Nonstop at a Nonprofit

A summer internship is preparing Emily Leandro `22 for a career in the arts.

By: Grace Oddo '22  Tuesday, July 27, 2021 10:01 AM

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Photo courtesy of Emily Leandro '22.

When asked how her summer is going, Emily Leandro '22 chuckled. “Busy,” she says. “Very busy.” 

But the type of busy that Leandro is referring to is not stress-inducing. It’s fulfilling, exciting and leading Leandro toward the next chapter in her life. This summer, Leandro is serving as the Nonprofit Arts Administration intern at The Dance Complex in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Located in the heart of historic Cambridge, The Dance Complex is a five-story building that hosts classes, workshops and intensives for recreational and professional dancers and movers. Leandro emphasizes that it’s the variety of classes that make The Dance Complex unique. People from all over the New England region come to take advantage of the Complex’s many options. “Flamenco, salsa, capoeira—there’s a huge range of styles.” Leandro says. The Dance Complex’s mission is to make these dance and movement classes accessible, regardless of a dancer’s age, ability or financial means. 

It was the nonprofit's mission, combined with how much fun the classes were, that drew Leandro to The Dance Complex in the first place. During winter break of her first year at Muhlenberg, she was paired with Rachel Roccoberton '04, a Muhlenberg alum and arts administrative professional at the Complex. For a month, Roccoberton took Leandro through her day-to-day, showing her the ins and outs of an arts nonprofit. “Thanks to the Career Center’s job shadow program, I got a much better understanding of how the business side of the arts works,” Leandro says. “I was so nervous going into it, but Rachel was wonderful.” 

Now a rising senior, Leandro knew she wanted an internship that was a bit more specific to her career path. A theatre and dance double-major, she gradually discovered that she likes working behind the scenes—particularly in arts administration. She says that leadership and management skills come to her naturally. “I have a certain type of drive that fits business. I’ve sought out leadership opportunities since high school, and now I’m doing the same in college.” At Muhlenberg, she has held executive positions for the Muhlenberg Theatre and Dance Associations and served as treasurer for the Perkulators student dance team. For Leandro, a summer internship was another chance to expand upon these skills. 

Since Leandro began her internship in May, each day spent at the Complex has brought something new and exciting. Some days are spent analyzing data, determining which classes are most popular with customers. Others are spent collaborating with staff members to determine the logistics of the Complex’s workshops and festivals. She and the other interns have also been working together to generate more content for The Dance Complex’s social media. There is always movement at The Dance Complex—literally and figuratively. Toes are always tapping but things are always changing. Classes are always being switched around. New dancers are registering for classes. And Leandro has to stay five steps ahead of all of it; she is already helping to plan classes for the fall. But the best days, she says, are spent behind the front desk, chatting with dancers, guest artists and the other staff members. “Everyone here is so friendly,” she says with a smile. “They’re such hard workers, too. I feel like everyone in the arts scene pushes themselves.” 

Although she is not quite sure what her post-graduate plans are just yet, an internship at The Dance Complex is a small step towards a lifelong career in the arts. She encourages others to follow in her footsteps. Each internship, she says, is an opportunity to discover what you want—or don’t want—in a career. “Make sure to approach everything with a positive attitude,” she says. “You are capable of so much more than you know.” 

About the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.