Mara Ranson: Rockette Dreaming and Beyond
Another month, another Passions Piece Feature! This month Beyond the Footlights has the pleasure of featuring my friend and Radio City Rockette herself, Miss Mara Ranson! Here is a little about Mara:
“Mara grew up in Ewing, NJ training in versatile styles of dance before completing a BFA in Jazz Dance Performance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Directly upon graduating, a semester early, she began rehearsals for her first cruise ship contract as a production dancer. She would eventually travel and perform on two more ship contracts that took her all over the globe and let her have the chance to perform featured roles in Vegas! the Show among others, and that allowed her to learn and perform aerial skills like hammock and lyria (aka hoop). Back on land Mara has performed featured roles in theme parks, on international stages in Tokyo, Japan, and in regional musical theater productions including Crazy for You and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Mara’s proudest accomplishment was making her dream come true, and becoming a Radio City Rockette in the Christmas Spectacular. She performed in over 100 shows this past holiday season and was featured on Dance Spirit Magazine’s web issue.
Off the stage, Mara is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and barre certified through Exhale Spa where she teaches barre, cardio, and hiit style classes in NYC. Mara’s newest venture is pursuing her Physical Therapy Assistant degree. She is starting classes this September, and is looking forward to this new career path that keeps her moving her body and helping others to move pain free!”
She can just do it all, can’t she?! I met Mara two summers ago (that’s crazy) performing together in Crazy For You at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, and we’ve kept in touch online ever since! I remember being in rehearsals with her and not only admiring her for her obvious talents and her killing leggings, but also for her generosity and kindness. She was one of our dance captains, and as a student placed in a company of professionals at the time, it was so reassuring to have someone to go to and look up to in moments where I just needed a little extra help with any choreo!
I also remember the day that Mara shared on social media that she was going to be a Rockette. I had heard her talk briefly on her experience with auditioning various times and the dreams that she had, and it was just so cool to think to myself “I know her! I just shared a stage with her! And now she is going to get to live out her dreams as a Rockette!” It truly was her perfect season, and hearing all about how she had persevered with such grace until her dreams came true gave me hope in my ability to achieve my dreams too.
Since quarantine started, I have taken Mara’s dance cardio classes on Instagram and Zoom and let me tell you- they are NO JOKE. She kicked my booty, in the best way possible! Without probably even knowing it, she has helped give me many a push towards staying happy, active, and gentle with myself since quarantine began! Here is our chat about Mara’s passions, self-care, and exciting adventures- old and new!
Who are you, where are you from, and where are you spending your time these days?
M: Hi, I’m Mara! I grew up in Ewing, NJ, attended The University of the Arts in Philly, and post college have been living in NYC (whenever I’m not away on contracts!). Now-a-days I am back in my NYC apartment after a few months of staying with my parents in New Jersey. I am back in school for a new degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant (!!), and just started a new job in a Physical Therapy clinic. I also have been teaching dance and fitness classes through zoom off and on throughout the pandemic.
What are you currently doing for work, if anything?
M: As I just mentioned above, I just recently started a new job at a Physical Therapy clinic where I will be helping to teach exercises to patients and assisting with their treatments! My career has been making a pivot lately which is scary but exciting!
Tell me a little about your journey as a performer and how it has brought you to where you are today?
M: I have been dancing since I was three, and grew up as a competitive dancer. I knew I wanted to dance professionally but knew I also needed a little more time and guidance to hone my craft, so I got my BFA from UArts where I majored in Jazz Dance. My years at UArts truly shaped me into the performer and dancer I am today. While I was there I got to work with some wonderful choreographers and figured out the path I wanted to pursue; musical theater, showgirl work, and above all else, the Rockettes. Right out of college I started my first cruise ship contract which was an amazing opportunity to keep growing as a person and a performer while traveling the world! I eventually did two other ship contracts over the next four years. In between those I performed in Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, VA as well as in Tokyo, Japan in the Spirit Productions show Broadway Christmas Wonderland. I also have performed in a few regional theater musical productions, my favorite of which, was Crazy for You, where I met Beyond the Footlight’s very own Angela LaRose! Between all of these endeavors I never stopped auditioning for my dream job with the Rockettes, and in 2019 after eight auditions, I finally booked my dream job! It still feels surreal to me that I spent the Christmas season last year performing in my dream show, in my dream theater. Dreams do come true friends! Never stop working, and never give up! All of my experiences in my career lead me to accomplishing my dream.
If you can, list for me your top 5 passions- no matter what they are!
M: My top five passions, hmm: movement, coffee, helping others feel empowered, planning and organizing my life, and dogs.
Does the work you are currently doing fall into the same category as any of those passions?
M: I am overjoyed to say that my new career I am pivoting into does fall into those passions! I chose to go back to school for PT because it is a field that will allow me to keep sharing my love of movement by helping others to move stronger and with less pain and more function. I also am still teaching fitness, and hope I can continue to for a long while.
What has been inspiring you in a time where we are seeing so much change in the world/our industry?
M: It has been crazy inspiring to see how artists have been creating, sharing their art, and coming together remotely! One of my favorite things to come out of COVID is that I can take a dance class with friends/artists all over the country and the world. It’s wild how even through technology we can feel like we are exchanging energy and connected.
What are some things you like to do in your down time to foster those passions, so they stay just as alive as your work?
M: I love going for walks and runs through the city, or through any area I am at and taking in the scenery and people of an area. One thing I love about NYC, and what makes people watching so much fun, is that we have such a diverse population. I love seeing people from all walks of life living together in our city. I also love my passion planner! It combines organization and planning with a different creative outlet that dance. I used to be a bullet journaler, but this year I have switched over to the passion planner and I am loving it. Like I said, I am a lover of movement, so it is important for me to workout and sweat as well. I take rest days when I need (something I am still working on being ok with), but I always feel so much better when I take the time to sweat and move my body. I love the feeling of getting stronger!
What are your top 3 goals in your life/work?
M: My be-all, end-all goal for my whole life was to be a Rockette; now that I have accomplished that I feel like I can move on to other goals that are equally exciting and important to me: to find a career outside of performing that feeds my soul and gives me stability, to have a family, and to be a good person (one I already work to accomplish on the daily of course!).
What does your self-care routine look like?
M: Some things that really feed my soul are spending time with my boyfriend, just taking it easy and enjoying tv series and movies, enjoying a fantastic cup of coffee, baking, going for long walks or doing a yoga flow, face masks, and the ultimate treat, a full body deep tissue massage!
What advice do you have for anyone struggling to make the time for their passions in their life?
M: Buy a passion planner! Start scheduling yourself time for your passions! You can’t pour or create from an empty cup, so at some point you are going to have to start prioritizing yourself!
What wonderful advice, thank you so much to Mara for her time and her thoughts. That’s something I think we can all take away from this one: You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Nurture yourself, nurture your passions, and the rest will be history!
Lots of love!