Jeffrey Van Sciver

Prior to November of 2011, the last time Dominican LINES Ballet/BFA in Dance student Jeffrey Van Sciver went to New York City with his mother, Iris, it was to enroll in The Juilliard School. Due to injury, his studies at Juilliard were cut short. But, that November 1, he returned to Manhattan with his mom to mark another major significant step in his dance career: To collect a $10,000 grant from the Princess Grace Foundation.

In 2011 Van Sciver, now touring with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, was one of 21 winners of the Princess Grace Awards, given annually for theater, dance and choreography and film to continue the legacy of Princess Grace of Monaco, who anonymously helped emerging artists pursue their artistic goals in her lifetime. The Dominican junior received his scholarship award at the Princess Grace Awards Gala on 42nd Street in New York City.

“Jeffrey is an extraordinary talent. His sheer relish for dance and joy in movement radiate to all who have the opportunity to see him perform,” said Marina Hotchkiss, program director of the LINES Ballet BFA in Dance program at Dominican.  “To be successful as a dancer you have to love working hard, and Jeffrey gives 110 percent in the daily work of the studio as well as on the stage. All of us in the dance program are so thrilled for him, and so proud.”

At the time, Van Sciver was the second Dominican LINES Ballet/BFA in Dance student to win a Princess Grace Foundation grant. Katie Scherman, who went on to perform with the Hubbard Street Dance company in Chicago, was a PGF award-winner in 2009.

In addition, Van Sciver was named the 2011 Shenson Performing Arts Fellow by The San Francisco Foundation and won another $10,000 scholarship from the Dizzy Feet Foundation. Dizzy Feet was founded by the producers of televisions So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars.

“It’s like I’m living my dream. They are always coming true,” Van Sciver said.

It didn’t feel that way in 2008 when, as a 17-year-old freshman at Juilliard School, Van Sciver had high hopes.  Since the age of seven when he first saw The Lion King in his hometown of Los Angeles, he aspired to go to New York and perform.

Unfortunately, soon after his arrival at Juilliard, a mysterious pain in the top of Van Sciver’s right foot worsened.  He had endured the pain for years yet it wasn’t until after he started at Juilliard that he learned he had developed bone spurs. 

“It was rough for me,” said Van Sciver, who needed crutches to get around. “I was so ready to dance but I couldn’t.”

Van Sciver eventually withdrew from Juilliard following the first semester and returned to Los Angeles to have surgery.  While rehabbing, he discovered that a friend was attending Dominican, arriving as a transfer in 2008. That jarred Van Sciver’s memory as during the summer following his high school graduation, he had joined the LINES Ballet’s summer program in San Francisco and first heard about Dominican’s LINES Ballet/BFA in Dance program.

Though Juilliard had a policy that would allow Van Sciver to re-enroll after his injury if he chose, he discovered that Dominican’s program was a better fit for him.
Van Sciver enrolled at Dominican and slowly worked himself into dancing shape.  His first performance at Dominican was in November of 2009. Ultimately, his dancing career took flight.

“I’ve been really grateful,” Van Sciver said. “I’ve worked very hard and I’m always thinking of what more I can do.”

That effort and energy is evident to Karen McDonald, a longtime dance instructor in Los Angeles whom Van Sciver calls his life mentor and coach.

“I think he's deserving of any award because of his determination, his listening and willingness to do the work,” McDonald said. “In 10th grade, we set a goal for Julliard and he took it seriously and worked to achieve that goal.

“One thing about Jeffrey is he understands that life is full of unexpected trials, such as surgery and being on crutches right in the middle of your dream. One thing we discussed regularly is the beauty of a Plan B and Plan B can often be better than Plan A … if you have the ability to be positive through it all. Our greatest saying and mantra is, `failure is not an option!’  I think that's how Jeffrey lives his life and he is an amazing talent as young artist, born to dance.”

Plan B feels AOK to Van Sciver now. He even imagined the day when he would win a Princess Grace award. When he attended Juilliard, he met another dancer who previously had received a prestigious scholarship from the Princess Grace Foundation. He decided then and there that he wanted one, too.

Four years later, Van Sciver collected on his dream.

“I’m so honored. I’m so happy about it,” Van Sciver said. “I couldn’t wait to go back to New York. It was crazy.”