A ‘Beautiful Exchange’: Two Dance Professionals Connect in National Mentorship Program

A ‘Beautiful Exchange’: Two Dance Professionals Connect in National Mentorship Program

Mentor Dr. AnaMaria Correa and Mentee Kimberly Pereira

Editor’s note: Each year Dance/USA matches early-career dance leaders with established dance professionals for the Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training. Learn more about the program here

By Lisa Traiger

As Miami City Ballet’s chief community engagement officer, Dr. AnaMaria Correa leads a team that works to build and nurture “forever-partnerships” rooted in equity and access to bring ballet and dance into communities especially those systemically marginalized.

She is completing her second year at Miami City Ballet (MCB) and came to the dance world through theater, first as a performer then via work in the arts-in-education field. “I was going into classrooms, working with teaching artists, implementing programs, teaching the arts to students, combining arts as a way of enhancing educational content areas,” she explained. Her arts-in-education work took her to Henry Street Settlement House, Dancing Classrooms and Ballet Hispánico, all in New York City. Most recently Correa completed her doctorate in urban education at The Graduate Center/CUNY. “As a leader, I bring a confluence of experiences that inform my practice: my raced identity, gendered experience, my work as a performing artist, and pedagogical training,” she said.

Yet, she noted that throughout her career, “I did not have mentors along the way. I’m a woman of color and … often, depending on race and class, you don’t have those [formal or informal] networks. I certainly worked with fantastic leaders and I’m a reflective leader, but I didn’t … even understand what that systemic mentorship was.”

When Dance/USA’s executive director Amy Fitterer reached out to Correa to ask if she would mentor Kimberly Pereira as part of the Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training (DILT), the answer was an enthusiastic “yes” — on both sides. Pereira, education manager at Charlotte Ballet, said she specifically wanted to work with a woman, preferably someone of color. “I wanted a female who could relate and share her experiences on navigating career paths, specifically in the field of community engagement and education within dance. While I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing individuals, I really felt like I needed a female perspective as a female navigating this path.” She also wanted someone with expertise in education and engagement because, she noted, it’s an ever-evolving field as curriculums change frequently. “I wanted a leader who was well versed in that field … [AnaMaria] was a perfect match.”

Mentoring Can Enhance Equity by Reaching Young Arts Leaders of Color

Correa added, “When I was invited to be part of the mentorship program, I was very clear that I was interested in mentoring a young professional of color because I recognized that persons of color in leadership positions in arts administration are underrepresented … because there’s no mentorship pipeline” specifically for aspiring arts leaders of color.

Correa noted that the programs she creates “disrupt and enhance equity for anyone who wants access to this art form.” The ballet’s community engagement department represents 3 percent of its $11 million annual budget and its community engagement programs for the public are always free. Additionally, Correa said, Miami City Ballet “serves as a leader and voice for classical ballet, which is [presently] being invited to really think about social responsibility.”

Pereira and Correa initially connected via email and then Skype (this was pre-pandemic, prior to the Zoom boom). “I really wanted Kimberly to dictate the direction we were going to go together,” Correa explained. “She is extremely organized and purposeful in her work, so she had already thought about how to make the best out of this situation …. On our call, we got to know each other [then] Kimberly put together a Google document to track everything we discussed and any questions she had for our next session.”

One of the richest and most rewarding experiences for Pereira was her site visit to MCB, where she spent a week shadowing her mentor and others on staff. Correa designed a full 360-degree introduction to the ballet company: “Kimberly got to see performances, community engagement work. She shadowed my [engagement] staff. She interviewed leaders in the organization — the marketing director, the artistic administrator, the executive director, and the marketing manager.” Then the pair spent one-on-one time debriefing.

Working With a Mentor Helps Young Leaders Gain Fresh Perspectives

“I saw AnaMaria’s programming in action,” Pereira said, “whether that was Ballet for Young People or her Ballet Bus program or making new connections with potential community partners. AnaMaria centers it around the partnership. I went with her to a potential community-partner meeting and saw her genuinely explain her programming and her vision of how the engagement department can work together with that potential community partner.” Pereira said, “It was really lovely to have that time to see AnaMaria working in her element, then to talk about each program with her.” Pereira also noted that sitting in the audience for a community-engagement program offered her a fresh perspective: “Normally I’m behind the scenes and don’t get to see our audiences’ full interactions with our programming.”

At this point, both MCB and Charlotte Ballet have revamped their community-engagement and education programming for the virtual environment. And while the official DILT mentorship period has concluded, Pereira and Correa remain in touch. “I feel like I’ve had AnaMaria in my career forever,” Pereira said, “even though it’s only been a year.”

She continued: “My growth has been significant. I look at engaging within community as fully putting the partner at the center of the work that I do …. Seeing the way AnaMaria walked into a brand-new community partnership and the brilliance of watching her describe the potential engagement has changed the way that I present our education and community engagement departments to other partners.”

“I’m truly thankful for this mentorship,” said Pereira, “and I want to continue giving back through mentorship as well because the time and the effort that you put into an individual helps both the mentee and mentor. It’s a beautiful exchange.”

For further information on Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training, visit the website here.

Lisa Traiger

Lisa Traiger edits From the Green Room, Dance/USA’s online journal, and writes frequently on dance and the performing arts for publications including Dance, Dance Teacher and Washington Jewish Week. An award-winning arts journalist, she is a former co-president of the Dance Critics Association and holds an MFA in choreography from University of Maryland.

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