Former professional dancer now dance professor

Former professional dancer now dance professor

Rita Snyder, a professor of dance in the University’s Department of Theatre and Dance, has a Masters in Dance from the University of Utah and ten years of professional dance experience under her belt. CW | Pete Pajor

Bailey Shoenberger

Rita Snyder has transitioned from a student of dance to a professional dancer, and now to a professor of dance in the University’s department of theatre and dance. With a master’s in dance from the University of Utah and 10 years of professional dance experience under her belt, she has set out to inspire the next generation of dancers here on campus.

Q: What were you drawn to about dancing?

A: Part of it was the physicality of it. I was always a tomboy, I liked to tumble and things like that. I saw a movie of Gene Kelly’s when I was in middle school – “The Pirate” – and I thought, “That’s what I want to do.” When you are a kid, sometimes you see something and it just connects, and when I saw Gene Kelly, I just thought, “I want to do that.”

Q: What is the best and the worst part of being a professor?

A: Maybe I’m biased, but we have some very talented, intelligent students who do really smart work. I love to see the improvement, especially students who don’t have much background in dance, who may have come from small towns, who struggle as freshmen to keep up. They keep going and they get focused and you see them at the end of their junior year and into their senior year and they have blossomed into this beautiful creature! And then they leave! And that is one of the sad and hard parts.

Q: What is it that you hope your students have learned from you?

A: I’m hoping that they will remember specifics of technique and anatomy and things like that, but more than anything I really hope that even for those who decide they don’t want to be a professional dancer, that they love dance. I want them to have an appreciation for dance and an enthusiasm for it, and even if they choose not to dance that they will continue to support the arts. For those that do decide to dance, I hope they pass on the enthusiasm for dance to the next generation.

Q: What was it like being a professional dancer?

A: It’s hard and it’s scary for all dance majors because you never really know whether or not you will succeed. It’s like being a football player – very few people make it as professional dancers. You can be a very good dancer and still not make it. It’s scary, but it’s fabulous if you get to do it. You get to perform, meet people and travel to places that you would never get to experience.

Q: What is your advice for young dancers about to enter the professional world?

A: My advice would be to stay strong. Be confident in who they are and their capabilities, because when you go out to audition, you will be getting 10 people that say no for every one person that says yes. And if you let the people that say, “No, you’re not any good” get to you, you will be destroyed. When you start to doubt yourself, you will fall apart at auditions and no one will hire you.

Q: What is the most important quality a dancer can have?

A: Discipline, confidence in yourself and being objective. It’s a sacrifice to become a serious dancer. You can’t just eat what you want, you can’t party all of the time, you have to stay focused and come to rehearsals and practices and all of that, and for some people that sacrifice is too much.