Allison Powell, C’93

Friday, March 1, 2024

Alumni Spotlight on Allison Powell, C’93

Can you keep dancing throughout life, while balancing family, work, and philanthropy? Allison Powell certainly does! She started dancing at age 3 and never stopped. “The arts are important to me because they have always been a part of me,” Allison shares. While attending summer classes at Penn, as part of Penn’s Precollege Program for High School Students, she took dance classes at the Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center (currently the dance studio at Penn Live Arts), loved it, and fell in love with all that Penn had to offer. Fortunately, she was admitted Early Decision to Penn. During college, Allison was a member of Penn Dance Company, serving as its Co-Chair in her senior year, and also was a member of the Performing Arts Council (PAC). She graduated from the College with majors in Economics and Psychology, went on to study law at Fordham University School of Law, and has had a successful career in antitrust, patent infringement, and intellectual property law in New York City. After starting a family, she branched into both legal and nonlegal writing and editing, and also represents family interests in various real estate ventures.

When thinking about her time at Penn in the performing arts, a plethora of memories comes to mind: seeing the professional dance companies perform at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (now Penn Live Arts), performing with and choreographing for Penn Dance Company, working with professional choreographers with Penn Dance Company, collaborating with other student performing arts groups, attending many performances from other student performing arts groups, learning how to stage and tech a dance show, attending Bacchanal, and getting hired to perform with other Penn Dancers at a Wharton MBA party! With all of these fun memories, Allison said, “the arts at Penn have always sustained my interest in and love for the arts,” which inspired her to give back and stay involved in the community.

Since graduating, Allison has taken weekly dance classes, most recently in tap dancing. She also ventured into ballroom dancing, became a swing dance instructor, and participated in two semi-professional swing dance companies in Lindy Hop. For nearly ten years, she has also been a part of the Penn Live Arts (PLA) Board of Advisors. She has helped with the Penn Performing Arts Initiative (PPAI) collaboration, in which PLA, Platt Student Performing Arts House, the Theatre Arts Department, and the Department of Music advance performing arts activities on Penn’s campus and beyond. She is the Co-Chair of the New York City branch of the Penn Performing Arts Regional Council (PennPARC). This Council organizes events to bring together Penn alumni working in and/or interested in the performing arts. They have helped support the annual student showcase at Carnegie Hall, as well as several spring events that bring together alumni, Penn student performing arts groups, and professors active in the different performing arts genres. The goal is to promote the arts at Penn and also help develop relationship between students, faculty, and alumni.

Having a busy life while trying to stay involved in the arts is no small feat, but Allison says that “when it’s a part of who you are and you are fulfilled from it, you’ll look to it and make time.” When she was in one of her swing dance companies, she worked with her employers to find a way to accommodate her rehearsal schedule. Such conversations can be challenging, but Allison reminds us that we need not “shy away from that either.” “If it is important to you, hopefully you can find a way to make it work.”

For students who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts beyond graduation, she recommends exploring the Penn administrative and alumni network that is available to them. Although reaching out to unknown alumni may be intimidating at first, “most of the time alumni are happy to hear from and help students.” Allison suggests that interested students touch base with the staff at Penn Live Arts and Platt House about opportunities for students to connect with alumni in the arts. Allison believes that “wherever people live, there will always be an opportunity to see or participate in the arts, it’s just [about] reminding yourself of how rewarding it is and making the time to pursue it.” 

This interview was conducted and written by Ella Nevo, ENG’26, Penn Dance member and Dance Arts Council Chair.