Many dancers today are no longer content just being artists. More and more are flexing their entrepreneurial skills, starting their own businesses while still dancing full-time.
The latest dancer-run enterprise comes from group of American Ballet Theatre dancers. Current soloists Sarah Lane and Craig Salstein along with former members Luis Ribagorda and Eric Tamm are launching a new site this week called Ballet Mentor, an online mentorship service for dancers.
"The idea came from me growing up as the only male dancer in a small town, not having ballet parents who danced, and having a lot of questions," says Tamm. "Ballet Mentor is trying to fill that void by offering guidance from working professionals."
Sarah Lane teaching at Kansas City Ballet School, via kcballet.org
Lane (who is married to Ribagorda) adds that whenever she guest teaches, she's constantly asked for advice. She wanted a forum to share her experiences. "For me, the process of joining a company, auditioning, those years of doing competitions really took a toll," she says. "There's so much I struggled with. I want to alleviate some of that stress for young dancers."
The four founders—all friends who've collaborated on various projects in the past, including short dance films and Salstein's Intermezzo Dance Company—decided to create a platform where anyone could connect with a professional dancer. They enlisted 10 of their colleagues to become mentors: The current lineup includes ABT principals like Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns, plus Houston Ballet's Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews.
"It's a baby right now," says Tamm. "We're just launching the mentor part of it, offering one-on-one attention from artists looking to give back and who have a lot to say. But once it takes off, we want to this to be a larger online community." Lane hopes it will eventually offer online ballet classes and nutrition advice, for example.
For now, she's juggling a busy schedule of performing, touring and teaching, so she only imagines being able to take on about 10 mentees herself. But she's willing to make time for the project because its mission is something that's close to her heart. "Ballet is incredibly taxing physically, emotionally, psychologically. There are a lot of things young dancers have to figure out for themselves," she says. "I want to create a resource to help them learn what it takes to perform at the top."