How I Got the Job: Martha Graham Dance Company
Today, Anne Souder, Xin Ying and Marzia Memoli are all members of the Martha Graham Dance Company, but their journeys there couldn't have been more different. Each of them shared how they landed a contract with their dream company.
Anne Souder, soloist
Souder in Graham's Ekstasis
Hibbard Nash, Courtesy MGDC
The Graham company had been at the top of Anne Souder's list since high school. "Watching veteran dancers like Masha Dashkina Maddux and Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, I thought, I want to move like that," says Souder. "It was something special to see the longevity of these dancers. This wasn't just a company for the youngest; there was potential for upward growth."
She studied Graham technique as part of her coursework at the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and during her senior year, she auditioned for the company. "I have the personality of a go-getter but not the showmanship to be comfortable front and center, so auditions made me really anxious," says Souder. They didn't have a job for her at the time, but artistic director Janet Eilber encouraged Souder to take the summer intensive and to look into the next Graham 2 audition. It worked: At that audition, she landed a contract. After a season with Graham 2, she auditioned for the main company again, feeling more confident in the technique but calm enough to enjoy the performance of it. "I needed more experience to be ready for the work," says Souder.
Know what you're getting into: If you're geeking out about a company, Souder recommends talking to as many people in its orbit as you can to get a three-dimensional picture of what it's like to work there. "It helps to know what boxes you check for the company, how many auditions it typically takes to break through and where former company members have ended up," she says.
Xin Ying, principal dancer
Xin in Graham's Spectre
Melissa Sherwood, Courtesy MGDC
After a major earthquake rocked her hometown in China, Xin Ying decided to leave a comfortable job teaching Chinese classical and folk dance, and two years later she moved to New York City. She had learned about Martha Graham in school but had no formal modern training. When Xin auditioned for the Graham School's Independent Program for international students, she was placed in the elementary level. "I was so disappointed to be starting at ground zero, but Martha Graham started later in life too," she says.
After one semester, she transferred into the Accelerated Professional Program, and a scholarship audition led to an invitation to join Graham 2. Just months later, Eilber asked her to work with the company as a student apprentice. She performed chorus work and continued to dance with Graham 2, doing school outreach performances during the day. Xin officially joined the main company in 2011, only two years after she'd arrived in New York.
"I never set a goal like, Next year, I'll be a principal," says Xin. "I was just working hard day by day toward the thing right in front of me, and once that was a reality, I'd think about the next step. I still can't believe how far I've come."
Go all in: Though starting modern dance late was a challenge, Xin found inspiration in Martha Graham. "She lived really large—she kept working until the very last year of her life, creating 181 works," says Xin. "If you want to be successful, that's how much effort you have to put in. There are no guarantees in your career, but if you give up, you're guaranteed not to reach your goal."
Marzia Memoli, dancer
Memoli in Larry Keigwin's Lamentation Variation
Benoite Fanton, Courtesy MGDC
Already in her third Graham season at only 22 years old, it may seem like Marzia Memoli made a beeline for company status, but she faced difficult decisions along the way. The Italian native was only in her second year at Rudra Béjart School in Lausanne, Switzerland, when she took class with the Graham company while they were on tour. Eilber approached her afterward and said she should come to New York to work with the troupe. "I knew they wanted me, but I felt strongly about finishing my education," says Memoli. "I also thought I should follow through on my goal to audition for several companies I really believed in—Graham was just the first one." She stayed at Béjart for nine more months to finish her program and audition elsewhere, but upon graduation, Graham was her clear choice.
Memoli joined the main company without an official audition and was quickly immersed. "I had two and a half months to prepare for my first tour. When another dancer got injured the day before we left, I was asked to step into a piece I knew but had never actually danced," says Memoli. "I was still only speaking French and Italian—no English at all—so I was confused about everything but my dancing! Afterward, Janet said, 'You'll dance that every night.' "
Have a goal, but stay open-minded: "Accept what life brings you," says Memoli. "I know dancers who miss out on opportunities because they are single-minded about one big, shiny goal. But if you stay open, you'll expand your skills and be even better for that dream role when it comes around."
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.