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Dear Lisa Marie,
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ABC Press Release for Gyrotonic
What else can I do?
The twenty-four dance majors at New York's Adelphi University are more likely to feel the need to refine a developpe than to develop a retirement strategy. With onstage careers barely more than a sugar plum dream, why upstage their hopes with worries of what to do when they can no longer dance?
COPYRIGHT 2004 Dance Magazine, Inc.
But after thirty-five years in ballet with the National Ballet Company of Canada and other companies, Adelphi dance department director Frank Augustyn understands how quickly a performance career can fly. To prepare his students for reality, last fall he brought in counselors from Career Transition for Dancers, an organization that offers free career counseling to dancers in all disciplines. Attendance at the workshop was mandatory. "Even though dancers on a college level are gung ho to make a performance career, it never hurts to have the tools to know how to move on when the time comes," says Augustyn.
CTFD can list post-performance career examples as diverse as bridal consulting and international relations. But among the success stories, there is some particularly good news that is often overlooked: Many dancers find fulfilling careers in dance-related fields. They teach, they produce, they manage, they heal. They learn new ways to apply their skills, and discover a few they didn't know they had. But the most important discovery is that saying goodbye to performing doesn't mean they need to leave dance behind.
Heather Tietsort-Lasky had just the kind of performance opportunities that students like those at Adelphi hunger for. After receiving her BFA at Arizona State University, she set out for New York City. She performed with Chen and Dancers and scored an apprenticeship with Merce Cunningham. She then moved west and joined ODC/San Francisco where she danced for nine years until retiring in 1999. "I've been plagued with injury throughout my career, and during my injury breaks I got really involved in marketing and public relations," she says.
She discovered a new career as a corporate event planner when an event producer for Cisco Systems approached her to hire twenty dancers for a sales meeting. She brought the dancers together and choreographed a piece, then went on to coordinate talent for other "industrials." She's now positioned herself as producer as well as talent coordinator. "It's a really natural transition if you have good organization skills and are savvy with people and carry yourself elegantly," she says. "You can package yourself just as you would for an audition."
Steven Caras danced fourteen years with the New York City Ballet, and had the good fortune to work with George Balanchine. When Edward Villella approached him to do fund raising as Development Director for Miami City Ballet in Palm Beach County, Caras said, "I thought to myself, 'I've never done that before. But at the same time, I have been involved in development my whole life, representing the art form that I love more than anything.'"
Sometimes it takes a while for a dancer to find where she best fits in. "When I left Radio City, I tried some desk jobs. I was miserable and didn't like anything about it," says former Rockette, Darlene Wendy. "Everyone told me you have to go out into the real world and this is what you do. By the time I went to Career Transition for Dancers, I was at the end of my rope." There she was encouraged to look closer at the skills she developed as a dancer. Using her considerable knowledge of anatomy and kinetics, Wendy is now a personal trainer in Manhattan.
Lisa Marie Goodwin's interest in the healing arts began in high school. From the San Francisco Ballet School, she went on to apprentice with the Cleveland Ballet and performed with L.A. Classical Ballet until the company folded. But along the way she became a master trainer for both Gyrotonic[R] and Gyrokinesis[R]. Goodwin now teaches at L.A. Body Kinetics, a studio she helped start in southern California, as well as for ballet companies and at Loyola Marymount University where dance majors can become Gyrotonic and Pilates instructors at the same time they earn their dance degree.
Like many others who make their living in ways other than performing, Goodwin still dances. She says the income she receives as a master trainer allows her greater freedom in deciding what projects to accept. "I don't have to survive on what I make as a dancer," she says. And there's another plus as well. "I'm not as injured as when I was younger, because I've learned about my body, my instrument."
Karen Hildebrand is DANCE MAGAZINE education editor and produces the COLLEGE GUIDE.