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Center for Professional Development
63 South Main Street, 2nd Floor
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
(603) 646-2215
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E-mail: Center for Professional Development
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Alumni Stories: Andrew Asnes '87

Professional Dancer by Maggie Shnayerson '03

Asnes

If he hadn't gone to Dartmouth, Andrew Asnes '87 says he would not have become a dancer.

"An artist is someone who brings everything about them to each performance; they're good actors, they're good singers, they're good performers. They're not one-dimensional, they don't do just one thing, they bring everything in their life experience with them and Dartmouth gives you a lot of fuel for that."

With visits to 40 countries and 270 cities around the world and over 1,000 performances under his belt, the New York City native is an accomplished dancer and actor.

Though he had danced in high school, Asnes says it was meeting Dartmouth professors Pepe and Vicki DeChiazza that inspired him to follow through with his dancing career.

In the eighties, when Asnes was a student at the College, there were only three dance courses that students could take for credit and they did not cater to the advanced level which Asnes was performing at, so he danced two hours a day, six evenings a week on his own.

Three weeks before he was supposed to begin a summer term at Dartmouth, Asnes decided to take a chance and audition for the Paul Taylor Dance Company in New York City.

On the day classes started in Hanover, Asnes was chosen, along with two others, out of a group of 100 dancers auditioning for the Company.

Not knowing whether he should stay in New York and dance for Paul Taylor or return to Hanover, he decided to go straight to the top for his answer.

"I went over to Paul and I said 'Look, school's starting for me today.' He said 'Go finish school and come back when you're done,' those were his exact words."

Asnes followed the renowned artist's advice and returned to Hanover to finish his degree, even though he knew there was a possibility he would lose his chance with Paul Taylor. Following graduation, he returned to New York and worked what he calls "freelance dance gigs" while taking dance classes.

"People think once you get the job you stop working, but you still go to class. If you stop doing that you're not an artist as far as I'm concerned," Asnes says.

After class one day, Asnes remembers, Taylor approached him and asked if he was interested in traveling to Europe as part of Taylor's summer tour. He warned Asnes that the position was not guaranteed; he would have to apprentice first and then Taylor would decide if Asnes was cut out for the international performances.

The world of dance, especially in New York, is cutthroat and competitive, Asnes warns, so his being ultimately chosen for the European tour was a significant accomplishment.

Being a dancer takes an overwhelming amount of work and dedication and Asnes warns the rewards are not easy to come by, though they are certainly worth it.

"We live in a culture of immediates, we want everything right now, we want it all right now and when people don't get it, they get discouraged and they think it's not coming. People think they should be a success tomorrow, but it never works that way. You've got to be patient and absorb as much as you can," he says.

Asnes has now been dancing professionally for 16 years and counts performing in the Paris's Palais Garnier and dancing in the 6,000-seat Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin among his favorite memories. He also directed a night of his own work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

After performances, when parents approach Asnes and ask him how they can encourage their children in dance, he says he does not mince words.

"I tell the parents 'Just stay out of the way.' You can't stop someone who wants to be an artist. If they're going to do it, they're going to do it. The people who are in it professionally, they don't really have a choice. They keep working hard because what else is there."

At Dartmouth, in addition to being a member of the now-defunct improvisation group Said and Done, Asnes helped to direct senior productions and directed his own productions in the Collis Commonground.

He also founded an improv group that toured colleges on the East Coast such as Williams, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. In addition, he was a member of Bones Gate fraternity.

Asnes' professional credits include 11 years dancing for the Paul Taylor Dance Company and work with the Twyla Tharp Dance Company. In addition, he performed on the national tour of the Broadway show Contact and has worked on various other national productions.

He is now working on a film he is writing himself and says he is currently in a transitional period, despite his plan this summer to perform at the Maine State Music Theater and his current work in performances by Maury Yeston and others.

"I've stopped dancing in concert work, I don't got to auditions for dancers anymore, I go for the calls for roles."

Currently Asnes lives in the Village near New York University in Manhattan and says he is nourishing an addiction to surfing.

Though certainly surfing is not the safest hobby for a dancer dependent on his physical health, Asnes says he is not worried.

"I mean, you have to be smart. I don't have a motorcycle, but you can't live your life like that, worrying. I mean, I've been skiing since I was three years old — what am I going to do, stop skiing because I dance?" says Asnes, scoffing at the thought.

His ultimate goal is to win a Tony Award for his Broadway performance.

Breaking into the world of dance holds incredibly difficult challenges and Asnes has advice for aspiring Dartmouth dancers.

"Do your work and be focused and do your best. Don't forsake your education — that's going to set you apart — you went to Dartmouth and you got an education.

"Work as hard as you can on the things you can work on. Until it seems like there is no possible chance you're going to succeed, don't give up."

Surrounding oneself with an environment that will encourage artistic progress is crucial, he adds.

"When I got out of Dartmouth, I was totally raw," says Asnes. "I had a lot of ability and some good training, but I was just starting. When I walked out the door I still needed a lot of development, a lot of growth. You're going to have to find the places and the people that will help you develop."

Last Updated: 6/21/12