How This Dancer Became One of NYC's Most In-Demand Freelancers
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
In her nine years as a sought-after freelance dancer, Cloud, 30, has followed through on that instinct, bringing her quiet, lucid electricity to the work of Pam Tanowitz, John Jasperse, Sarah Michelson, Gillian Walsh, Moriah Evans and Beth Gill, among others. She can turn something as simple as a grand plié into an eerily transcendent moment—as she did in Walsh's Scenario: Script to Perform—or sail through counterintuitive convolutions, like those in Tanowitz's New Work for Goldberg Variations.
"Maggie is a mixture of ephemeral beauty and down-to-earthiness," says Tanowitz, who has worked with her since 2012. "She can solve whatever task I throw at her with understated gorgeousness."
In Burr Johnson's Tropopause. Photo courtesy Works & Process at the Guggenheim
Growing up in Sarasota, Florida, Cloud trained in the Cecchetti method, establishing a foundation of clean, unadorned alignment that she still appreciates. "It really set me up to work correctly and efficiently," she says.
During high school and college she spent several summers at the American Dance Festival, where the exposure to different choreographers and styles "kind of blew open my world," she says. Her senior year at FSU brought her to New York for a Movement Research internship. She knew she wanted to come back.
Cloud was dancing with friends in New York when she auditioned for Michelson, landing a role in her Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, which would premiere at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012. "Sarah saw something in me and took a chance without really knowing me yet," Cloud says. During that high-profile project, she made connections that opened doors for future work.
In John Jasperse's Remains. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Jasperse.
In deciding which projects to take on, Cloud considers both logistical factors—scheduling, finances—and artistic ones, like whether the work will challenge her. Above all, she says, "I have to trust the choreographer and their vision."
"The most profound projects," she adds, "are those where the work has developed over the course of many processes, where we can pick up where we left off and approach it in a new way, with a shared understanding and language."
As for the challenges of a freelance career, Cloud says they've had less to do with switching between choreographers' styles—a variety she enjoys—and more to do with money. "There are so few jobs that can single-handedly support you financially, and even though I prefer the piecemeal freelance work, it can be a hustle," she says.
In Pam Tanowitz's The Spectators. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Tanowitz
For Cloud, the hustle has included babysitting, art modeling, teaching, and working at a restaurant and a Pilates studio. But in the past year she's made a larger career move, enrolling in a master's program at Tri-State College of Acupuncture. That choice was inspired, in part, by wanting to help people one-on-one, in ways not always possible through dance.
"The actual exchange of dance happens so rarely," Cloud says. "In the span of a year-and-a-half-long process, there's maybe a weekend of shows, so I feel like my impact is often really indirect or abstract." She doesn't want to give up dancing, and doesn't plan to. But as she puts it, "I'm trying to connect to the world in a different way."
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Over the past 15 years, Gesel Mason has asked 11 choreographers—including legends like Donald McKayle, David Roussève, Bebe Miller, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Rennie Harris and Kyle Abraham—to teach her a solo. She's performed up to seven of them in one evening for her project No Boundaries: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers.
Now, Mason is repackaging the essence of this work into a digital archive. This online offering shares the knowledge of a few with many, and considers how dance can live on as those who create it get older.
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.
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
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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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.)
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
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.