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Off the Clock – Meet Alice Wells, Missouri Contemporary Ballet’s Newest Member

Scott Shy
Alice Wells performing in Missouri Contemporary Ballet's November performance of "Eclipse in Movement"

Off the Clock – Meet Alice Wells, Missouri Contemporary Ballet’s Newest Member

Columbia’s Missouri Contemporary Ballet celebrated its 12th season last month with its original production Eclipse in Movement. This week, I talked with its newest member, Alice Wells, about the joys and challenges of working as a professional dancer for a small company. She’s 21-years-old and moved away from home at the young age of 14 to start training as a professional.


Erin McKinstry: “Could you start by telling me how you got started and interested in dance?”

Alice Wells: “Yeah, so I actually can't remember my time when I was not interested. When I was three years old, I went up to my mom, and I was like, ‘Mom I'm 3 years old now. I'm ready to take ballet.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ So yeah, I never stopped.”

EM: “I grew up dancing. When I was a little girl, I thought I wanted to be a ballerina for the New York City Ballet like every other little girl. But at some point when I was a teenager, I went to an arts camp, and they were like, ‘if you can imagine yourself doing something else and being happy, you should because it’s really hard to make it as a dancer.’ And I just wondered did you ever have a moment where you were like, yes, I don’t care how hard this is, I’m going to do it?”

AW: “I don't know that I had a specific moment, but there have been a lot of moments, at least lately, of doubt. Not since I've been here, but before I came here because I moved around a lot. Every year it's been new auditions and new places, like scared that I'm not going to get a job. It’s not like a job where you sign a contract, and you have a salary for years and tenure and all that. You have to renew your contract and if you don't get renewed, if there's not a place for you, if you're not tall enough, if you're not blonde enough, you know, there's a lot of factors. So, I wouldn't say that I've had a specific moment where I said this is for sure what I wanted to do, but in those moments of doubt, I always remind myself that it's okay that I have to work a lot of extra jobs and like eat Ramen sometimes. It's always, worth it, every moment.”

EM: “What's your day-to-day like? Because I feel like a lot of people don't realize that most dancers have a lot of different jobs.”

AW: “So, when we're in season with the company, we dance 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. A couple days a week, I either teach for the school of Missouri Contemporary Ballet or I actually teach at another local dance studio. And then the days that I'm not teaching I work at Chick-fil-A. So every day it's like, dancing 9 to 3 and then I either go to teach, or I go to work.”

EM: “Yeah, so this is your first season, right? What’s it been like?”

AW: “It's been really nice. It's really close-knit, and I've learned a lot about contemporary ballet. I've been so used to classical ballet my whole life that it's been really eye-opening to kind of loosen up to dance more styles, and I was like, oh yeah, I'll be okay when I get there, like I'm not going to struggle that hard. But I've actually struggled a lot this first part of the season. But we just had a show in November, and I felt like I really learned a lot and I really conquered a lot in the time that I've been here, and I'm looking forward to learning more and growing more, and you know just going with it.”

EM: “Have you always thought, I want to do contemporary ballet?”

AW: “I always, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a classical ballet dancer and then the more that I tried contemporary ballet and the more success that I had with that, the more that I grew to love it. I don't have the traditional ballet body type. You can see that I'm like 5’2”, and I'm not like, you know, really long legs or like really crazy feet but, um, it's kind of nice when you do contemporary ballet. It's not only about like how long your legs are, how tall you are. It's about your movement and your motion and like, yes your technique is super important, but it's also important how you can inspire the audience and move your body.”

EM: “What do you love so much about dancing?”

AW: “There's a lot that I love about dancing. I think what I love the most is that, sometimes, I'm not super awesome talking with my words and telling people what I mean, but when I dance I feel like I can tell people what I mean with my body. So I don't have to talk. And I don't have to stumble and stutter and be nervous. I can just move and dance and show them what I mean instead of telling them.”