Pirouettes and Politics

International politics and dance don’t typically lend themselves to each other but that hasn’t stopped Alejandra Benet! An International Politics graduate and now also a dance teacher, Alejandra, known to her friends as Sandra, is set to blaze the trail of this unusual combo…

Time at City

So far, it has been the best time in my life. I loved my course. I did International Politics and graduated in 2015. I loved the teachers because they made me think critically about the world around me and that made me mature a lot. I think that’s why I feel really attached to City. It has developed me as a person, so I feel really grateful for that. And I met some of my best friends here at City – friendships are still there.

I also got involved in the dance society whilst I was here. When I arrived there wasn’t one, and I didn’t know how to form one, but a small group of students were already working on it. So once they had set up the dance society, I contacted the committee and it turned out to be the best decision ever. I wanted to teach, I wanted to participate and somehow this group of talented amazing people from really different courses met together and just pushed the society. We grew from 14 members to 200 in a year- it’s unbelievable!   It was such a friendly environment, people who had always wanted to try dance but had never had the chance. It was so rewarding for us to see the numbers and the impact that we were having. That same year we won the Student-Led Event of the Year Award in the Student Union awards 2015. We organised a Christmas party performance – a lot of fun, lots of dancing. And then I won Society Newcomer of the Year which was super rewarding because of all the time and dedication I’d put into the society. I had the best time ever. I wouldn’t have realised I enjoyed teaching as much as I love dancing if I hadn’t started teaching in the dance society.

What happened after you graduated?

I went back to Spain. I got an internship in a company called Famosa, one of the largest toy companies in Spain.  The internship was in corporate social responsibility, based in Madrid; which was a really great experience. I think I got it thanks to the volunteering work I did here in London. Actually also thanks to City because of the Professional Mentoring Scheme. I was assigned a mentor through the scheme and we really connected. She invited me to volunteer and get some experience with the NGO she was working in. I did that for one and half years. She also helped me with CVs, cover letters, and applications. I think it was that experience that opened the doors for the internship with Famosa.

After the internship, I faced a really difficult moment because I realised that my life was being defined. I felt that as soon as I got a full-time job, I would never have the chance to dedicate some time to dance and that made me feel really anxious. In that moment I said, ok it’s now or never. So I decided to get my teacher qualification now, as I wasn’t really sure which direction I wanted to go in. Once I made that decision, I went back to my hometown Valencia and I spoke with my school director who is also like a mentor to me. She agreed to train me as a teacher at the same time as doing the dance course. This began in September 2016 and so that’s how I ended up back home teaching ballet. I still have one exam to go; Advanced 2 vocational graded examination.

When did you begin dancing?

I started at the age of 4 in a local school called Esther Mortes Dance School, which is my teacher’s name. My father took me there because he wanted me to do something in the afternoons. Bad choice. I became addicted. Then at the age of 15/16, I started going abroad for summer courses. From these trips from two weeks to a month in London, I became determined that I would come to live and study here. It became my teenage dream. My parents thought it was a phase because I was so excited after coming back but it lasted.

How does dancing fit into pursuing a profession?

Doing international politics has only enriched me. It’s part of me now, what I have learned, the way I have matured, the way I think now because of the course. It’s also affected my dancing. I’m actually exploring a very poorly known area which is dance and international politics. I’m really interested in that common area. I want to throw a bit of light onto it. It’s really difficult because there’s no road for what I’m trying to do but I’m making my own path. I don’t know what direction I’m going in but I’m going. I tried to make dancing  fit in with what I studied by using it as the focus for some of my essays, including my dissertation. In the same way I’m now trying to fit what I have studied into dancing. The critical thinking I gained from my course has influenced how I choreograph and the message behind it.  It’s a skill that I want my own students to develop.

I’m really passionate about international politics and dance so I just don’t want to give up on any.

Recently I gave a presentation at the IV National Congress and I International Dance Research organized by the Spanish Association D plus I: Dance and Research and have published my first academic article at the age of 22; The functions of dance in society: The relation between the dancer and the aesthetic and gender standards (2016).  It’s really rewarding! And yes it’s difficult, but there’s actually a way. I have things to say about dance and politics if I’m given the chance to share them and have an impact.

And the way I dance now is completely different, the way I choreograph is completely different. International politics has enriched all of that as well. I have only gotten good things from City – it’s part of me.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Academically – third term in my third year, nightmare. Exams and dissertation were a nightmare.

Personally – not being scared of failure. I want to try things, I want to have adventures, I want to travel, I want to do the things I want to do but at the same time that can be dangerous and you’re facing the possibility of failure. In the past I decided not taking certain risks which I then regretted, so now I have decided to just throw myself in and try because if you don’t try, you will never know.

Most rewarding experience

Graduating from City, University of London. It was my teenage dream from the age of 16. I worked really hard to get accepted. Going through that, adapting, enjoying it, and then suddenly graduating was like the end of a period for me. I actually cried at my graduation, it was overwhelming. I knew that it was the end of something that had started when I was 16. It was like ‘oh my God, you actually got it – you actually fulfilled this dream!’ So then I had to find a new dream.

What advice do you have for someone following in your footsteps?

For those people that are completely lost, it’s fine to be lost. I have gotten to know myself better in those times. It’s fine to not know where you’re going or what you want to achieve, just go through it. You have to, otherwise you will always be stuck or just flowing with what you are told to do.

Also, try to network a lot in the industry that you’re interested in. Have contacts because you don’t know where opportunities will arise. If you’re trying something that’s unknown – try to get mentors. Stay away from negative people, follow your instincts, be critical with yourself, realise when you have something wrong and have a plan B.

Quick fire

Favourite place in London: The terrace in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden

Favourite holiday destination: London

Must check every-day website: Facebook

Dream holiday destination: Any Caribbean Island

Cheese or chocolate: Cheesecake


Check out Sandra in action:

If you would like to connect with Sandra, you can find her on LinkedIn: Alejandra Benet Garcia