Breaking Stereotypes

What It's Like to Be A Full-Time Lawyer AND A Professional Dancer

Christopher Williams' "Il Giardino d'Amore." Costume by Andrew Jordan, Photo by Paula Court

Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."

While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.

Lynch didn't even start dancing until he was at Columbia Law School. As a respite from the stress of school, he'd follow a friend to dance classes around the city. "Eventually it became clear that not only was this an escape, but something that I deeply enjoyed doing," says Lynch.

After graduating from law school, he landed a position at a large law firm—where he was miserable. He continued to take dance classes, and after two years decided to take a leave of absence to see if he could make it as a dancer.

Spoiler alert: He could.

Lynch dedicated the year to taking as many classes as he could, and eventually going on auditions and landing gigs with artists like Mariana Bekerman and Nai-Ni Chen. (Today he's danced with everyone from Third Rail Projects to the Metropolitan Opera to The Bang Group to Elisa Monte Dance.)

After that year, there was no way he was going back to his old law firm. But he wasn't ready to give up on law entirely. He tried starting his own practice—which was harder than he expected—and eventually joined the small firm where he works today, where he focuses on areas like contracts, business formation and intellectual property.

With his current law practice, he's allowed to make his own schedule to accommodate rehearsals and performances, and he often works from home or while traveling. He's also found a way to make his two careers intersect by doing immigration work for dancers trying to attain artist visas.

But it's taken time for Lynch to settle in to his success as a dancer. "There was a sort of reckoning that I had to do with my own lack of confidence in who I was as a dancer. For the longest time I would be hired for stuff and I would get people telling me that I was a good dancer but because I hadn't followed the traditional path, I had trouble believing it myself," he says. "I felt like an imposter. I now feel like I belong in the dance community and I believe that I deserve what opportunities I've had, but it took me a long time to get there."

Lynch's advice for aspiring dancers with a nontraditional background? "If you want to be a dancer, do it now," he says. "My one regret is that I doubted myself for too long."

Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

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Rant & Rave
Sergei Polunin. Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)

I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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