If you ask Dyson BFA Commercial Dance student Madison Embrey ’14 what brought her to Pace, she’ll tell you all about her meeting with renowned choreographer and Commercial Dance Program Director Rhonda Miller…when she was just nine years old.
“I took my first dance class with Rhonda Miller when I was nine. Then when I was 16 or 17, I ran into her again. She told me Pace had a dance minor and that she was starting a dance major at Pace, had written the program but it wasn’t in place yet. She asked if I would like to be the student to help get the program started,” recalls Embrey. “I was planning on going to Fordham for either pre-law or political science, but the opportunity to not only be at a university in the city, but to be at the forefront of a program I believe so strongly in, I couldn’t say no.”
And it looks like things paid off for Embrey, who has thrived at Pace, both academically as a Pforzheimer Honors College student and in her field, performing in the Dance Out Loud showcase and alongside six Broadway stars in Carnegie Hall Community Sing, all in one week, which she cheerfully called her “second week of Christmas.”
“I don’t think it gets any more ‘real world experience’ than right here,” she says.
Additionally, through a connection with her music theory teacher and musical director for the Broadway show Chicago Leslie Stifelman, who worked with Carnegie Hall to start the Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange, Embrey has served a student ambassador to the program, which connects artists to young musicians (ages 13-25) to share their performances and compositions and provide feedback. She’s also taken on a role in the Performing Arts department in recruiting, giving tours to prospective students, and bringing in nearly 25 new students to the program.
Inspired by the impact Rhonda Miller had on her, Embrey also returns to her home state of Michigan each summer to give back to middle school age students, teaching, giving private lessons and workshops, choreographing, even helping out with national dance conventions.
And now, she’s taken it to a national level, inspiring youth through her pageant platform for Miss New York. In March 2013, Embrey was crowned Miss Southern New York, the official preliminary to Miss New York and Miss America, and she will compete for Miss New York on July 13. Her platform “Pursue Your Passion” is meant to encourage people, especially middle school and high school age youth, to find what they love and pursue it.
“So many people want to give, give, give, and few give to themselves,” she says. “For younger people, it’s about finding something you’re passionate about. Whenever I was stressed out about something, I had dance to go to. I wanted to find a platform that was important to everyone and to encourage everyone to find that something they love. I was so fortunate to have so many amazing mentors in my life and I want to become one of those mentors for the next generation.”
All this success and Embrey has managed to stay grounded, just not literally. After graduation, though she has not crossed off getting her master’s degree or pursuing law school, she’s going to keep dancing.
“My plan is to pursue a professional performance career. Coming to Pace and working with professionals in the industry, it feels like a really tangible goal,” she says. “Because the faculty at Pace is amazing and they’re working in the industry, it doesn’t feel like there’s a glass wall between myself and a professional career in the performing arts. If I keep putting in the hard work and making connections, it’s going to happen.”
Interested in seeing Embrey in action? Check out some of her 2012 Dance Out Loud performances here and here and watch her perform “Oh the Places You’ll Go” at the American Dance Awards Nationals here. Make sure to stay tuned for more about her journey to the Miss New York crown.