Month: July 2012

Script of a Dream

 Brian Hissong
Brian Hissong, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse Grant Recipient, describes his career transition process in script form.

 FADE IN INT.

A young boy: Brian Hissong, aged 8, his father, and mother are in the audience watching a production of Cats. This is Brian’s first time at the theatre, and he is completely mesmerized by the dancers onstage.

JUMP CUT to Brian, in an introductory ballet class a few months later. The boy is patiently trying to learn.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

When I saw real dancing for the first time, I was stunned. I didn’t know dancing could be that athletic and dynamic. It seemed to me that the performers onstage were athletes that could rival any NFL player.

CUT to Brian and his mother in the emergency room. Brian is still holding a football while getting a cast on his left wrist.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

Plus, dancing hurt a little less.

FLASH FORWARD to Brian at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Brian is now 14. He is rehearsing “Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story. JUMP CUT to Brian icing an ankle in the cabin later that night.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

Just a little..

FLASH FORWARD to Brian opening a letter of acceptance from The University of Michigan Musical Theatre program. He jumps up and down at the news as his parents hug him.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

With my parents’ support, I pursued performing wholeheartedly. I knew that if I was going to succeed, it would take all my efforts.

SMASH FORWARD to Brian participating in intense ballet courses, tap classes, working on partnering, and musical theatre performances. In each clip, sweat is flying; you can hear the performers breathing deeply, as they are all happily exhausted.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

I knew that if I was going to have a sustaining career, I had to be versatile. I couldn’t be a one trick pony; I had to be a jack of all trades. Studying musical theatre, I was extremely interested in the marriage of dance, acting, and singing. How does a performer reconcile that? How are they interrelated? What I came to understand was that they all boiled down to one thing: story telling.

JUMP CUT to Brian packing away the last box into a small moving truck. He fights back tears as he tries to look unaffected saying goodbye to his parents.

SMASH FORWARD to Brian, now in New York City. We see quick flashes of Brian settling into his tiny apartment, working late nights in a bar, and in giant dance calls 100 dancers deep.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

So I moved to New York. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to struggle for too long. The hard work paid off, and eventually I was able to tell stories all over the country and world.

FLASH to Brian dancing in an athletic country hoedown on the Goodspeed Opera House stage. Girls are being thrown high into the air, crazy tumbling passes are happening. This is Brian’s first long-run show and he is loving it.

SMASH to Brian performing West Side Story again, this time on stage in a large, international touring production.

JUMP FORWARD to Brian meeting the 80-year-old Princess of Thailand after the show. In his excitement, he forgets to do the traditional bow. A friendly nudge from his neighbor reminds him!

BRIAN (Voice Over)

But my most cherished role has come into my life recently, that of ‘Father’ and ‘Husband’.

CUT to Brian’s wife Jodi in her hospital bed holding their son Reid. Brian stands attentively at their side holding Reid’s tiny hand in his.

BRIAN (Voice Over)

I knew that this was the most important thing in my life now, to provide for my family. I knew that I would have to take a step back performance-wise to make sure they were taken care of.

CUT to present time as Brian sits in a chair speaking directly to the camera now.

BRIAN

Although I have chosen to forego performance opportunities that would take me away from my family, I know I still need a creative outlet. In order to be the best father and husband I can be, I have to be happy and fulfilled creatively. Hence, the birth of Hissong Productions!

FLASH to Brian shooting head shots, portraits, corporate gigs, weddings, music videos, sporting events, etc.

BRIAN

And hopefully, with the same dedication I have always pursued my dreams.

FLASH to 3 years in the future. Brian is directing his first feature-length independent film.

BRIAN

This script will become reality.

FADE TO WHITE.

Ready to Help Others Fly

By Lily Rogers, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship recipient

Until recently I identified myself only as a professional ballet dancer. Although I loved being a dancer, part of me wondered if there were other ways I could contribute to the world. As the scope of my interests and passions started seeping beyond the spotlights, and as my hip injury became more serious, I finally understood that I was far more multidimensional than I had believed. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right hip in 2008, and for many years I tried to avoid surgery by using palliative treatments and injections, but eventually I underwent surgery in 2010. After a number of failed attempts to return to work, I knew it was time to stop dancing. This decision was both painful and liberating.

Lily RogersInjury is nothing new for dancers, and the relationship a dancer has with their injury is different for each individual, but my injury has everything to do with the future it showed me. This is the story of how I transformed my arthritis into another professional interest; a story that describes how I designed a path to achieve newly defined goals.

I remember the exact moment I realized I wanted to pursue medicine. I was sitting in a cavernous ballroom in the Marriott Hotel in downtown San Francisco in early 2011, listening to some of the world’s best doctors discuss labral repairs. Throughout the afternoon, I was enthralled. I wanted to tell everyone about what I had just heard, I had a million questions, and, above all, I felt hungry for more information. In that moment, I realized there just might be a place in medicine for someone like me, for someone with my background and my perspective.

In the months that followed, I began actively seeking out medical opportunities and clinical experience. I boosted my math skills, spearheaded a human anatomy independent study program at St. Mary’s College LEAP program, and began volunteering at a free clinic. Additionally, to show colleges I was serious about this transition, I finally took the SAT. I have already invested a great deal of money, time, and passion into this change, and I know making it this far is an achievement I never dreamed possible until recently. Starting at Columbia’s School of General Studies in the fall means that I will have the opportunity to start taking the courses that will lead me towards medical school.

Although my arthritis is too severe to ever perform again, I will always identify with dance. Additionally, because I believe so deeply in the art form, I wish to one day be a resource for dancers managing injuries of their own. I hope to pursue orthopedics as well as volunteer my time with in-house clinics for dance companies. As medicine advances, specifically within orthopedics, treatments will continue to become less-invasive. Given this trajectory, and given that regenerative treatments–like cartilage replacement–are almost here, I think there will be a real way for dancers to maintain longer, healthier careers. My goals are lofty, but so is trying to become a professional ballerina. With strength and determination I have already achieved one dream, I am ready to achieve another It was a joy bringing art to life for over 19 years, but I’m ready to help others fly.

Q and A with Vinson German

A conversation with Vinson German, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship recipient

By Dana Lutt

Career Transition For Dancers: What is your performance background?

Vinson German: I began my training as a scholarship student at the Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey schools prior to receiving my Equity card for a dinner theater production of West Side Story. I immediately was hooked on musical theater and continued on that path, performing regionally in productions such as A Chorus Line, Dream Girls, Ragtime and the national tour of Carousel, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Somewhere in the interim, I completed a two-year acting program at the National Shakespeare Conservatory and sang opera at Lincoln Center.

CTFD: What was your transition process like? What are you up to now?

VG: I always felt like I wanted more control over what I did as a dancer and I did not see myself making an entire career based on hoping someone would hire me to work on their project. Also, when my performance engagement was done, it was always back to square one; competing for a job that usually offered an all too brief contract that paid the same or less than the job I had just finished. I didn’t walk away from it because I stopped loving it. I just did not want my career to be made up of a series of lateral moves. That is when I turned to Career Transition For Dancers for guidance and spoke with Lauren Gordon about what I thought I would do next. She introduced me to a vast network of current and former dancers who wanted something similar to what I wanted: career empowerment.

Thanks to the valuable administrative skills that I had picked up at the Actors Fund Work Program, I took a job working in development for a non-profit, thinking that I was done with the arts. However, what wasn’t working for me was my attempt to silence my artistic voice and put it somewhere in the back of my mind, where it only called for more attention! I realized that I am, always was and always will be an artist. However, if I was going to remain one, I needed to feel more empowered and have as much control as possible. I had been talking about creating a theatre company for many years. This year I started building the foundation for Bridges Burned Theatre and I am about to apply for fiscal sponsorship (which I learned about by coming to a Career Transitions seminar!).

CTFD: What did you learn from the transition process and what information can you pass on to other dancers facing transition?

VG: At times, the lack of physical movement that suddenly was missing from my day was driving me crazy! However, the skill of how to put on a show easily transitioned with me to my current job and, on some level, I am learning what I need to know to move forward with my theatre company. Insofar as working in development, the discipline of showing up every day, taking direction and working independently are skills that we can take with us, wherever we go!