Dancer lands dream job just two weeks after graduation

Hard work has never frightened Bria Bacon. On the contrary, Bacon might be one of those rare creatures who fuels up on challenges. The dancer and former gymnast—she trained in Canada and Russia, as well as in New Jersey, and attended the Junior Olympics in Boston—is the daughter of a retired corrections officer and a Retired Reserve member of the U.S. Navy, and it shows.

“I have to do it until it’s right,” says Bacon, who speaks the way she moves: with purpose. “The gym instilled in me a steadfast mentality.”

Two weeks after graduating from the BFA program in dance in May 2017, Bacon landed a one-year contract with the renowned Stephen Petronio Company. (Another Mason Gross alum, Nick Sciscione, is a member of the New York-based contemporary dance company as well.) Three slots were up for grabs, she says, with just a single opening going to a female dancer.

Competition was fierce—but then, so is Bacon, on leave from the university’s five-year Master’s in Dance Education program. Bacon believes in destiny, sure—but she also believes in nudging destiny’s needle in the right direction. In her estimation, not a shred of the past is wasted, not all those hours tumbling in the gym throughout her girlhood in Rahway, NJ, not the injuries that dogged her last year, as she completed undergrad training at Mason Gross.

Bacon is still grasping the reality that, with the ink barely dry on her college diploma, she’s gainfully employed—and with a company that she’s been eying since high school. Petronio’s oeuvre, encapsulated by critic Siobhan Burke as “brash, hyperkinetic dances that demand precision, attack and a sense of adventure from his dancers,” seems made for Bacon.

Still, “I didn’t know that the outcome with Stephen Petronio would be so grand,” she says. “Many times, people know they are about to fulfill a dream or goal by the amount of time they spend homing in on that specific achievement. Because of how quickly it all happened, reaching this benchmark was completely unforeseen.” 

She recalls the moment Petronio phoned to offer her the job: “If tears could have fallen down my face they would have,” she says, “but the shock that I was experiencing merely allowed me to say ‘THANK YOU!’ and ‘ABSOLUTELY!’ ”

Dance faculty member Keith A. Thompson says Bacon’s success right out of the box comes as no surprise.

“ ‘Tenacious’ is the first word I think of when I think of Bria!” he writes in an email. “I believe she snagged a professional dancing job right after graduation because she is determined, she puts in the work, she takes risks, and she is hungry for it. Her secret sauce that she has is grit, inspiration, and aspiration, and a ‘Here-I-am, see-me’ attitude.

“There are some dancers who just have it,” he adds. “That’s what I see in Bria.”

Still, Bacon seems to realize that effort—even the titanic effort she tends to devote to any given task—doesn’t always yield immediate success, especially in the dance world.

“ ‘No’ is part of the game,” she reasons. “The best dancers are told no.”

In fact, there were days when her senior year at Mason Gross felt like one big “No.” Even the indefatigable Bacon found herself wrung out and bewildered at times, attempting to manage a schedule of two-hour evening rehearsals on the heels of three-hour arts-education classes. The low point came when a knee injury kept her from performing her solo in two high-profile student concerts.

“The mental and physical toll that took on me really began to weigh on my heart heavily,” she says. “It was very taxing.”

But Bacon hunkered down, turning to the core elements that have always sustained her, relying on family, bolstering her head game, and devoting hours to strength-building exercises meant to help ward off further injury.

“There were many nights filled with tears and questions from myself about whether I would make it to May 2017 for commencement,” she says, “but with my parents’ and close friends’ support, as well as meditation, prayer, and a daily planner, I was able to overcome what I believe to be one of the hardest years to date, and with much success.”

Yes, success by any measure: In May, Bacon graduated cum laude. In October, she was scheduled to make her debut with the Stephen Petronio Company, at New York City Center’s Fall For Dance Festival.

“Bria took on challenges and learned to battle through turmoil and conquer it,” Thompson says. “Over four years she really began to believe and trust in who she is and what she has to offer. I’m very proud of her.”

Photo by Jaqlin Medlock.

Information accurate as of fall 2017.