A career as a professional dancer is one of the most physically difficult and often one of the shortest because of injuries and stress on the body. And yet it is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring of the arts to watch and, judging by the devotion of dancers, one of the most satisfying careers to experience.
Idyllwild Arts Academy Dance Department Chair Ellen Rosa Taylor started dancing at age 6, and at 13, told her mother she wanted to become a professional dancer. “I was always focused,” said Ellen. “I loved to be in the studio and never minded spending the time.”
Ellen studied ballet primarily until grad school. She received a bachelor’s degree in ballet from Indiana University on a dance scholarship and a master’s degree in fine arts in dance from Florida State University with a university fellowship and dean’s teaching fellowship. “In graduate school, I began studying contemporary dance,” she recalled. “If you have strong ballet and strong contemporary, you’re more employable. The more versatile you are, the more you can work.”
Ellen acknowledged the challenges facing any dancer in finding not just work, but the right work. “The challenge is in the career aspect, finding the right person to work for that supports you as an artist. You want to get somewhere you can do the roles you want to do. The first couple of years, finding your path in the art form can be difficult.”
Ellen has danced professionally with the City Ballet of Los Angeles, the Chattanooga Ballet Company, the Charleston Ballet Theater and La Danserie in California. Having taken the American Ballet Theater (ABT) National Training Curriculum Certification Program, she has always blended teaching with performing. “You learn more about your own artistry when you teach others,” she observed.
Since taking over the IAA Dance Department in 2009, Ellen has instituted the ABT curriculum of training for the department. “The ABT curriculum is now starting to show itself in our dancers,” she said. “They all have the same foundation. It’s not over the top, not affected and they have good technique. We make sure our dancers have strong ballet and strong contemporary.”
As department chair, Ellen is responsible for writing the curriculum for the academy’s pre-professional dance program, as well as non-major dance classes. She teaches beginning through advanced ballet technique, variations, pointe, pas de deux and dance conditioning. She recruits for the department and writes grant proposals for dance master classes and dance residencies. She also mentors students about their college or professional dance options. She has shaped and built a highly respected program, reflected by the acceptance of academy dance graduates into prestigious companies and universities.
Asked how it feels to be a dancer, Ellen said, “When performing, it’s your passion. When you wake up and go to work, it’s what you want to do. It’s not work. It’s a great life of passion and beauty — to dance, to choreograph and to teach.
“The transition from dancing professionally to teaching full-time was pretty easy. Coming here facilitated that transition. I never feel regret because I get to work with such amazing students.”
Ellen and family are now full-time Idyllwild residents.
For more about Ellen Rosa Taylor, visit www.idyllwildarts.org
Reprinted with permission from the Idyllwild Town Crier.
Article by Marshall Smith, Staff Reporter 2/17/2016