Something Funny Happened on the Way to My Life

Since I was 13, my dance teachers, parents, and friends all encouraged me to pursue a professional career in dance.  I was good.  I was very good.  I believed a life of dance was meant for me.  I also felt invincible.  I started out as a classical ballet dancer and was focused on that path from age 5 to 17.  It’s all I knew and when it fell apart I thought my life was over… at 17.

ArabesqueI studied at the School of American Ballet, and then with Melissa Hayden at STEPS 60th on Broadway.  I also began auditioning for companies.  After a Houston Ballet audition, a producer from the movie “Fame” approached me and asked me to read for the part of the ballerina; I didn’t get the part but I continued to audition for other companies.  The stars were aligned and my future looked bright…until I landed wrong in a jump and badly sprained my ankle.  It took a split second for my entire life to change.  I returned too soon to dance and re-sprained it, then re-sprained it for a 3rd time.  It was the first time that I was forced to think outside the world of dance and I had no idea what I would or even could do.  Grand Jete

After a year of living at home and feeling directionless, I applied to college and was accepted at Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, NY.  In addition to discovering boys and pizza, I realized there was a whole world out there and I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to.  Along with dance, I also majored in English Literature.  After graduation, a couple years of waiting tables and bartending, and two years in Italy, I landed a job with a NYC public relations firm for the performing arts!

I’ve been working in arts administration ever since:  manager for New York City Ballet’s lecture demonstration program; Acting Director of the Performing Arts Department at Snug Harbor Cultural Center; Producer/Creative Director of my own company that I started to assist local nonprofit arts organizations with events and fundraisers; moved on to Executive Director of the Staten Island Chamber Music Players; Executive Director of RIOULT contemporary dance company; and now the Director of Development & Communications at Career Transition For Dancers – a position that truly resonates with me.

Somewhere along the line, I married and had two children, and while they were very young I embarked on one of the biggest achievements of my life… I earned my Masters in Nonprofit Management (MNM) from the Jesuit school, Regis University in Denver, CO.  I accomplished this through an accredited distance learning program while still working from home and raising my children.   I hope I set a good example for them!

Here’s my advice: even though you may only be 17 and on your way to a professional dance career, or contemplating retirement, begin to imagine what you would do if dance were no longer an option.  Start planting the seeds now so that when the time comes it won’t be such an emotional upheaval as it was for me.  You will discover that the same qualities you have developed as a dancer – discipline, focus, dedication, and passion – are the same ones you can apply to a successful career after dance.

And now my 17-year-old daughter attends LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts (the “Fame” school”) as a vocal major.  Life can be ironic but never boring!

-Liz

Elizabeth LaCause
Director of Development & Communications

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