Hayley Thompson’s first dance performance was in her elementary school multipurpose room.
Nearly 14 years later, she choreographed routines for high school students in the same studio.
The alumna said dance is the one constant in her life – from ridiculous performances on tiny stages to becoming the executive director of UCLA’s ICARUS Contemporary Dance Company. After graduating in June, Thompson taught summer classes at the To the Pointe dance studio and moved to Spain on Aug. 26 to teach English for a year, all while striving to keep dance a part of her life by seeking out studios abroad. Thompson said the balance she found between dance and her other academic and personal interests in college – like her experience tutoring kids in an after-school program – is one she hopes to find in future careers.
“I’ve been playing with the idea of working in nonprofit or trying to do dance or choreography or marketing or starting a nonprofit myself,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she switched her major from psychology to dance to many other fields of study while at UCLA, unsure of what she wanted to do with her education. However, she was a member of the ICARUS dance team throughout college and made it a priority in her schedule. Thompson said balancing schoolwork and dance was difficult due to the many hours she devoted to both, but she made it work because dance is her passion.
Thompson spent her summer teaching at To the Pointe Productions in Chino, California. Every week during the studio’s summer program, she choreographed for high school-age students in various styles of dance, such as jazz and contemporary. Thompson said she enjoyed helping students figure out their personal styles by telling them to make decisions during the dance about how hard they want to hit certain moves or how to put their own spin on the routines she choreographed.
Maddy Tucker, a rising fourth-year psychobiology student and ICARUS team member, said Thompson’s background as executive director of ICARUS has given her extensive practice in group choreography. Thompson strived to play to the dancers’ strengths and highlight their talents through many solos in the pieces she choreographed, Tucker said. Tucker said her welcoming personality makes Thompson a capable leader or teacher.
“I think she will be a great role model for the kids, to showcase that you can dance after high school and after studio life,” Tucker said.
While teaching dance at To the Pointe is familiar territory for Thompson, she said she is trying something new by going on an abroad program to teach an entirely new subject. Thompson said she never thought she would be a teacher, often shrugging it off when her previous teachers said she would make a good one. Though teaching English as a second language is something new to her, Thompson said the teaching and leadership role of the position is something she’s looking for in future endeavors.
Shilah McGuinness, an alumna and Thompson’s roommate of two years, said the trip to Spain started as a casual idea that suddenly became Thompson’s big post-UCLA plan. McGuinness said she sometimes worries about Thompson moving across the globe because she isn’t necessarily fluent in Spanish, and being in such a different place might make finding connections difficult. Despite the potential problems, McGuinness said Thompson will excel at the teaching aspect of the trip because she actively taught her team members the routines she choreographed for ICARUS. McGuinness said Thompson could easily discover that teaching is what she wants to do with her life.
“(Thompson) is one of those people that loves an adventure and pushing herself out of her comfort zone,” McGuinness said. “It’s like a cool adventure, a cool challenge for her to be living in a country where she’ll be speaking a different language and meeting new people.”
Thompson loves to dance, but said nonprofit work and choreography are important to her as well. Whether it be choreographing music videos or starting her own nonprofit to bring the arts to lower-income communities, Thompson said she would love to find a career that allows her to both continue dance and pursue other passions. For now, Thompson is excited to teach English to students while also seeking out dance classes and maybe a position as a dance teacher at a studio in Spain.
“If she were to just devote her life just to dance, she still wouldn’t feel fulfilled,” McGuinness said. “I hope that she finds the one thing that combines all of her crazy, diverted passions and pulls them all together.”