The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Tattoos, piercings and pirouettes

Aja Rasmussen dances in Joan Tierney's ballet class. Photo by || Randy Briggs || [email protected]

She glides barefoot across wooden floors with arms extended delicately in front of her body.

Sharply pointing her toes, she gracefully jumps into the air kicking her legs back into impossible directions and upon landing, the ground seems to cushion beneath her feet.

With long, black dreadlocks, a septum piercing and traditional-style tattoos, Aja Rasmussen’s modern appearance is a breath of fresh air within the conservative world of ballet.

“I think dance is important to people,” says Rasmussen. “It gets endorphins going in the brain, it’s totally a different way of expressing yourself and I think it’s very important to your mental health.”

At the age of 8, Rasmussen took her first steps as a dancer with the Galena Street East dance troupe here in Sacramento and also started dancing and singing in the Sacramento Opera, performing in everything from “La Bohème” to “I Pagliacci”.

Although Rasmussen has an understanding of strict dance environments, she says her experiences in City College dance instructor Joan Tierney’s ballet class, have been the most satisfying.

“She’s not so traditional. She’s not uptight, and people in my class are pretty colorful in personality,” says Rasmussen, describing Tierney’s philosophy of dance. “I’ve studied in a lot of ballet studios where the teachers are complete Nazis. They make you balance a tea cup on your foot or they like hit your leg if it’s not right or they crank your foot to point correctly.”

Peering into the open-doors of south gym 214, Rasmussen’s mother Juli, can also be seen dancing elegantly beside her daughter.
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“Her mom came and watched the class [last semester] and now she’s in my class,” Tierney explains. “She was actually great, and she knew what was going on in the class. It was really kind of neat.”

Juli also took her share of dance classes throughout her college career and says life has come full circle as she watches her daughter grow as a dancer and as an adult.

“She is very coordinated, she looks like a fairy,” says Juli, describing Aja’s dance technique.

“I’ve watched her dance as a child and it’s very enjoyable to watch the transition from child to adult.”

At the beginning of each semester, Tierney informs all students that her dance environment is snob-free and says she has dancers of all calibers in her classes. Having watched Aja dance for two semesters, Tierney notices some of her distinct strengths as a dancer.

“I liked her from the first day that I met her,” says Tierney. “She has great background technique. She has a lot of control and she’s strong. This is not just a P.E. class, this is an emotional outlet. It’s a creative outlet. It makes them feel great about themselves. They feel like, at the end of class, they’ve been a piece of art and I think that’s vital in their life.”

In addition to her dance talents, Aja is majoring in fashion design and also has a thirst for aerospace engineering, and says she dreams of working on rocket ships for NASA. In her spare time, Aja finds herself in serious seamstress mode, creating everything from dresses, hats, and gloves, all the way down to shoes. And if you think she can’t possibly fit anymore on her neverending list of creative capabilities, she can also play the flute, cello and sing.

“I would love to go to Juilliard and become a prima ballerina in the New York Ballet or I would love to work for NASA in Florida and build rocket ships or I would love to be the newest designer sitting on a plane with my face painted on the front,” Aja admits with a smile. “I’ll go down any road and I’ll take any opportunity that comes towards me. I’m not going to close my doors by saying, ‘I’m only going to do science’ or ‘I’m only going to do fashion or dance.’ I’m just going to do an even slate of everything and then see where it takes me.”

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