Ballet Dancers Are Stretching Their Business Muscles During COVID
Dancers are used to challenges. So, when COVID-19 forced them to wait in the wings, many quickly hatched a plan B—and several decided to launch or grow their own businesses or nonprofits. That same dedication and grace under pressure that drives their dancing careers has also made them ambitious entrepreneurs.
Baking Cakes: Jordan Richardson Fry
When Jordan Richardson Fry, a corps de ballet dancer with Ballet West, began her cake-making business, Ballerina Baker, in 2017, she would dance all day, then get home and bake all night. She was taking on any and every project for free until her husband, Ballet West principal Adrian Fry, said “Enough.”
Richardson Fry worked with Maggie Austin, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer and renowned cake decorator, to develop a business plan and hone her specialty—luxury wedding cakes. Of course, COVID-19 has forced her adjust: She went from making cakes for 400 guests to smaller creations for more intimate ceremonies. It has also given her the opportunity to expand her business, like partnering with local florists to offer wedding packages and throwing birthday parties with a ballerina.
Despite the shifts, Richardson Fry is committed to making each cake unique. “That is what I love. I get to capture an event or a person within a work of art.”
Creating a Community Resource: Trisha Carter
Mitchell Zachs, Courtesy Carter
When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s Trisha Carter was starting out as a freelance dancer, she felt there was a lack of organized resources while trying to navigate the Miami dance scene. So in 2018, she partnered up with former Joffrey dancer Cameron Basden to co-found Miami Dance Hub, a nonprofit w[SB1] hose mission, as stated on the website, is “to develop a cohesive dance community with common goals and shared resources.” Today, the site compiles everything dance-related—from performances to collective initiatives—into one online source.
COVID allowed them to “leapfrog ahead in time,” she says, with their goals—overhauling the website and beefing up their communications strategy. Dancers and audience members sought out MDH as a central hub for streaming local performances while stuck at home.
“With MDH, I was finally able to provide solutions to problems I experienced as a freelance artist in South Florida,” Carter says. “Everyone else can start one step ahead from where I had to start.”
Consulting on Beauty: Daphne Lee
On top of a tough year, Daphne Lee, a company artist with Dance Theatre of Harlem, lost her mother to cancer in January. Since then, she has been carrying on her mother’s commitment to using clean and safe beauty products by becoming an independent consultant with Beautycounter. “The cool thing about Beautycounter is that you work your own business. You decide how to work it and there’s no penalty, no minimums. I work my business the way I want to.”
Since launching during the pandemic, she is now a manager running her thriving online store around her dance career. And she is a proud member of Beautycounter’s BIPOC group, Counter Excellence, where she gets plenty of advice. “Beyond the selling of products, it’s about the mission,” says Lee. “What are we doing to change the narrative about Black beauty?”
Training Nondancers: Jamie Kopit
Most dancers are familiar with Gyrotonic, but Nashville Ballet dancer Jamie Kopit wants nondancers to discover its benefits too. “It feeds so directly into what I do and love every day,” she says. “I want to show other people how great it is.”
Master trainer Sebastian Plettenberg helped get her certified in New York City (where she danced with American Ballet Theatre) before Kopit moved to Nashville in 2018. She taught at a local studio, but when the lockdown started, she invested in her own tower to teach from home.
As rehearsals start up again, she teaches on her days off and still limits who she sees in person (with masks). Kopit says when she retires from dancing, she would like to open her own Gyrotonic studio, so this is the perfect time to build her client base. “It’s a nice way to have a side business that, as a dancer, is not taking away from your craft. It’s adding to it.”
Kopit teaches the Gyrotonic method to ABT principal Cassandra Trenary
Courtesy Nashville Ballet
Designing Dancewear: Julia Cinquemani
Julia Cinquemani (second from right) and fellow Miami City Ballet dancers modeling Jule Dancewear.
Luis Alvarez, Courtesy Cinquemani
When Julia Cinquemani went to train at Pacific Northwest Ballet at 16, her body was going through a lot of changes. Instead of feeling confident, she felt uncomfortable. So, she designed a leotard made like a sports bra. “It was built out of necessity and wanting to provide dancewear that was fashion-forward but also functional,” says Cinquemani, now a corps de ballet dancer with Miami City Ballet.
That leotard, along with her wrap-skirt business that she started at 14, turned into Jule Dancewear. Cinquemani wears many hats, managing inventory, the website and product design and development; and modeling photo-shoot concepts and designs. “If we can feel better with what we’re wearing, it’s that extra boost of confidence,” she says. “It’s really rewarding to hear dancers’ responses when they get a new Jule leotard.”
Growing Flowers: Lauren Archer and Cody Beaton
Lauren Archer and Cody Beaton, company dancers with Richmond Ballet, first got into flowers in 2018 when Beaton helped Archer create the arrangements for her wedding. They fell in love with the craft and have been studying flowers ever since.
When everyone was forced indoors, they planted a huge plot in Archer’s backyard, and Monarch Flower Farms was born. “Before COVID, we thought we would order flowers to sell, but now we know we can grow our own,” says Archer. Among their goals are for Monarch Flower Farms to be environmentally friendly, organic and kind to pollinators. In time, they’d like to have some land with their own wedding venue.
The patience of waiting for a flower to bloom has made an impression. “I think that going with the flow is a big lesson I’ve learned,” says Beaton. “Things happen that you can’t control with Mother Nature. It’ll turn around in the end.”
Lauren Archer and Cody Beaton work with their flowers after launching Monarch in the spring of 2020
Ben Malone, Courtesy Archer and Beaton