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From Tutus to TCNJ: How one student is using her passion for dance to find success

After years of dancing with the American Repertory Ballet, Haley Wright took her final bow to become a full-time student at TCNJ. Wright is now using her talents to compose music for the ballet company, including a commissioned piece, “Saudade,” which will be premiering this spring.

“It was funny because I was speaking to my adviser the week before, saying how I was hoping to compose for ballet,” says Wright, now a sophomore interactive multimedia major. “Then the American Repertory Ballet reached out to me asking me if I could write something.”

Wright had some experience composing music for song contests in her community and had composed another piece titled “Repeat” which the ballet company used to create a video project for social media. However, this was the first time she had undertaken a project of that caliber.

“It was kind of intimidating because I’ve never been commissioned to write a composition, and I’ve never written something that long,” she says.


Like many little kids, Wright was enrolled in dance from a young age and had the dream to become a ballerina after seeing the New York City Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker.” However, she continued with that dream and made it all the way to the professional world.

“Performing with the American Repertory Ballet was really amazing because I never thought that I would be able to dance professionally,” she says. “I got to spend all day doing what I loved.”

However, after years with the company, she wanted to get back to one of her other passions: learning. After taking classes at TCNJ as a part-time student while juggling ballet practices and performances, Wright enrolled full-time in the interactive multimedia department.

“I always loved being in school and learning new things and I was really missing that,” she says. “I just found that IMM was almost a perfect fit for me because I have so many different interests, and I could take different classes and combine them with IMM skills like creative coding and media production.”

Although Wright has pressed pause on her dancing career, composing music for the company to dance to is a great way to combine her passions.

“‘Saudade’ is actually intended to continue from ‘Repeat,’ the composition that the ballet company and I used to create a video project last year during quarantine,” she explains. “For me, it is a melancholy, bittersweet song that exudes a nostalgic sense of happiness.”

The title of the commissioned piece, ‘Saudade,’ is a Portuguese word that expresses a bittersweet longing for the past while also retaining a sense of optimism for the future.

“My friend who is choreographing the piece sent me the full run-through and I was in tears afterward, because it was just amazing,” she says. “I never thought that I would get this opportunity. The way that she choreographed to my music was so beautiful and I think it really kind of expresses the story that we both wanted to tell.”

Wright is also planning to write a third composition to finish off the story that “Repeat” and “Saudade” started. The full dance performance of “Saudade” will be included in a digital showcase from the American Repertory Ballet this spring.

— Julia Meehan ’22


School of the Arts and Communication
Art and Interactive Multimedia Building
The College of New Jersey
P.O. Box 7718
2000 Pennington Rd.
Ewing, NJ 08628