College of Fine Arts, School of Dance

Hayley Meier, Class of ‘20
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Pursuing a master’s in dance, with an emphasis on performance and choreography

“I had already built that path for myself to be a professional dancer. It was never a question of, ‘Are you going to try something else?’”

Hayley Meier began dancing when she was three years old. She says, “I remember going to this dance competition when I was 10. It was in Florida and I had seen these girls performing, and I was like, ‘Wow. How do I get to be that good?’” That’s when she decided to really focus on her technical training. She went to a ballet school that was similar to Olympics-style training—six days a week, five to six hours a day, in addition to school.

During high school, one of her mentors suggested she look into the University of Arizona. Despite having no knowledge of Tucson, Hayley and her mom came out for a weekend during the Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase. “There is a national audition and it’s just infiltrated with dancers. It was October, it was beautiful weather, I just fell in love with campus.”

After receiving her bachelor’s in 2009, she moved from Tucson to Chicago and danced for the River North Dance Chicago for five years, until the company folded. After that, Hayley shares, “I did a lot of freelance work, I performed on Broadway, off-Broadway, operas, I learned how to do aerial work. But it was the first time in my life that I hadn’t danced every day. I started losing my identity. I was like, ‘Wait, what am I doing in my life?’” She also ended a long-term relationship and turned down an amazing job opportunity with a nationally touring Broadway show because she was not in the right headspace.

It was at that time that she received a call from the director of the University of Arizona School of Dance, asking if Hayley wanted to be a guest artist for an upcoming show? One guest performance turned into several, then into an artist in residence position and graduate school. She will graduate with her master’s in May 2020, with a focus on choreography. “Choreography has always been the thing that has scared me the most. Maybe more than public speaking. I created my first duet last semester and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so proud of myself. It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I can do this.’”

To Hayley, it’s wonder that makes her reach her greatest potential. It’s the possibility of becoming something you didn’t think you could be. She says, “When my relationship backfired, I realized I was living my life for other people. I was trying to make other people happy with the hope that I would then be happy. Now, I wonder what I can amount to as a human? As a strong female. I feel like this school is giving me the confidence to be able to do that.”

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