Christina Dooling, 22, is living most dancers’ dream. In 2006, while in her third year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Christina was handpicked by COMPLEXIONS Contemporary Ballet director Dwight Rhoden to join the company—before she’d even graduated. “Dwight offered me a contract right away,” she says. “The dean of the school was really happy for me. He said, ‘Whenever you’re ready to come back, we’re happy to have you.’”
Now in her second year with COMPLEXIONS, Christina is already garnering soloist roles. A pint-sized powerhouse (she’s just shy of 5’3″), she dances with attack, precision and confidence. She’s equally at home doing Rhoden’s challenging off-center pointework and strutting across the stage in stilettos, as she does in the opening of tHe hArDeSt bUtToN to bUtToN, a hard-rocking contemporary solo choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson.
Christina started dancing at 3 in her hometown of Hamilton, NJ. She went on to study tap, ballet, jazz, acro, pointe and—her favorite style as a teen—lyrical. A successful comp kid, Christina walked away with Petite, Junior and Teen Miss Dance of America at Dance Masters of America.
After high school, Tisch seemed like a great next step. “The curriculum was really challenging. I knew I would have a lot of hurdles, and I absolutely did, but the teachers were amazing,” Christina explains. “Also, I’d never done any modern, so that interested me.” As she tackled this new genre, as well as supplemental courses in anatomy, “things started to click,” she says. “It was a different way to move, but I found my center.” Her modern training has come in handy when performing Rhoden’s signature frenetic, disjointed style, in which classical ballet positions are distorted by popped hips, flexed feet and funky ports de bras.
Even though she’s already gone pro, Christina plans to return to Tisch to complete her degree. “I feel like I’ve changed a lot dancing professionally, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned back with me,” she says. “But I’m also trying not to get too far ahead of myself. I’m really happy where I am. I’m in my dream company right now.”
On Her iPod:
Hot Hot Heat
Christina in Three Words:
“Outgoing, prepared…and FUN!”
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
“I used to be a swimmer, so occasionally I’ll jump in the pool. Besides that, I’m usually either reading, working or watching Disney movies.”
Advice for Young Dancers:
“There’s definitely a place for each and every one of you. If you’re dedicated and you love this profession, there are so many companies to explore to find where you fit in. Keep searching and persevere.”
Photo: Stefan Plegar