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Although Manhattan College can be considered small, its connections to the city are important. Recently, Quadrangle staff members learned that Major Allison Ecung, an assistant professor in the college’s Department of Air and Space Studies, has been a member of the American Ballet Theater Junior Council since 2008. ABT is one of the companies. most famous ballet. worldwide and employs renowned artists such as lead dancer Misty Copeland.
“I chose ABT in part because I was a huge fan of Misty’s,” Ecung said. “The Junior Council is aimed specifically at ballet patrons between the ages of 21 and 40 who love ballet and want to get more involved in the organization. “
Ecung has served the organization by coordinating outreach programs for young clients and has been selected to serve as the Junior President for the 2014 Fall Gala and 2020 Spring Gala, which were sadly canceled due to COVID-19 .
As one can guess from his various interests, Ecung has had an exceptionally impressive resume. Ecung grew up in Rome, NY, where her interest in ballet was inspired by her mother, although Ecung did not have much formal training on her own.
“Ballet takes precedence over a lot of other things, so I think my mom kind of took me away from ballet, but it’s something that I’ve always loved, and I thought it was a really beautiful art form, ”Ecung said.
Ecung’s admiration for ballet continued when she graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Her career in the Air Force took her around the world.
After graduating from the Air Force Academy, she was stationed near Oxford, England as a Cyberspace Communications and Operations Officer. After two years on this assignment, Ecung continued her career in Alabama before being deployed to Honduras to serve as a narcotics officer.
It was not until 2008 that she was stationed in New York to teach in the ROTC program at Manhattan College. The American Ballet Theater was the first charity that Ecung joined after arriving in the city.
“I like to be involved in a lot of different things. So one of the first things I wanted to do when I came to New York was I wanted to be involved in a lot of my artistic interests, whether it was the museums that were around or some of the charities, ” Ecung said. “So again, knowing that Misty Copeland was at ABT, that’s sort of what led me to choose to join the American Ballet Theater Junior Board, rather than other dance organizations. “
But she hadn’t been there for long. After this posting, Ecung left the Air Force full time to become a reservist stationed in New Jersey. During this time, Ecung also worked in Midtown, Manhattan. She then spent a year in Washington, DC, writing speeches for a three-star general. Her most recent tour was in Stuttgart, Germany from 2017 to 2019 before returning to New York to teach at Manhattan College during the 2019-20 academic year.
While Ecung continues to teach here at MC, his love and commitment to ballet lasts. In conversation with The Quadrangle, Ecung shares his insider experiences with ABT.
When Ecung was chosen to chair the 2014 fall gala, she was able to spend a lot of time with the dancers as well as with the organizers who are in charge of the association’s management.
“It moves me to think of the amount of work it takes to organize something like [the ABT], to organize an event, to raise the kind of money that is needed to fund a big business like [ABT]”Ecung said.” A lot of people don’t realize how much effort these people put into it, so I’ve always really appreciated that. “
Ecung shared that she was looking forward to the Spring Gala first and foremost. According to Ecung, the dancers are previewing all of their performances scheduled for the following season at these galas. As a patron, Ecung can also speak with the dancers at events.
“I really enjoyed meeting the dancers and spending time outside of the performances. [with them]”Ecung said.” I think, you know, your normal audience can just see them from afar and admire them from afar, but when you’re a junior board member, we have kind of a fall event. , the last time we had one was in September 2019, and of course you meet a lot of dancers. ”
Ecung pointed out that these conversations are especially special for her, as ballet dancers are so often idolized and are not seen as ordinary human beings.
“I think in a way we idolize ballet dancers because they are perfect, seen as the ideal physical specimens, the ideal athleticism, and so it’s nice to be able to know people individually and see outside of that. perfection, ”Ecung said.
Ballet dancers have inspired Ecung since she was young. Especially as an active member of the Air Force, Ecung must maintain a high level of physical strength and health. Even more during the pandemic, Ecung shares that ballet dancers’ commitment to their athleticism inspires him to maintain his own.
Specifically, Ecung was inspired by Misty Copeland, principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater.
“People told her that she didn’t have the right look, that she didn’t have the right type of body, but she just worked so hard and she became this inspiring, amazing global phenomenon that I think is recognizable everywhere, ”Ecung says. “I think anyone can look at that and think, ‘Yeah, I started something late, yeah, I’m not normally the type to do something, but I can look at this woman who achieved that goal. amazing, and now she’s a principal dancer for our country’s first company, ”I think we can all take this as a form of inspiration in our own lives for whatever we want to accomplish.
Ecung has been particularly impressed with ABT dancers since the COVID-19 outbreak last March. In addition to maintaining their physical standards, the dancers have found ways to perform together, even when they are scattered around the world.
“When everything was closed in March, the dancers had been preparing months and months in advance to prepare for the coming season,” Ecung said. “I think ABT was so creative in making sure they could still host the Spring Gala so they did the very first virtual gala in May 2020 which was really impressive. I know they have been successful in raising funds this way. I really loved it, because it was really unique, it was something completely different. You had dancers who by that time in May of last year were all over the country and all over the world. And so, they took the time to film, by themselves, parts of the dance, so that they could be incorporated and edited together, to create an incredible performance. They’ve been doing things off the beaten track since COVID started. “
In addition to a virtual gala, the American Ballet Theater was able to host a fundraising panel in the fall of 2020. The panel featured the four lead performers from the popular dance film, Center Stage. At the time of filming, the dancers were members of the American Ballet Theater, so there was a clear connection to the organization.
Ecung was able to send questions to the four stars at a cocktail party held for ABT clients ahead of the main panel, which can be found on YouTube. This event also raised funds for ABT when in-person performances were not possible.
Despite the challenges the ballet industry has faced this year, Ecung has no doubts that it will recover.
“I think that [reopening the ballet] is not something that [can] be rushed, but I think there will always be a need and a desire for ballet, so I don’t think ABT will ever go anywhere, ”Ecung said. “There will always be people who love ballet and want to know about the sport.”
Ecung encourages Manhattan College students to get involved in ABT if they are interested. She feels like she has gained both friends and amazing experiences due to her involvement in the charity.
“Especially now during COVID, I think we’re particularly focused on what we need, and in that the arts are sometimes overlooked,” Ecung said. “I think there is still just as much need for [the arts] because it lifts you up, when you are sad, when you need to focus, when you are upset, you can just look at this beautiful art form and support the dancers as well. So I think it’s a great opportunity.