Why Rhianna’s a Hawk to Watch:
A dance studio is many things at once — a space for experimentation, collaboration, and artistic expression. But for Rhianna Jordan, it’s more than that. It serves as a site not only for practice runs and carefully choreographed performance — but also for profound moments of discovery, creation, and possibility. And by fostering an environment of learning and inclusion, physical movements in dance can inspire action and social movement that reaches far beyond a studio’s walls.
As a student at KU, Rhianna knew she wanted to share her passion for dance with the world as a performer and worked to hone the technical and practical skills needed to succeed in her field. Now, as a teacher at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and a Wolf Trap Teaching Artist in Denver, Colorado, she’s turning the spotlight onto others, integrating the arts and using lessons in dance to teach her students about social justice issues.
We caught up with Rhianna, who graduated with her B.F.A. in Dance in 2018. She told us about how her KU experience influenced her career, overcoming professional struggles, the importance of artistic confidence, and how moments in the dance studio can spark change for the better.
Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:
I work for the Education Team at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in Denver, teaching dance education and also implementing the “ArtForward” program into public and private schools all throughout central Colorado. The “ArtFoward” programs allows students to spread awareness about different social justice topics through movement. Along with teaching for CPRD, I am also a Wolf Trap Teaching Artist (one of 6 in the state of CO), a lead teacher at a local dance studio, and I do freelance choreography work.
How did you end up doing what you do?
I auditioned for the Cleo Parker Robison Professional Dance Ensemble (Company) right after graduation and was accepted into their 2nd company. That is how I ended up in Colorado and affiliated with CPRD.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?
I believe that every day going into a classroom to integrate the arts or teach dance education is an achievement because I am impacting someone’s life in those moments.
What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
The struggle of being a self-financed artist (dancer) in one of the most expensive states to live in has been a challenge. I constantly remind myself that the struggle only makes us stronger. And that’s the truth!
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I hope to be running my own dance business (a studio or company) along with traveling the world, setting choreography on amazing dancers!
What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and always told myself that teaching would be something I did after I performed and danced in a company. Little did I know that I’d find the most joy and happiness sharing my passion with others as a teacher and dance educator, and the most reward in seeing my own creations on stage rather than me performing on stage.
What’s your best career pro-tip?
Network, network, connect with other professionals in the industry, and network! Also, KNOW YOUR WORTH AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST AND DO NOT SETTLE FOR ANY LESS!
How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?
KU Dance prepared me for the job I have now by giving me many opportunities to perform and to choreograph. They also provided opportunities to receive funding for outside training and workshops. Through this funding, for example, I was able to attend the IABD (International Association of Blacks in Dance) conference in LA and take class with Cleo Parker Robinson herself, whom I would later audition for and make it into her second professional company (Cleo II) and then transition to her Education Team. My first year out of college I was actually given the opportunity to perform at IABD with Cleo II. Talk about coming full circle!
What do you do after you’ve clocked out?
Go take classes to continue growing in my own dance training, hangout with my life partner and my dogs, eat, and sleep.
What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?
I used to do a lot of singing and theatre when I was younger. My first role at a professional theatre was playing the part of Annie in the musical “Annie” at age 8. Yes, they put a red wig on me and all! I like to think that technically I was one of the first black Annies. 🙂
Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.