Finding and Funding Your Passion
Commercial dance student and a winner of the 2014-2015 Ted and Pat Levine Proof of Concept Entrepreneurship Initiative Juliette Nieves ’15 is getting down to business to pursue a passion that pays.
Juliette Nieves ’15 started dancing before age three while taking informal lessons from her father in the family’s living room. The BA in Commercial Dance student has come a long way since then, and is making her passion work for her, thanks to Pace and the Lubin School of Business.
Nieves is the founder/CEO and artistic director of Reaction Dance Company, a fusion dance group that brings ethnically diverse entertainment into the American marketplace by offering customized performances in the combined styles of Latin, Bollywood, hip-hop, and contemporary. Think America’s melting pot, but with dance.
“I thought, what if we could mix styles together and show who we and our cultures are through dance—and not just about one culture, but many,” she says of the inspiration behind Reaction Dance. As ambitious as it is innovative, Nieves knew the company required funding to sustain itself. “There’s a thing in dance where you feel like you’re not supposed to make money, or you’ve been told most of your life that artists don’t really make a lot of money,” says Nieves, who’s determined to make dancing a viable career for herself and others. That’s when she turned to resources at Pace for help.
As a member of the Pforzheimer Honors College, she applied for a competitive Honors College Research Grant during her junior year to study and learn more about dance. “When you think Honors College and research, you think science and sociology—the ‘hard’ subjects, so to speak,” she recalls, thinking that getting the grant wasn’t likely due to the general perception of dance. To her surprise, she received the grant.
But Nieves didn’t stop there. She applied for and won a newly established Ted and Levine Proof of Concept Entrepreneurship Award as well, which will help her to advance Reaction Dance without taking money out of her own pocket for rehearsals, to promote work, to pay for legal work to incorporate the company, and more. “It means a lot to win the grant,” she says. “I never had anyone say that dance is a practical business idea, so getting that grant made me very hopeful.”
As far as her ambitions for the next year and beyond, she wants to create momentum around her dance company, build upon upcoming opportunities for Reaction, and to lay the foundations for a new form of expression. “We, as a culture, put ballet and contemporary on this pedestal in America as the ultimate forms of dance—but every dance is technical, and beautiful, and there shouldn’t be boundaries between styles. We need to move dance forward,” she says. With Reaction’s diverse combinations of styles, there’s no doubt that Nieves and the company will find the right steps.
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"Take these next four years to change your mind over and over again, learn about yourself, figure out your priorities, and absorb as much knowledge as you can," says graduating senior Jaclyn Griffith. "And please eat plenty of Rosella's Pizza in my honor."
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