by Evelyn Rice Wells, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse award recipient
During the time when I was training in dance, shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew had not yet hit the screens. Dancers were not considered mainstream performing artists, unless they starred in a movie. The choreographers were just another name in the credits, and the fusion of Lyrical and Hip Hop was the anomaly. Throughout high school and in college, I danced because it was what I was good at and what I knew best. I choreographed because of how I felt naturally, when I heard the music. I wrote it all down because I wanted some day to share this knowledge in some form, through books, videos and pictures. All the while, I kept training, performing, choreographing, teaching, and documenting, but who knew it would be shaping me to be the woman I am today. I was building my portfolio, one project at a time, getting the exposure, experience, and knowledge I needed for my future endeavors. I was just a young lady who just liked moving to music. Now, I am a more mature woman who is finally learning the moves necessary to create a masterpiece.
I applied for and received the Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship in order to move forward professionally by pursuing a Masters in Science degree for Entertainment Business. My overall career goal is to become a Creative/Artistic Director and Producer for a major production house. I strongly believe that this degree will further enhance my knowledge and experience in the industry of media and entertainment.
The field of entertainment is a competitive one, but I am up for the challenge. I know the work ethic it takes and the professionalism that is demanded, as I am living it every day. Having a Masters degree in Entertainment Business will put me in a better position to accredit the hard-working and duly trained dancers, which sometimes get overlooked because of the fame and trends of today’s mainstream television. I am in the process of finding my niche within the world of dance and film, and I am eager to be one of the many that can re-establish the proper standards for performing artists.
I’ve always loved dance in film, and I’ve always wanted to be part of the creation of classics, such as The Wiz, West Side Story, Singing in the Rain, and Mary Poppins, to name a few. The process has always fascinated me, and I especially enjoyed learning about the behind-the-scenes work. Earlier in my dance career, I started with the Chicago Honey Bears and the UIC Dancing Flames, and I would also teach at a local studio, YMCA, or school nearby. Along the way, I was fortunate to have met the right people, and I was a quick-learner, but more importantly I was focused. From there, I went on to venture both on-scene and behind-the-scenes of some of great performers, including Jennifer Holiday, Janet Jackson, and Oprah. I was getting opportunities that I could only dream about, performing at venues nationwide, getting invitations to private celebrity auditions, casting in a music video, featuring in magazines, and even going on tour.
On top of that, I never took for granted the responsibility we have as professionals in the field. Learning how to quickly adapt to different situations helped strengthen my skill set, which could only be taught through experience. Always smile. Presentation is everything. Make eye contact. Be ready and able to step up and fill-in. It was a fast- growing industry, even before social networking, and I had to be a performer, choreographer, instructor, and music editor for the total package. If only someone could have told me and showed me the right pathway when I was younger, then I could have arrived here sooner. Even so, I have no regrets. I’ve had many successes, and I’ve had many failures. The mistakes are what made me stronger. I’ve learned that it’s not about the failure, but it’s what you do after that ultimate moment. It’s about the recovery, and even when I educate at both pre-professional and professional levels, I am reminding them of this: It’s not about the mistake you make on that stage, but instead it is about what you commit to doing right after that moment. Recover and continue to tell your story. With that, I strongly believe it is my duty to keep growing and learning in different platforms, and practicing what I preach, which is what Full Sail University is providing for me. One of my goals, alongside being a Creative Director/Producer is to have a well-established company that can educate and train artists, in etiquette and industry standards (both in front of the camera and behind the camera), and then have this company feed into the major production house projects.
In 2002, I remember when I interned for WGN-TV, during the initial interview, Charlie Schumacher, news director, asked me what I could bring to the table that was different [while I attended UIC, I was developing my writing skills in media and entertainment, and seemingly I was also shaping my communication skills and business plans]. I looked at him, and at the same moment I was figuring out what script to use for my answer. I knew that one day somehow, dance, media, editing, and entertainment could be fused together and would create something amazing. He believed in my response, and wanted to see what I could do. Honestly, although I’ve accomplished quite a bit, I know that I still have so much more to attain, and I am determined to do so. I am looking forward to graduating with an MS degree at the end of the term next year.
I feel blessed to have had all my experiences that I have had to this day. I am appreciative and grateful for the many people I know and have worked with, as well as shared and learned from them. My goal is to share the knowledge and help both professionals and aspiring professionals learn and get hands-on experience, and opportunity to strengthen and use their crafts. From music-editing, working behind-the-scenes, choreographing, and entertaining on-stage, I consider myself a true performing artist. In this industry, people really have to wear several hats and be experienced in multimedia as well.
We are bombarded everyday with an overabundance of reality shows, contests and media frenzies, and many doors of opportunities are actually being opened for our performing artists. I want to smooth out the pathway and act as a vessel, showing the young aspiring artists how to go through these doors with the proper tools, professionally.