A dancer's art

Conservatory graduate a born entertainer

Erik Sobbe from Conservatory of Music and Dance on Vimeo.


There is no way that Erik Sobbe can hide his enthusiasm and sense of joy in life – nor does he try. He seems barely bound to earth. Even while sitting, he’s a bundle of kinetic energy – not restless so much as someone just born to move. "It was hard for me to choose a college at first. I went to Missouri State in Springfield and then I transferred to be with my twin sister at Northwest Missouri State. I had fun there and really enjoyed it, but I knew it wasn't right for me. I wanted a city environment and a school with a strong music program."

"The Conservatory - best choice for me"

"Even after I enrolled in the Conservatory at UMKC, it was hard for me to choose a discipline. I thought I wanted to sing – because that's what I had always done; but I became fascinated with dance. So I auditioned for several divisions at the Conservatory. They told me, 'Erik, we all want you. You have to choose.' "I decided on both ballet and modern dance. Dancers today need to be versatile. That opens up our job possibilities – everything from joining a ballet company to performing in musical theatre." Sobbe was grateful to the faculty members with enough foresight to take a chance on a boy who knew nothing. He didn't even have command of the proper terminology for ballet instruction. Therefore, when he finished his classes he would stay and observe, watching and listening to other students and instructors.

Catching up

"For two years," Sobbe said, "I just tried to absorb everything. I learned things like music theory that I had never studied before. I had to work harder, but hard work is a great teacher. The Conservatory really opened my eyes. Now there is nothing I won't consider. I would be just as happy in a dance company, on a cruise line or doing musical theater." Almost everything about the Conservatory pleased Sobbe – although some days were long. He became very disciplined and pushed himself even when he felt like slacking off. "That's what we do if we want this life."

Encouraging mentors

From the start, Sobbe knew that the Conservatory was perfect for him. His principal instructors and mentors were Paula Weber, Chair of Dance Division and Professor of Dance, and Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Associate Professor of Dance. He appreciated the way they and other faculty encouraged him to raise the bar for himself, striving to improve and elevate his professionalism.

His feelings were reciprocated

"Erik was an exemplary student, enthusiastic and open to new ways of thinking and moving, said Madison-Cannon. He embodied all of the qualities it takes to become a professional dancer: heart, determination and an undying work ethic." Sobbe worked with visiting choreographers and master teachers, where the students were treated like professionals and had a schedule mirroring that of a real dance company. Sobbe worked with some of the best – teachers affiliated with the Alvin Ailey Company, the Balanchine Trust, the Richmond Ballet and the Wylliams-Henry Contemporary Dance Company. In conjunction with his ballet classes, Sobbe learned modern dance. Without the costuming and structured patterns of ballet, modern dance gave Sobbe a sense of the emotion and power a dancer can express. "Different types of movement that you would not normally see together sometimes are written into the same modern dance program," Sobbe said. "I believe that company directors do this for the chance to display their dancers’ range of skills."

Spreading the love

Now that he has graduated from UMKC, Sobbe finished his summer job in the live entertainment field and is looking for any type of professional dance work he can find. What are his future prospects and what does he have to offer? "I feel that I am a unique person and a positive person. When I spread the love, I forget my own worries. I am happiest when I am performing for people and making them happy. I love people and I want them to know it."

Posted: September 7, 2010

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"The Conservatory really opened my eyes. Now there is nothing I won't consider."

Erik Sobbe
BFA, 2010, dance

Stephanie Shipman, Erik Sobbe and Angela Shipman rehearse for "Paquita." Photo Copyright 2008 Mike Strong.