Month: September 2012

A Blessing in Disguise

By Bree Branker, dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse recipient

I was one of those little girls that marketing teams love. I was the quintessential girly girl, completely immersed in the land of pink ballet tights, tutus, and buns by two years old. It didn’t stop there; next came the patent leather tap shoes, and the biketards. All I told everyone was that I was going to dance on Broadway. On a family trip to New York when I was 6 years old, I did a jig in the middle of the street just to make sure that either way, I had danced on Broadway. Then came the work, the hours, the sweat, and the determination.  I didn’t mind missing out on high school social activities to dance because that’s where I felt more comfortable anyway. I left home early, moving on campus at University of North Carolina School of the Arts to major in contemporary dance for my high school years.

Bree backstage during Spamalot
Bree backstage during Spamalot

I was very fortunate right out of the gate. I booked my first national tour a month before graduating from  UNCSA, and from then on bounced from gig to gig, until the economic downturn of 2008. But that was a blessing in its own right. The lack of performance jobs forced me to look inward and fulfill myself, and I found a love for arts management and administration. I’ve always been a hyper-organized, stage manager type dancer. This combination is great for dance captains, but a little odd for your average summer stock performer. I had limited my views of management to charting and assisting choreographers, but once I opened the door I realized how much enjoyment I got from most departments on the “other side of the table.”

Jobs picked up again, I put my notebooks and rulers down and went back on the road, and am currently performing on my 5th national tour, Memphis the musical. It’s a dream show, completely artistically fulfilling in my own track just as much as it is to watch my cast mates. Imagine how great it felt, to work so hard in stylized dance my whole life to finally nail the gig. I’ve spent years as a Rockette and a showgirl, but finally I was doing what I came to do.

Bree in Memphis
Bree in the musical Memphis during the song “Crazy Little Huey”.

The second week of rehearsal I tore my labrum in my hip. I have very dysplastic hips, so they’ve never been the strongest, but they’ve also never done Memphis the musical. Through cortisone injections, ice packs, heating pads, and physical therapy, I limped through 7 months of the show. I had surgery on my hip in May of this year, and my surgeon has communicated to me that this wasn’t a fluke. Real precautions and life changes must be made to avoid a total hip replacement by 30, which is in a few years.

Again, a blessing in disguise? A little voice has been nagging at me to get more involved in arts administration, and now is finally the time. While internships are a-plenty, I don’t have a 4 year degree, and am in desperate need of facts and formulas. While you can fake your way through a tap show, you can’t fake your way through budget reports. The Caroline H. Newhouse grant will enable me to support my transition in a way that is sustainable, in a work field where my dance resume means little. I’d like to have the knowledge to run any theatre anywhere, to be your general manager, company manager, executive director, artistic director, producer; you got it, I want it.