a graduate program teaching dance classes and academics,” she said.

To participate in the Jacob’s Pillow program, Bradley must give up a summer job she loves, and is asking for help to fund the dance program and school credit fees. For more information, go to

Bradley will perform with The School at Jacob’s Pillow on July 2 and 9 as part of its free outdoor performance series.

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