My Career Choice: Miranda Stuck – Dancer

Miranda Stuck is a professional dancer based in New York City. Prior to graduating from the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, Miranda trained classically at Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle, Washington. Miranda currently dances with Eryc Taylor Dance and works as an independent freelance artist, choreographer, and writer. Miranda has danced professionally for Marc Jacobs, Buglisi Dance Theatre, Alison Cook Beatty Dance, LLMoves, Matthew Westerby Company, and in Amazon TV’s Shelter (NJ). Miranda was invited to dance in music videos for Kelly Monrow, Lou Phelps, and Luis D. She has performed works of Alvin Ailey, Karole Armitage, Gabrielle Lamb, Earl Mosley, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon. Miranda’s most recent television debut includes a feature in Saturday Night Live’s sketch “The Black Lotus” hosted by Aubrey Plaza and Sam Smith. 

While continuing her professional dance career, Miranda completed a Master of Arts in Multi- Platform Journalism within Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Miranda is a contributor to publications including Broadway World, The Dance Enthusiast, and Motion by Degrees. Miranda is extremely passionate about writing, performing and visual arts, chronic illness advocacy, and genuine human connection. 

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?

When I was extremely young, I loved the idea of dressing up: whether it be as a fairy, princess, witch, or diva. I remember twirling around in my parent’s living room to a variety of music. Eventually, I watched the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform in my childhood city, Seattle, Washington, and my eyes opened to the magic of dance performance and live art. This experience of watching live dancers interact with each other and the audience triggered my passion-driven career. I knew I wanted to perform since I was four years old, and the sensational drive to dance and act never changed or went away since then.

What about this career choice did you find most appealing? 

I found the idea of being in the studio, in a room full of likeminded creatives and important people, extremely appealing, because that meant I was a part of a creative process. I enjoyed the idea of being surrounded by talent and voices. I think the most appealing part of this career choice is being able to share my performances and pivotal career moments with people I love. The feeling of performing alone, whether on a stage or on set, gives me such a rush in an adrenaline and creative sense which is so powerful and at times hard to describe. The creative process and performing are definitely the most intensely appealing moments of my career choice.

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?

After growing up in neoclassical ballet at The Pacific Northwest Ballet School, I decided junior year of high school I would pursue dance and arts at an undergraduate level as well. I began my training on scholarship at The University of Arizona School of Dance in a triple-track program with ballet, modern, and jazz. I always wanted to be in New York City, and after a year and a half moved to Manhattan. With an untraditional college route, I took a semester off school to train at Steps on Broadway and got admitted to my dream program, which was the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. I finished my training in the professional division at The Ailey School, training intensely in Horton and Graham technique, ballet, and musical theatre. I took part in Ailey’s New Directions Choreography Lab, a movement and choreography lab with two guest choreographers. While at Ailey, I began auditioning my senior year for companies, Broadway, and gigs.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?

First, my heart is filled with gratitude to share I always had familial support. In complete honesty, I grew up feeling like I wasn’t “good” enough or wasn’t the right body type for my career path. I wasn’t cast often at my ballet school, which as a young dancer was discouraging. When I received positive feedback from acclaimed college dance programs, I felt reinspired. My honest reason for transferring universities did not come down to simply wanting to move to New York, it was because I was not in an environment which was making me feel seen for my talent. I spent many days and weeks in dance classes in Arizona feeling completely invisible. So again, determined to find the right environment for myself, I chased further opportunities. When I was admitted to Ailey/Fordham, it felt like winning the golden ticket; my talent felt reaffirmed, and I felt seen. I’ve fortunately had mentors along the way who believed in me, which I will always be grateful for: Eva Stone, Tammy Dyke-Compton, Jan Horvath, and Tony Guerrero, to name a few. 

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?

Before transferring from University of Arizona, I was getting discouraged to a point which I was not convinced I could have a career in dance. I felt dispirited, invisible, and confused. I was searching for my “why” with all the work and training I invested in the art form, why I wasn’t getting chosen to perform or recognized at all in class. This time frame, around the end of 2017, was a time I felt extremely unsure about my decision in career choice and route. 

When did your career reach a tipping point?

The pandemic was a challenging tipping point because every opportunity in the industries I was working towards was completely shut down, without any notice or sign of when opportunities will return. I remember finishing my dance major in my childhood home living room, doing Graham contractions on the carpet. I remember improvising in my bedroom to keep the feeling of dance in my body. My comfort during this period was knowing ever other artist is going through similar experiences and that I wasn’t alone. 

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?

I was diagnosed with an autonomic disorder called POTS Syndrome in 2019, which is an ongoing challenge I have had to adjust to and overcome. My health growing up was challenging – I struggle with constant fatigue, dehydration, and an exacerbated heart rate. As a dancer, this diagnosis is an additional stressor that at times has made a certain experience: performance, audition, or tour, stressful. Invisible chronic illness is not often talked about in the performing arts industries, so I prematurely learned to be quiet about this part of myself. I have been learning every year to continue advocating for myself in arts and creative spaces to set boundaries and take care of my health first.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?

Determination and investing time in yourself. I can’t stress the number of times where the only driving force in my career is coming from myself and taking risks. The act of stepping into a room like you are meant to be there is beautiful but challenging. Martha Graham once said, “Your concern is to do the work, not to judge it.” This quote always stays with me when I doubt myself; let them tell you no, but always do the work and show up. Manifesting positive opportunities and connections can do wonders. Adjusting to thinking “why not me?” instead of “I could never do that” has been huge for me. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of have occurred in the last year. I joined Screen Actors Guild, made my debut on Saturday Night Live with a feature role, danced professionally with a company, and signed with two agencies. I’d say some of my other career highlights include dancing for Marc Jacobs in New York Fashion Week, being in an episode on HBO’s Succession, and dancing in a music video for rap artist Lou Phelps. One of my overarching accomplishments I have felt proud of is the act of dancing professionally alone, because it has been such a lifelong goal for me. 

Any advice for others entering your profession?

My advice is to make your goals and direction known to people around you, and to invest time into your training, online representation, portfolio, connections, and research. For those entering the industry, finding good friends and mentors in the arts is extremely important. Asking people questions  about their own path in a professional manner is extremely helpful and inspiring. Owning your best skills is also vital, while continuing to expand yourself to be as versatile as possible. People tend to want to put artists in a box: “You’re a dancer.” Why can’t I be a dancer, actress, singer, and writer? The field is already competitive as it is, make sure to not limit yourself mentally or emotionally. 

Headshot by Justin Patterson
B&W Photo by Theik Smith
Color Photo by Kay Photography

Miranda Stuck’s Website

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About Marina P. Kennedy (153 Articles)
Marina Kennedy began her writing career when her four children were grown and she returned to college to study in the humanities. She is delighted to be a contributor for Woman Around Town. The majority of her articles focus on the culinary scene, theatre, and travel. Marina and her husband Chuck enjoy the rich cultural experiences of the New York metro area and beyond. She hopes that readers like reading her articles as much as she enjoys writing them.