Waking up early on the first Saturday at Yale, I strolled into Payne Whitney Gymnasium, armed with my dance bag and my confidence.

I was thrilled to be auditioning for a dance group at Yale. I have been dancing since the age of two, and it is an essential part of my life. Dance is my life; dance is my passion. I knew that I was going to have to find a niche where dance played a major part of my life.

I arrived at the audition for the Yaledancers, a student-run dance group, a few minutes early to warm-up. Stepping into the huge dance studio, with a wooden floor, with ballet barres perfectly aligned in the room like pinstripes on a suit, I knew I felt ready to dance and to show off the craft that I had been trying to perfect since age two.

The first part of the audition was easy, a ballet barre which was normally a regular part of my life, a daily ritual for the past eight years. The only catch was that I had just had reconstructive knee surgery, and this was my first ballet barre in almost three months. We started the first combination, Pamela James ’01, leading, and my knee was not used to moving this way. I started to cramp up, forget the combination, and forget why it was that I loved to dance.

The ballet barre continued, followed by ballet center, a jazz combination and a free-style choreographic improv section. Throughout the entire audition my knee preoccupied me, and I never allowed myself to release, to enjoy and to just dance the way I love to do. Afterwards, I walked out of the gym, unsure of my performance, but also relieved to see that Yale had such good dancers; I was amazed at the level of technical skill of these dancers, and I was in fact a bit intimidated.

The list of accepted dancers would go up in just a few short hours at the gym and by the post office on Old Campus. I rushed home, starving, eager to meet up with my new suitemates and ready to pass the time until the list would be posted. My suitemates, just as nervous as I was, reassured me that my audition must have been fine because even with my knee injury, my love of dance could shine through, and I had mentioned on my audition sheet that I was recovering from knee surgery. But nothing can ever really eradicate the nerves of a dancer.

The time passed, and I wandered over to the post office, arm in arm with my roommate, and scanned the list for my last name. And there it was. Alexis Carra, Yaledancer 1999-2000. I was shocked, ecstatic, honored and comforted.

Over the next year, I found in the Yaledancers a group that challenged me artistically, giving me the opportunity to choreograph, and also a group of fellow students who felt at home with dance just as much as I did. It was easy to share my passion with these dancers. And now that I have finished my second year at Yale, having held a position on the board of Yaledancers and served as co-president of the umbrella dance organization at Yale, the Alliance for Dance at Yale (ADAY), my dancing has extended beyond just rehearsals and dance class. I have learned about the administrative and financial aspects of running a dance company and of heading an organization dedicated to increasing the awareness of dance at Yale.

The environment in which I dance now has made me appreciate this art form more than ever. As a dancer who has trained all over the country and auditioned for a Broadway show, I have seen the most professional that the dance world has to offer. But here at Yale, I see not only a comparable sense of professionalism among all of the dance groups at Yale, ranging from hip-hop, in Rhythmic Blue, to Chinese dance, in Phoenix, and even all tapping, in Taps, but I also see and feel a mutual respect for dance as an essential ingredient in the artistic life at Yale. I am a dancer — and at Yale I am a dancer, a student, a co-president, a choreographer and a teacher. I can do it all and love doing it.

Alexis Carra ’03 is a member of the Yaledancers and an active participant in the theater scene.