Many people see dance and choreography as separate pursuits, or view choreography as a dance career's second act. For some dancers, however, performing and choreographing inform one another. "That's just the kind of choreographer I am. I feel things so deeply in my physicality. I have to do it to know it," says Jodi Melnick, who is a prolific performer of her own work. She also maintains an active practice as a performer for other choreographers: Throughout her career, she's worked with Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Tere O'Connor and Donna Uchizono, to name a few.
Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.
For countless dancemakers without their own space, there is no place to call home. Enter the new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. Its mission: to support the research and development of new dance by providing choreographers, dance companies, arts administrators and dance writers access to the world-class facilities in the University's Guzzetta Hall and other venues on campus. With seven dance studios, two black-box theaters and main-stage theaters of two different sizes, NCCAkron will provide a place for choreographers to explore the full potential of their creative process.
"So what do you do?"
This is the first question many of us ask when we're getting to know a new person—but it's one I've come to dread. When I tell people that I'm a dancer, occasionally I am met with enthusiasm and interest. But more often, I'm met with confusion, condescension or even hostility. "Oh, that's fun. I wish I could do something fun like that," a new acquaintance once said to me. She then proceeded to tell me about how difficult her job was and how hard she was working, making it clear that in her mind "fun" meant "easy." And if I had a dollar for every time a simple getting-to-know-you conversation has turned into a debate in which I've had to defend my career choice, maybe I could quit one of my other jobs.
Working in a smaller city as a choreographer and worried you're not getting the same opportunities you would in the Big Apple? We've been there and we hear you. But what if your little city can contain your choreographic dreams—and make them come true?
Winston-Salem, North Carolina–based Helen Simoneau, who has gained national and international recognition for her choreography, credits much of her success to being based in a smaller city: "You can shape your environment," she says, pointing out that there isn't as much competition for audiences and funding.
Three small dance companies offered me a job. The first wanted to give me good roles without pay until someone left. The second (which I took) pays, although the rep isn't as good and the studios are in a mall! The last was just a Nutcracker season in a nice company. Sadly, it feels like I "settled" for money rather than artistry. Did I make the right choice?
—Depressed Dancer, Midwest
Lurking on dancers' social media pages, among the video clips of superhuman pirouettes and the photos that immortalize them above the stage in grand jeté or crouched on a windowsill wearing lingerie, pointe shoes and a sultry expression, is the occasional political post.
It's hard not to have a political opinion in the age of Trump. And on social media, opinions are easy to express. We might have to thumb the history book all the way back to Abraham Lincoln to find a more polarizing president (alas, the two leaders' similarities decisively end there).
When Kathleen Martin learned her contract with Ballet West wouldn't be renewed, America was watching. Cameras were rolling for the first episode of the reality series "Breaking Pointe," bringing additional scrutiny to what was already one of the toughest moments of her career. "I knew deep down it was going to happen," she says. "I wanted to hold my head high."
As painful as the experience may be, it is possible to rebuild your career after being fired. Five years later, Martin is thriving as a soloist with Ballet San Antonio. "I didn't want this one setback to define me," she says. Here's how to part ways like a professional, regain your confidence and have greater success in your next gig.