Month: May 2012

Between the Shows Get-Together at Sardi’s

By Melanie Brown, CTFD Client Outreach Coordinator

One of our annual outreach events at Career Transition For Dancers is the Broadway Dancer Between the Shows Get-Together at the famous Sardi’s Restaurant. Wednesday is a crazy day for Broadway performers; they play two shows, one at 2pm and one at 8pm, with just a couple of hours of downtime in between. At CTFD, we like to seize any and all opportunities to serve the dancers we love, and this event is only one of many.

The event, a standing springtime tradition for more than ten years, is a chance for Broadway dancers to get together, chat, network, and hear about the programs and services that Career Transition For Dancers offers. In the few hours between the last curtain of the first show and call for the next show, the dancers come to Sardi’s, learn about us, and enjoy a delicious buffet, open bar, and excellent company.

Former SYTYCD Contestants
Jess LeProtto, Thayne Jasperson and Alex Wong.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

This year’s turnout was excellent—the event hummed with dancers from every show. From Jesus Christ Superstar, to How to Succeed in Business, to Mary Poppins, and beyond, the Eugenia Room was at capacity. We even had a few former So You Think You Can Dance contestants join us for the party! Alex Wong (Season 7), Jess Le Protto (Season 8), and Thayne Jasperson (Season 4) all represented Newsies at this year ’s event. It was exciting for CTFD, especially given our new partnership with Nigel Lythgoe and SYTYCD.

While the dancers ate, Anything Goes dancers Kiira Schmidt and Mark Ledbetter both gave wonderful testimonials about their experiences with our grants, scholarships, services, and CTFD’s NYC Career Counselor Lauren Gordon (who also served as emcee for the evening).

Sardi's Hosts
Kathleen Marshall, Charlotte d’Amboise, Shelby Mann, Josh Bergasse, Jerry Mitchell, Krisha Marcano and Kirk Sprinkles. Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Our event is always hosted by a who’s-who of Broadway alumni, but this year’s hosts were truly the best of the best. Tony Award-winning choreographer and producer Jerry Mitchell kicked the evening off with his own transition story and an invitation to “come up and talk to me!” once the speakers were through. Three time Tony Award-winner and 2012 Tony nominated choreographer and director Kathleen Marshall, NBC’s hit Smash choreographer Josh Bergasse, Broadway’s hit choreographer of Jersey Boys and Memphis Sergio Trujillo, and former Broadway dancers Kirk Sprinkles, Krisha Marcano, and Charlotte D’Amboise all joined Jerry in his welcoming spirit, and the result was fantastic!

Dancers lined up to talk to all of our hosts about their experiences onstage, in transition, and in their new careers. The Sardi’s between shows get-together is always a special event for CTFD and the Broadway community, and this year was no different. Check out more of the great photos from the evening at A special thank you to the Schubert Organization for sponsoring this annual event.

From the Barre to the Bar

By Daniel May, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship recipient

To be a dancer is an all-consuming passion.   But it’s a short-lived career.  It makes you drag your tired butt out of bed in the morning, with every muscle aching, and trek down to the studio to start the day with a barre, stretches, floor work, rehearsal, and in many instances, a performance to end the day.  Dancers are conditioned to be disciplined, but a life in dance can make your pulse race like nothing else.

Daniel MayMy career as a dancer started my first year of high school.  It was “Once Upon a Mattress,” and I was in the chorus.  I loved it.  After a “long run” of two weekends, I started tap dance lessons.  It happened that my tap teacher was a ballerina with the Fort Wayne Indiana Ballet.  She came over to me after class one day and asked if I’d considered taking ballet lessons.

The next thing I knew, I was in class nearly every day.  I decided after two years of college that I was wasting my time.  So, I packed up and left the farm in Indiana and moved to New York in September of 1977.  The subway cost a couple of quarters and there was graffiti on every visible surface, but there were dance studios everywhere and dance classes at all hours. I remember taking classes with legends like Gelsey Kirkland, Helgi Thomason, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Natalia Makarova.  I also took class with Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse dancers.Dance is egalitarian—classes include stars and chorus dancers alike;  everyone is welcome as long as you keep up.  After all, we all knew we were just steps away from our big break.

My break came when I was cast in the tour of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.  For years I performed and toured in musicals, dancing in New York and regional theaters, playing London’s West End, and even German television.  My last performance in a musical was in tights and high heels as a ‘Cagelle’ in La Cage Aux Folles.

By that time, I was over 30 and wondering, “where do I go from here?”  I had to make a decision:  move away from dance and see if I could work in some other part of the business, or transition into another career all together.

Dancers understand that there comes a time when the older generation has to move on, and I was lucky to have a life partner in Mark who also knew these decisions were right.  I decided to go back to school and complete my undergraduate degree.  And after that, I decided on law school—from the barre to the Bar.

Career Transition for Dancers is an important organization.  In its 27 years, it has assisted dancers who need to make the difficult and sometimes painful decision to end a career that’s like no other, and start another chapter.  The transition requires that a former dancer, still young, has to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree, or a vocational certificate, and in most cases, acquire an entirely new skill set.  I had to complete my Bachelor’s degree before continuing on to law school, and then the Bar exam.

Career Transition for Dancers provides help in navigating a dancer’s interests and skills other than dance.  They also provide grants for those returning to school; I received a grant that I included in my financial aid portfolio when I started law school.

As everyone who’s attended a ballet, or a Broadway show, or watched an episode of the new series “Smash” knows, dance is essential; it’s fundamental.  It’s a life for those who train and sweat to bring a beat and some beauty to the world.  And it’s a gift to those who watch and enjoy what it is that dancers do.  Bravo, Career Transition for Dancers.