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Student Violet Spotlight: Lily Chong (MA '23)


A recent survey of dance students found that many identified themselves as dancers first and humans second, a choice graduate student Lily Chong (MA '23) found telling, if not surprising.

A lifelong dancer who has been teaching for nine years, Lily is completing her master’s in dance education at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, where she is learning to help dancers become technically proficient and mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.  

“Dance can be as much of your life as you want it to be, but understanding that there are other ways you can impact dance is important. And having other things in your life, like family and pets and hobbies, can improve your dancing and your artistry,” Lily, 25, says. 

Lily Chong smiles against a purple backdrop.

The Virginia resident has modeled this dance-life balance during her time in New York. Living with her girlfriend in Brooklyn, she enjoys reading, exploring the borough’s eclectic food scene, and being outdoors.

“I’m a huge foodie and I will try almost anything. New York City is a quite expensive place to do that, but I have figured out how to manage that,” she says with a laugh. “I also love the outdoors. I go on walks in Prospect Park. I feel happiest when I’m in greenery and the sun.” 

Lily is also co-president of the student-run Steinhardt Dance Education Association, and worked as a research assistant archiving the program’s history for the recent Distinguished Faculty Dance Concert celebrating 90 years of dance and dance education at Steinhardt. 

“History was my least favorite class growing up, but I’m digging into the archives about what happened in our program, what classes were taught,” she says. “It’s been amazing. Having this knowledge of where everything came from, and learning about NYU’s importance in the country’s dance world – it gives me a more holistic approach.”

Lily enrolled at NYU in 2021, drawn to NYU Steinhardt’s partnership with the American Ballet Theatre. Now fully certified as a teacher in ABT’s National Training Curriculum, she is studying to be a Certified Life Coach and hopes to pursue a PhD. Inspired by classes taught by Steinhardt professors Susan R. Koff and Deborah Damast, where humor, compassion, and support are central to every session, Lily has found the freedom to explore a new way of teaching. She makes time in the studio for student-led discussions about career opportunities, dance-life balance, and the culture of dance, encouraging students to journal, ask questions, and critique her teaching. 

“It is important that the students feel safe voicing their opinions in the studio and classroom,” Lily says.

She dreams of teaching other teachers to embrace this approach and help their students better understand the dance world and better prepare them to be professionals.

“A dancer gets injured and it would be best for them to rest, but they will continue to dance because they’re afraid they will get fired. That’s part of the culture,” she says. “I have learned how to be a healthier, more effective, more compassionate ballet teacher, which is what the ballet world needs.” 

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