Monique Haley of River North Chicago Dance Company speaks with The Philadelphia Tribune about her love of dance

January 8, 2010

Dancer doesn't let diabetes get her down

Written by Rita Charleston Tribune Correspondent

Jan 8 2010

She knows that in order to succeed, one must practice what they preach. And Monique Haley — a dancer/choreographer who has never let diabetes stop her — certainly does.

“I think you have to always stay focused, work hard and keep pushing forward,” advises Haley, a member of the River North Chicago Dance Company that helps kick off the new year for Annenberg Center for the Performing Art’s Dance Celebration Series Jan. 14-16.

“Everyone of us will be faced with challenges throughout life, and I think dance is a wonderful way to learn perseverance, strength and succeeding at something through hard work.”

Haley, a native of Virginia, graduated from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2001 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in performing arts specializing in jazz dance. She explains that her love affair with the dance began when she was just six years old.

“My mother gave me ballet lessons then as a birthday present,” she says. “I remember someone telling me I was going to ruin their ballet dance because I’d never had lessons before. But I also remember thinking that I wouldn’t look at anyone’s feet and get confused or let them ruin this for me. I would just succeed by doing my own thing. I did and I fell in love with dance right away.”

And, she admits, that love has continued to this day. She has worked hard at her craft after training with such companies as Philadanco, working as an instructor of competitive dance with the Universal Dance Association, and done workshops with such groups as the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Additionally, she is a former member of the Bermuda Dance Company and others.

She is now enjoying her eighth season with River North Chicago Dance Company after training and performing with the company as an apprentice. Today, she not only dances with the group, but has turned into a choreographer as well.

In fact, when the company, known for its jazzy, theatrical style pulls into Annenberg, the 13 high-powered dancers will perform several original pieces. One of them, “Uhuru,” meaning “freedom” in Swaili, set to the music of Akoya Afrobeat and created by Haley, will be presented as she makes her choreographic debut.

“I was given two to three weeks to create this piece,” according to Haley. “I also had to concentrate on other things such as the need to dance. So it’s kind of difficult to find the right balance while working long, long hours.”

But the rewards outweigh the challenges, she adds. “The basic key to choreographing and creating a dance is to first of all, choose the right kind of dance, and be open and honest as to who you are. Also, you have to know how to interact with other people.

“And while it’s difficult to try to rehearse while also dancing, when it all comes together, it’s very satisfying.”

Still young and highly energetic, Haley hopes her future will continue to be more of the same.

She says, “I want to keep up with my dancing, maybe even tapping myself into Broadway someday. I’d also like to develop other aspects of my talent as well and give that a chance. I want to continue to inspire others with everything I do. In fact, I can’t see myself ever without dance.”