At a Crossroads: Quincie Hydock

Quincie Hydock's road from trainee to BFA grad

Hydock with Ryan Smith; Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet

Growing up a bunhead in Virginia Beach, Quincie Hydock’s main dream was to join a classical ballet company. She trained seriously at Virginia Ballet Theatre and continued there while attending high school at the Virginia’s Governor’s School for the Arts; as graduation neared, she knew she was on track for a college dance program. With its strong ballet program, Butler University in Indiana ranked high on Hydock’s list of schools.

Flash forward five years later, and Hydock is in somewhat of a different place than she expected. After graduating in 2013 with a BFA in dance and choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University, she’s a freelance dancer in New York City, where’s she’s also presented her own work. And while she still hopes to join a concert dance company (like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), she’s sporting bare feet more than pointe shoes these days and has her sights set on more contemporary work. —Jenny Dalzell

How did you choose VCU?

My high school hosted the National High School Dance Festival my junior year, and the director of Richmond Ballet’s trainee program told me about their partnership with VCU: The first two years of college you’re a full-time trainee with the Richmond Ballet and you get credit toward a BFA. I hadn’t considered that program before—I wanted strictly ballet and I had assumed VCU was all modern. But when I auditioned for Butler in the October of my senior year, I didn’t get in. That turned out to be okay, because I wouldn’t have auditioned for VCU.

What was your schedule like? 

As a trainee, I took my gen ed classes in the morning, and headed to Richmond Ballet from 1 pm to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. I only had one VCU dance class per week—a modern class taught by different guest artists.

After the two years as a trainee, students are either chosen for Richmond Ballet’s second company, or they can continue college. What was your route? 

I switched over to be full-time at VCU. I took ballet four times per week and modern five days per week. And I started taking choreography classes, which is something I realized that I love.

How did you feel when you weren’t selected? 

Well, my first year, none of the trainees were chosen, and then only two trainees were chosen out of my year. You just have to keep in mind that it’s a professional company. They’re selective in whom they choose; and they often selected people from outside auditions—dancers they didn’t know as trainees.

By my second year into the traineeship, I realized that I didn’t necessarily want a career in classical ballet. That was great, because I got to really explore the school and modern dance. Plus, I never got senioritis since I was really only at school for two years.

In retrospect, would you have made a different choice after high school?

I absolutely love what happened. The best thing about the traineeship was that I got professional experience with a company, which has been especially pivotal now as a freelancer. I know how to act like a professional; I know how hierarchies work—even simple things like not encroaching on someone else’s space at barre. I think it was a blessing that my original plan didn’t work out. I realized I was ready to explore something else.

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021