Although she has danced throughout her life, as an MCLA student Rachel Palmieri '08, of Webster, Mass., never dreamed she would one day become a professional ballroom dance instructor.
An active member of the College's Dance Company for all eight semesters that she attended MCLA, Palmieri choreographed her own numbers and ran rehearsals. And, her liberal arts education helps her in her duties as the office manager for the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, where she has worked for the past two years.
"I enjoy the fact that I have a job in the performing arts world and that I am excited every day to enrich other people's lives with dance," she said.
In addition to her managerial duties, "I teach ballroom and social dancing in mostly private lessons, but also some group lessons. Most of my students are couples preparing for their weddings who come to me for a choreographed first dance. Married couples also like to come in and learn to social dance for a hobby. Some of my students compete. I teach all adults, who range in age from their 20s all the way up to their 70s."
Palmieri, who majored in fine and performing arts, not only teaches others how to dance - she competes professionally.
"I've done several competitions and have danced with my students professionally, as well. Both are amazing. I enjoy being able to help my students improve their dancing and have fun as I improve my own dancing," she explained. "The Fred Astaire competitions are so much fun and create a positive environment for friendly competition. Through the company, we have three regional and three national competitions every year."
Palmieri has danced for 17 years, since the age of 8. "I had done all sorts of styles, but not ballroom. I was trained heavily when I was hired by the company. As instructors, we have to go through intense certification exams in order to teach."
Because she also is interested in the business side of her work, her ultimate career goal is to own her own studio, which she hopes to accomplish in the next few years. According to Palmieri, the popular television show "Dancing with the Stars" has played a huge role in making ballroom dancing more mainstream.
"So many first-time students come in and say they were inspired to take lessons because of the show. I am a fan of the show. The professionals do amazing things with the stars and completely transform their dancing. It inspires me as an instructor."
Palmieri knew that MCLA was the right school for her when she took her first tour of the College. Besides the beauty of the campus, "I also liked how they had such a diverse performing arts program, not so specialized, so I could explore all venues of acting, music and dance."
However, "The best thing about my MCLA experience was the bonds I made with people because of how small the school is. There really is a small community feeling where you know everyone that you pass by. It made me feel really comfortable. I also really enjoyed the fine and performing arts program and thoroughly enjoyed all the classes I took."