Annellyse Munroe

Annellyse Munroe is New York based professional dancer and all around boss chick! After slaying the dance community in her hometown of Miami she was accepted into the Alvin Ailey II dance company and quickly set off to the Big Apple to launch the career of her dreams!

Keep reading to learn more about her fearless approach to life and how it has landed her opportunities to perform alongside Beyonce, be featured in Vogue magazine, and accepted into a competitive program at Columbia University!

Photo by Steven Truman Gray

What was the transition from Miami to New York like? 

It was amazing. I signed a contract with Ailey II a year after graduating from UF and I moved into a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn with a friend from Miami! I danced from 9-5, Monday-Friday, and was just really living the dream.

When did you realize you that dancing could be made into a career? 

When I entered middle school I was exposed to the possibility. I attended Southwood Middle (in Miami) and was a part of their dance magnet program. This is when I was introduced to dance companies around the world and dance history. I specifically knew I wanted to be a dancer when I came to New York and was taken to see an Alvin Ailey performance as a gift from my aunt. Around that time, I was accepted into the American Ballet Theater and it required me to come to New York for the whole summer, so at 14 I was living with my aunt in the city and doing exactly what I wanted to do.

What was the experience at Alvin Ailey II like? 

It was honestly a dream come true. I was able to see all of the U.S. within two years and live abroad. I would’ve never thought that this girl from Miami would be able to live in Europe for a month, through dance. It didn’t hit me until after it was done.

That’s amazing! Given the amazing experience you had, what made you transition out of working with the company? 

Well, I auditioned for Alvin Ailey, the first company, during the first year of my contract at Alvin Ailey II, made it until the end but wasn’t chosen. I auditioned again at the end of the second year of my 2-year contract at Ailey II, made it until the end, but didn’t get chosen again. At that point, I was like okay. Let me see what else is out there for me. I was still super grateful though. I am a part of the Ailey legacy and that alone is a dream come true for me.

Oh, I see. I can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been to deal with that at first. Was there ever a time that you doubted your ability to make a living by dancing?

After Ailey II, yes. After I stopped dancing with the company I went through that “what am I going to do now” phase. I was out of work, so I started working at a dance store, but then out of nowhere, I got a call from my old director saying “Hey, I can’t tell you who the artist is but they need dancers for the VMAs. Are you available to come audition today?” I was confused but I said yes. I showed up to this random location and the audition was for Beyonce! I was chosen for the performance and got to rehearse with her for a week leading up to the live show.

Wait, you were dancing with her?!

Yes! That’s when I realized that God wanted me to continue dancing. I was where I needed to be, so I said OK! Next thing you know, I was contacted by Fatima Wilson, who is the main agent at the Bloc Talent Agency and I was chosen to be represented by them. After I signed the contract I was immediately booked to perform at a fashion show for Kenzo x H&M. I was never meant to stop dancing. It was a different type of dance but I was so happy with what I was doing. Plus, the checks were huge because it was all commercial.

In what ways do you feel New York has provided you with opportunities to grow as a dancer versus the experience you had in Miami?

Dancing at studios in Miami like Starz showed me how to get out of my comfort zone. I had to compete almost every weekend, so it brought out the hungry/competitive side of me and I think that’s super beneficial. I Competing and seeing what else is out there pushes you more than just attending class could. Being at one of the best studios in Miami provided me with excellent training. It’s actually one of the best cities to get proper training, people move from all over the country because of the studios there. I went to the best performing arts high school in the country (New World School of the Arts), and I know that without that school there’s no way I would’ve become the person I am today. With that said, it’s not necessarily the best place to have a dance career, which is why people pursue it elsewhere.

 

Annellyse dancing alongside Beyonce at the VMAs

Did you have mentors grooming you throughout your youth? 

Oh yeah. They were just everywhere at New World, I didn’t even have to look for them. They were just always so encouraging. Even after I left, I was able to make so many connections through New World living in New York.

Do you find that the representation of men and women of color is expanding in the dance world, or is it staying the same? 

In the ballet world, it’s happening slowly but surely. It’s not at its peak right now but its out there and people are more open to it. Even having a woman like me who is not famous doing ballet photo shoots in the street gets people to acknowledge that black ballerinas are out there. Seeing us in real life makes the concept more real and acceptable. I feel like having little girls see me in photos and on the street makes them feel like it’s possible for them.

Photo by Ryan Pfluger for Refinery 29

 

You need to work harder than 100%. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, stay hungry. You cannot relax. Keep pushing and always put it all in.

 

Is it safe to say that dancing is part of your self-care routine? 

Yes! It gets me through everything. When I’m stressed out or need to escape from something I go to class!

What is one thing about the industry that you wish someone would’ve told you when you first started out? 

You need to work harder than 100%. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, stay hungry. You cannot relax. Keep pushing and always put it all in.

What words of advice would you give young girls of color hoping to make dance their career who don’t have the opportunity to take intensives at studios or with companies? 

The thing about nowadays is that now they have technology on their side. We didn’t have that back when I first started out. Now, if there’s something you want to practice or need help on, you can just go on Youtube! If you can’t afford to take classes in person, go on Youtube channels dedicated to teaching the basics and practice. It’s okay to be your own teacher. Once you know your body and what it can do just put in that work. It’s a 24/7 art form. Even if you take a class, you have to practice it outside of it.

What prompted your decision to enroll at Columbia University?

Well, when I didn’t know what I wanted to do after Ailey I was talking to my Dad and he suggested that I begin thinking about what jobs I wanted to get into if I wasn’t going to dance. I knew that I wanted to work for one of the top dance companies in New York and in the non-profit arena, so once I researched schools I saw that Columbia was one of the top universities for education in non-profit development. My dad is an alum and I had great memories of visiting the campus with him! When it came time to apply I honestly wasn’t even sure if I’d even get in, so I applied to other schools but I was accepted! I can’t wait to start this fall.

If there was one message you could get out to the world, what would it be?

Always remember how strong and beautiful you are. Don’t rely on someone to tell you what you can do.

To learn more about Annellyse head to www.annellysemunroe.com 

Follow her on Instagram @annellysemunroe

Check out her some of her cameo’s here:

Photo by Luc Jean- Baptiste

Photo by Omar Z. Robles

Kenzo x H&M

Photo by Jonas Gustavasson