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By Lauren Kay
Bebe Neuwirth in All That Jazz at the 2005 CTFD gala.
From early training throughout their professional lives, dancers are flooded with information about everything from correct placement to audition techniques. But retirement—and what comes next—is a subject that used to be avoided. In 1985, Career Transition For Dancers started to fill in those blanks: Its mission is to aid dancers who are ready to step into other professional roles by providing workshops, scholarships, and counseling. The thousands of alumni that CTFD has helped include chef and caterer Jock Soto (the beloved former New York City Ballet principal) and photographer Erin Baiano (a former American Ballet Theatre dancer).
“Our philosophy is to not only reach out to professional dancers, but also to students, apprentices and pre-professionals to plant the seed of consideration early,” says Alexander J. Dubé, CTFD’s executive director. “Thus, they can avoid crisis when the day comes that a dance career has to end. And we help them see—and use—the fantastic transferable skills they’ve gained as dancers. We’re the dancer’s safety net.” Since its opening, CTFD has provided 46,000 hours of career counseling to 4,600 active clients across the U.S.
On November 8, CTFD marks 25 years with its annual gala at New York’s City Center. In the past, the program has presented stars from stage and screen including Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, Paloma Herrera, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jason Samuels Smith, and Sutton Foster. Ann Marie DeAngelo, the choreographer who produces the show, says this year’s “Silver Jubilee” will recapture highlights from CTFD’s past galas and will be particularly spectacular: Tony-award winner Angela Lansbury will serve as host, Tommy Tune will appear, and performers will include Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth and Chita Rivera. The star-studded event has been in the works all year, says DeAngelo, and she’s kept a keen eye on representing diverse genres of dance. “I try to mix new things with classic staples,” she says. “I like to put Rock Steady Crew next to Cirque du Soleil. Dance has no boundaries.”
The evening raises industry awareness “that CTFD provides a light at the end of the dance tunnel,” says DeAngelo. “It helps us feel sure that there is an answer to the question, ‘What happens now?’ Because even with that question, we are always dancers. If we become a landscape artist, we dance with the plans! CTFD—and the gala—help dancers realize you are empowered when you take your dancer experience into your next chapter.” To honor this idea, DeAngelo invited CTFD supporter Marvin Hamlisch to write a new song entitled “I’m Really Dancing” that will debut at the gala.
The event, which Dubé hopes will raise 1.1 million dollars this year and raised $925,000 dollars last year, is pivotal in funding the foundation’s ever-evolving free programs and services. Last year this helped CTFD provide $525,000 dollars in counseling for 272 dancers-clients, and $428,000 dollars worth of scholarships for tuition, professional certification, and training.
In addition to counseling and scholarships, Dubé says, the proceeds will help CTFD to expand its national workshops to more cities, support the three offices in NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and keep the foundation’s website current. “Our desire is to be the hub for everything that relates to the dancer when they are about to make a change, are thinking about it—or even when they are enjoying a wonderful career!”
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Win a Pair of Tickets to See Rioult Dance! Rioult Dance returns to the Joyce Theater in New York June 4-9. Dance Magazine is giving away a pair of tickets to the June 8th performance at 2:00 pm.(Click here to enter.)