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January 23, 2017

Professional Dreams Come True for Two Adelphi Dancers


Kenneth Murray is now dancing on Broadway in Cirque du Soleil’s “Paramour.”

Making it in the highly competitive world of professional dance is a major achievement. Meet Kenneth Murray ’15 and Lana Hankinson, now a senior: two Adelphi dance majors who launched their professional careers even before graduating.

Murray came to Adelphi with dreams of someday dancing on Broadway. He worked with the Amy Marshall Dance Company for the fall 2012 production of Dance Adelphi and was offered a position with the company. He joined after graduating and soon after was headed to Poland and Germany to perform on tour.

His goal was to work hard, move up the ranks and someday make it to Broadway. Little did he suspect he would attain his goal so soon. In 2016 Murray was hired by Cirque du Soleil to dance in its production of Paramour as what’s called a vacation swing. “As a swing, when someone in the ensemble goes on vacation I am there to cover that track or to act as an extra set of hands,” he explained. “I didn’t think I would be here until I was maybe 27 or 28, so I am very lucky to be where I am at 23.”

Murray credits the training he received in Adelphi’s Department of Dance for putting him on the road to success. “Broadway is mostly musical theater, but being at Adelphi strengthened my skills in ballet and modern [and in] being able to pick up choreography fast because in class some of our teachers would teach us a combination and then have us do it right away. The teachers were very helpful in guiding me. Taking ballet and modern lessons every day strengthened my technique big-time.”

Frank Augustyn, dance department chair and associate professor, has explained, “These are the most difficult techniques. If you can master these, you are more valuable to a choreographer because you can then also handle jazz and other techniques.”

Lana Hankinson is an American Ballet Theatre-certified ballet instructor and has interned as well as performed with the professional ballet company, Dances Patrelle.

Another Adelphi dancer is well on her way to success. Lana Hankinson, a senior, is already an American Ballet Theatre-certified ballet instructor and has interned as well as performed with the professional ballet company, Dances Patrelle. “It’s been a privilege to see how a company works behind the scenes,” said Hankinson of her internship there. “And as I prepare to audition and enter the professional dance world, it’s helped me go in with my eyes open.”

She credits her instructors, especially Augustyn, for giving her the professional preparation that she was craving. She met Augustyn when she was still undecided about whether or not to postpone a professional career in order to attend college. “He asked me to consider the campus and when I visited I was very attracted to the school, the diverse and accomplished group of teachers and the proximity to the cultural hub of New York City,” Hankinson said. “And these four years at Adelphi have allowed me the opportunity to mature both personally and as a dancer.”

For her senior capstone program—a solo she will perform before graduation—Hankinson chose her former Adelphi professor Leda Meredith to choreograph. “Lana is a very soft, lyrical dancer, but she’s also very powerful,” said Meredith. “It’s unusual to have both qualities in a dancer, but it was a pleasure and a challenge to incorporate both into my choreography.” The two set the entire piece in just two rehearsals, but Hankinson will continue to work on it throughout her final semester.

While her earlier training was very ballet focused, Hankinson appreciates that Adelphi has given her the chance to equally explore both ballet and modern technique. “In today’s world, you have to be ready to dance whatever the choreographer wants,” she said. “And I don’t know if I prefer one over the other—I’m just happiest when I’m in motion!”

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