This week we hear from one of Starship’s wonderful teachers, Aliza Calvert, on her decision to pursue teaching.
I headed off to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the fall of 2001 with big Broadway dreams. I have loved musical theater since I can remember, because it combines my favorite things: singing, acting, and, most importantly, dancing. At eighteen I couldn’t believe my dreams were coming true. I had been accepted to one of the top programs in the country and got to study blocks away from the Great White Way.
My first day of classes at NYU was September 11, 2001. I was in ballet class on 18th Street when the planes hit the Twin Towers. When that first morning class had ended, the faculty gathered all of us into one of the studios to tell us the news. We were told the University was on lockdown, and that we were to remain in the building until they were sure it was safe to head back to our dorms. After giving us time to digest what was happening, the artistic director, Frank Ventura, suggested we continue with our classes as normal. I remember at first feeling shocked – how could they expect us to dance at a time like this? But once we started dancing I remember thinking, “There is no other place I’d rather be right now, and nothing I’d rather be doing.” Frank gave me a gift that day: The realization that the dance studio is my safe haven, my comfort zone, and where I most feel like myself. As classes continued that year, that feeling only grew. I no longer felt lucky only because I was on my way to becoming a Broadway actress, but lucky every day to be in the studio. Lucky to have parents that allowed me to study what I loved in college, rather than something “practical” like some of my peers.
I had wonderful teachers all throughout my college years: current and retired Broadway actors, and even an Alvin Ailey Company member. When I graduated I was well equipped with training that would get me work as an actress. But I didn’t head off to auditions like some of my friends. I no longer had the desire to be a “star”. I wanted to use my training, and my love of the arts, to be a great teacher, the kind of teacher like I had the pleasure to learn from. So instead I took a job as an intern in the education department at Hartford Stage Company. There I learned valuable classroom management tools, and most importantly, that the most important thing to me was to share my love of the arts inside a classroom.