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MSLCE Student Hopes to Make Dance More Inclusive for Minorities

By Amy Ross

Hayley Bullock hadn’t been walking very long by the time she started to dance.

At the age of three she was taking tap, jazz and show choir lessons and soon after was performing in public, including a performance at Disney World. However, when she turned 15, Bullock abandoned her dream of becoming a dancer after an adult she respected told her that black girls couldn’t do ballet. She started to run track, instead. “I continued to teach smaller kids, but quit training. When you are told that as a teenager, it is certainly a deterrent,” she said.

Bullock’s break from dance came to an unexpected end when she entered Loyola University, where she majored in Management. She signed up for a couple of intermediate classes in dance, initially with the intention to stay physically active, but soon began to rediscover the same love and passion she had felt growing up. She started off with a dance minor and soon after the director began to encourage her to adopt dance as a double major. “What held me back was having to take ballet. I was not at all a ballet dancer. I had a stronger background in jazz, modern and tap and it was very hard to shed so many stereotypes,” said Bullock.

She eventually chose to take on the challenge, which not only helped her improve her technique, but also opened doors to many professional opportunities and internships. Bullock graduated in December of 2014, after choosing to also major in Dance during the second semester of her junior year.

After working at a gym, she found a part time job at the River North Chicago Dance Company, where she was able to put her management skills to use. She also started to collaborating with Recycled Barre, a community based dance studio that recycles underutilized spaces into functioning dance studios.   

“I’ve been working with them and would love to be able to open up dance to more communities, specifically minority communities who wouldn’t get classical ballet otherwise,” said Bullock. “I went through the struggle of being an African American in dance and I don’t want other women to have to go through the same thing,” she said. While her plans for the future are somewhat unclear and she hasn’t decided if she wants to pursue further training in choreography, Bullock desires to keep one foot in the office while keeping the other one active in dance and working with students. I’m really passionate about both business and dance and I can see the necessity for dancer and artist to have an understanding of the business aspects of dance, which is something that not many people have,” she said.   

Although she was skeptical about attending graduate school and worried about investing in something that would not truly be useful to her, after finding the MSLCE program Bullock was convinced she had found a degree that would bring her interests together. “When I read about the specific classes on organizational development and change, business ethics in art and entertainment, I thought: ‘Wow, this is exactly what I want to do!”