Why Leaving NYCB to Pursue an Economics Degree Was the Right Decision for Freelance Dancer Shoshana Rosenfield

November 6, 2018

Shoshana Ronsenfield’s career has not followed a straight path. In a surprising move, the born-and-raised New Yorker left a burgeoning career at New York City Ballet in 2012 to study economics at Barnard College. Upon graduating, Rosenfield spent six months freelancing with companies including New Chamber Ballet and Tom Gold Dance before spending two years working in global management at Goldman Sachs (and dancing on the side).

Now Rosenfield is on to a new chapter: She’s just completed a boot camp in computer coding, and is currently doing a coding teaching fellowship. But she’s still dancing. This weekend, Rosenfield will appear in Tom Gold Dance’s fall season at Florence Gould Hall. We caught up with Rosenfield to hear all about how she’s balanced college and career and how she’s learned that it is possible to do it all.

Why did you leave New York City Ballet?

I was there for three years. I danced with the company as an apprentice during my senior year of high school and two years afterwards in the corps. I had an offer from Barnard College and deferred for two years, but then it was a now-or-never moment: I could either attend Barnard, or I’d need to reapply to an alternative college program that would allow me to take more than two years off. So I decided to go to college.

While you were training at School of American Ballet, were you always preparing to go to college afterward?

I will be honest and say that I have extremely great parents who made sure that my horizons stayed open for as long as possible, to give me as much flexibility as possible down the road. So it was with their encouragement and help and advice that I applied to colleges when I was a senior.

Rosenfield with James Shee in Tom Gold’s “Apparitus Hominus” at TurnPark Art Space. Photo by Beau Bernatchez Photography, Courtesy Rosenfield.

When you left NYCB did you think that you would keep dancing?

I wasn’t sure. I left the company in July, and took some time off to figure it out, but by the time I started college in early September I was itching to get back in the studio. I took a ballet class and a modern class at Barnard and then found myself dancing Nutcracker in a studio showing that December with Columbia Ballet Collaborative, a student run ballet company that I became involved in. I always come back to it; I’ve found that if I’m not dancing, I feel like something is wrong.

After having been in the professional ballet world, what surprised you about college life?

I loved the feeling of dancing at Barnard because the students who were there were there for their love of dance, and that was the only thing driving them. It wasn’t a job. That reinvigorated the love of dance for me as well.

How did you fit dance into your schedule while you were working at Goldman Sachs?

It was difficult to keep it going. I was lucky enough to do a Nutcracker with Dances Patrelle in the fall of 2016, when I joined Goldman Sachs, and I did alumni shows with Columbia Ballet Collaborative that fall and spring as well. But for the remainder of my time there I wasn’t able to do any other gigs. At that point I understood that my time was dedicated to work. Part of the reason why I left was to be able to continue dancing, and to explore other facets of myself.

What are the best and most challenging parts of freelancing?

What I love about freelancing is that dancers come from a lot of different backgrounds. In Tom’s group now there’s one dancer from NYCB, another from American Ballet Theatre, a dancer from St. Louis and one who’s working on his PhD. Having all of those different backgrounds coming together for the love of dance is really nice.

Rosenfield (second from left) in Tom Gold’s “Poetic Episodes.” Photo by Ani Collier, Courtesy Tom Gold Dance.

How long have you been dancing with Tom Gold?

I’ve known Tom since I started taking class at Steps on Broadway with Willy Burmann when I was 12. I had seen him from afar since then, but we started working together in 2016.

What will you be dancing with the company this weekend?

We’re bringing back a piece that we worked on over the summer called Apparatus Hominus. Tom choreographed it based off a sculpture garden that he’d seen in the Berkshires, and we performed it there this summer on an outdoor stage with the Green Mountains in the background. The last time that I’d performed outside was in Saratoga with NYCB, so it was super special.

Since leaving NYCB your career has taken so many twists and turns, but you’ve been able to keep dancing the whole time. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice about the future, what would it be?

When I left NYCB I was looking at my decision as very black and white: either dance or school, with nothing in between. I imagined I’d go into a career completely separate from the ballet world. It would have relieved some of the pressure to have known that you can marry the two. Sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle, or even entertaining, to run from coding school to rehearsal, put your pointe shoes on, and be up and moving. But it is possible.