Catching up: With an alum who knows how to get her kicks

Rockette PhotoVania Boland (’13 apparel, merchandising, and design) is the events and customer service coordinator for the Iowa State Historical Building in Des Moines, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. And while Vania’s happy with her work as an event planner and historian, she’s also passionate about dance – including a particular holiday tradition that is truly one-of-a-kind: the Radio City Rockettes. Young Alumni News caught up with Vania and asked her about her recent experience at the Rockette Summer Intensive at Radio City Music Hall. This article was originally published Dec. 17 in the December issue of Young Alumni News, a bimonthly publication of the ISU Young Alumni Council.

Tell us about your experience at Radio City Rockette training camp.
Training with the Radio City Rockettes was a fantastic yet eye opening experience for me. The Rockette Summer Intensive is a dance program designed to teach the Rockette style of jazz, tap, musical theater, lyrical and the legendary kick line – all held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Not only did I have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Rockettes’ director/choreographer, but I also met many dancers who shared my passion for performing on stage. Our last day ended with a final performance on the Radio City Music Hall stage. (The same exact stage, I might add, where so many professional singers and comedians have performed, along with the Grammys, the Tonys, the MTV Video Music Awards, and the ESPY Awards.)

What was the most memorable part of your experience?
Being able to work side by side with the Rockettes themselves. We had two trainers who would choreograph and correct technique with all dancers. On our very first day, the Rockettes give the dancers attending the camp a tour of the space – including dressing rooms and backstage – and share stories on the costumes. I just remember how honest they were with their careers. The dance industry can be very hard on the body and the mind. The instructors gave great advice and shared personal stories on how being a Rockette changed their life. It was very comforting to realize how genuinely nice and encouraging these women were for us young dancers.

Does knowing how to do a Rockette kick line help with your current career?
Strangely, yes – considering how important teamwork and individual representation is to a Rockette. The two most important techniques I use in my current career are presentation and communication. Your presentation during a meeting, interview, or even working an event can portray a message to other clients. When I feel confident I perform better, and that’s why dancers have rehearsals while event planners have timelines. I’m also very fortunate to have such a great team with the Department of Cultural Affairs. Just like on stage, communication is very vital to a performance or project. Everyone must be on the same page or have the same counts in order to be successful. Being a part of a team is all about sharing your talents to become a stronger unit.

In addition to Rockette training camp, what other unique experiences helped guide you to your current career?
I’m a firm believer in the saying “You never know until you try,” and it hasn’t failed me yet. During college I had multiple interests but struggled with a career choice. All I really understood was that I loved my textile history courses at Iowa State and wondered how I could create a career from this. So I ended up reaching out by phone and sending emails to see if I could simply job shadow. Then during my junior year, I became an intern with Jodi Evans, museum registrar, and the Iowa Arts Council working with textiles and art collections. After graduation in December of 2013 I traveled to Decorah in northeast Iowa and worked with the Vesterheim Norwegian- American Museum’s textile collections. I’m also happy to announce I’ll be traveling with Vesterheim to Norway in May 2015 for their textile study tour!

Aside from the Rockettes holiday special, what is your favorite holiday tradition?
That’s a hard one, but I would say watching certain movies on the countdown to December 25th. My family is growing fast, and some of us live out of state. So when we’re all home, my father brings out “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.” In my opinion, those are two of the best holiday films!