Most everyone in life dreams of standing center stage with the bright lights pointed directly on them for their 15 minutes of fame. The stage that they dream of standing on may vary—from an auditorium for a special presentation, a field or court for an athlete or centre stage for a ballerina or dancer—with flowers being tossed on stage after hitting every stride in perfect harmony and the roar of the crowd cheering and shouting bravo.
But in order to reach those moments in a performance you have to practice repetitively, working on your flaws along the way, breaking bad habits. When a dancer and ballerina sits backstage as the production crew frantically makes the final preparations, they tie their shoes across their sore and sometimes painful feet to ensure a glove-like fit. Their hair and makeup flawless, they run their mind through the motions of the presentation that awaits, changing their breath with each jump as they find their rhythm and timing.
The show’s director enters the room, shouting “you are up next,” the dancer and ballerina takes one final breath and closes their eyes whispering ‘okay, time to shine.’ As famous dancer Shanna LaFleur once put said “it takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.”
Salem junior Emily McManus, member of the class of 2022, has that same passion for dancing whenever she takes the stage in her own right. “I grew up dancing competitively, so I did every type of dance- ballet, pointe, modern, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, tap, musical theater, etc.,” said McManus. “I was mostly trained in ballet, though.”
McManus, the Salem Dance Club Company President and a Junior Class Wellness Representative, began dancing at the age of two. As she describes it “most of my dance experiences are from competitions and auditions I went to growing up. I would take classes and audition for scholarships, dance gigs, and awards with hundreds of other girls in a big hotel ballroom with a paper number safety-pinned to my leotard. We would break into small groups to perform in front of the judges, and as soon as we finished the combination, we would form a straight line in front of the judges, standing in first position with our hands clasped behind our back.
“The judges would look at the line, discuss amongst themselves behind their clipboards, and choose a select few to stay. That was during the day, and at night was the actual competition. I would get ready, do my hair and makeup, and then warm up and change into my costume. I always got so nervous standing backstage and waiting (especially watching the other dances before me) but the moment that my music started and the lights hit my face it was like everything else in the world disappeared and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
McManus’ dance experience continues to be her driving passion and she brought it to her classes at Salem, where she is majoring in Dance and Movement Science. She discussed her love of dance and more important Salem College and provided the following responses:
Why did you choose your major? What are career goals with your major?
I chose my major because it combines my two passions: dance and the effects of sport on the body. My major is a combination of dance, exercise science, chemistry, and kinesiology classes. I plan to attend graduate school for Nutrition and become a registered dietician specializing in nutrition for athletes.
What professor (or classes) has had the biggest impact on you during your time at Salem?
Professor Heidi Echols has had a huge impact on me during my time at Salem. My first semester at Salem I was undecided on a major, and joined Salem College Dance Company. I grew up dancing competitively and knew that I wanted to continue in college, but I didn’t think I wanted dance to be my entire major. Heidi welcomed me into Dance Company with open arms, and I knew I wanted to be more involved in the dance department. Heidi told me about the Dance and Movement Science major, and it was the perfect fit for me.
Have you had an experience (working/in class/or one that you created on your own) that really helped you have found to be a defining moment of your life?
Working with the women’s soccer team has been an important experience in my time at Salem. I knew I was interested in nutrition, but I did not know what kind of nutrition I might like to practice: maternal, clinical, sports, public health, geriatric, etc. My internship with SCWS solidified that I want to study nutrition, and more specifically, sports nutrition. I would love to work with a professional women’s soccer team as their team dietician.
What groups are you involved in on campus that have gotten you connected to your other “Salem Sisters”?
I’ve had the honor of serving as the president of Salem College Dance Company for the past year, and before that I served as the vice president. I’m a member of the Association for Women in Mathematics and Phi Epsilon Kappa, an exercise science honors society. I’m also an Orientation Leader, Admissions Ambassador, and I serve as the Junior Class Wellness Representative. I’m also the manager for the Salem College Women’s Soccer team, go Spirits!!
Have you made connections with Salem alumnae that have given you insight on the business world?
I’ve made many connections with alumnae through Salem and the Lucy Rose Center. Salem is a very small and close-knit campus, so it is very easy to make connections with other students, and Salem students are always willing to help out their siblings with connections, jobs, and internships. A Salem alumna helped me to set up a phone interview with the nutritionist for the Atlanta Ballet, because she knew her from her ballet company. I was able to make a connection and speak with her about her job, schooling, and experience as a dietician. I’ve also spoken to alumnae through Network 1772, which is a current Salem student and alumnae portal.