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The University of Alabama

Find Your Passion: Prepping for Broadway’s Lights

By Bobby Mathews

If senior Maci Arms was a compass, New York City would be her true North (Jeff Hanson).

If senior Maci Arms was a compass, New York City would be her true North (Jeff Hanson).

If University of Alabama senior Maci Arms was a compass, New York City would be her true North.

She’s been pointing that way for nearly as long as she can remember, preparing herself for a career in the bright lights of Broadway. She’s worn through pair after pair of dance shoes, left skin and blood on countless stages, nursed strains and sprains and endured hour upon hour of practice, practice, practice.

The dream is to become a Rockette, one of those high-stepping hoofers made famous by Radio City Music Hall performances.

But until that day, Arms plans to make her living doing something she loves—dancing in New York.

“Being a Rockette has always been a dream for me,” says Arms, a Nashville native.  “At 14, I began attending the Rockettes Summer Intensive, and my interest just sort of blossomed from there.”

Arms is being modest. She attended the camp for two years, earned a scholarship to attend for a third year and was invited back as a teen assistant for a fourth year.

One thing the dance major isn’t modest about, however, is how The University of Alabama helped prepare her for the next step in her professional career.

Arms strikes a pose with dance partner Adam Vanek, a musical theater major (Jeff Hanson).

Arms strikes a pose with dance partner Adam Vanek, a musical theater major (Jeff Hanson).

“I’ve had incredible professors at UA,” Arms says. “They have really been able to teach me so much—and not just in terms of what to do onstage. They also teach us how to be professional, how to conduct ourselves as a professional performer whether we’re on the stage or off of it. The best part, though, is that I’ve always known that the faculty cared about me as an individual.”

Not bad from a student who never considered applying to the University until prior to her senior year in high school.

“New York was always the dream,” Arms said. “I was thinking of NYU or a big conservatory in the city. But I was so attached to my family that I don’t think I would have done as well as I could have. I wasn’t mature enough. I wasn’t ready. I needed something between Nashville and New York.”

UA fit that bill perfectly, due in no small part to the demanding professionals in the department of theater and dance. Arms was able to concentrate on her major while remaining close with her family in Tennessee.

“I was surprised at the depth of the program here,” she says. “But I came down and auditioned, experienced it firsthand and saw how versatile and amazing the program was. I was hooked.”

Getting hooked was easy. Then came the hard part—the work. But Arms wasn’t afraid of the work, and it began to pay off when she spent last summer in New York as part of the Broadway Dance Center Summer Professional Semester Program.

“We are extremely proud of Maci and what she’s been able to accomplish,” says Dr. Cornelius Carter, director of the University’s dance program. “Our job here is to set the foundation for students like her to go on and be professional dancers, professional performers. Our standards are extremely high, and Maci is doing what we want all of our students to do.”

While coming to Alabama wasn’t in Arms’ original plans, she’s thankful now that she’s had an opportunity to learn and grow at the Capstone.

“When I took John Verciglio’s commercial jazz class, it was eye-opening,” she says. “It was a class basically on how to promote yourself as a dancer and in the world of dance in general. I was able to really gain a new perspective and kind of say ‘This isn’t just a dream. I can make a living doing this. This is a viable career.’”

Even if it wasn’t a career option, Arms would continue to dance. When she talks about performing or choreographing, her face lights up and the smile on her face is nearly ear-to-ear. If dance is an expression of joy—and it is—then dance is her joy and her passion.

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This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.

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