Insights from an Intern: Aileen Norris, School of Dance

April 24 2020

This is a series dedicated to highlighting the insights our students gained during their internships. 

Name: Aileen Norris, School of Dance

Internship: I interned with Queer Spectra Arts Festival in Spring 2019.

What responsibilities did you have as an intern?

It was QSAF's first year and festival, so I had a lot of responsibilities, from handling social media pages, to helping plan the festival, to brainstorming fundraising ideas, to running the technical side of the festival, which included sound and lights.

What new skills or knowledge did you gain from your internship?

My internship with Queer Spectra taught me many things, but chief among them that both the hardest and easiest thing to do when you have a goal is to start even before you're ready. I got to see the festival spark from an idea shared among friends in a living room into a day-long, well-attended and promoted event that hosted 30 artists and more than 300 audience members. This was because the founding members had the idea and immediately went with it rather than stressing over details. The pieces fell into place once the event was already set in motion. I also learned that as an artist, the ability to be flexible and available (while still staying true to yourself) is an asset not a lot of people learn to craft and practice, but it has served me in more ways than I can count.

What connections did you make and how do you think those connections may help you in your career?

I'm still on the coordinating committee for Queer Spectra, so that in and of itself is a huge connection that will be a priority and will inform my career in ways I still can't fully predict. Beyond that though, I've met so many artists and community members that have and will continue to inspire me. Being able to branch outside of my own studies into a larger amalgamation of different mediums, aesthetics, and belief systems has only grown my commitment to my own art form, while opening me up to collaborative ideas I hadn't considered in the past.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in a similar internship?

It never hurts to be candid about your interest. I spent a lot of time in college thinking that I couldn't tell someone that I wanted to work with them because it defied some sort of social code or hierarchy. But especially with artists, collaboration tends to be part of the gig, and a lot of organizations want to know that you're interested in the work they're doing, not just signing up for the credit or the external rewards of it. That goes for pursuing an internship as well as projects once you're actually involved in the internship itself.

How did your internship compliment your arts education?

One thing that I learned in the School of Dance is that to be a dance artist is more than being a performer or a choreographer or a teacher. You get to wear so many different hats; that can be confusing and daunting as well as exciting. Interning with Queer Spectra, I got to put that understanding into practice. I was a curator, an event coordinator, a production manager, a critic, an audience member, and a part of my community. Yes, I got to execute practical things I had learned, like how to run sound on QLab or what made a piece of choreography compelling, but beyond that, Queer Spectra was a dry run of engaging with the arts world in all of its facets and intricacies outside of the university's bubble. That was one big goal of the School of Dance's curriculum: that as artists we could flourish beyond the academic world as well as inside of it.

Are there other thing you would like to tell us?

As artists, we get to experience squiggly, often unconventional, sometimes roundabout careers. I find it to be equally parts frustrating and exciting, but it can be freeing to sit with both of those emotions side by side. Take comfort in your peers, in your communities, and in the things that make your craft worth it for you. Those things above all will keep you grounded. And don't forget to laugh--with others, by yourself, and sometimes at yourself.