Category: arts administration

Furthering My Education

David Strobbe, Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies Recipient

Tom Hiddleston once said that “Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility.”  This instinct to express ideas through dance with integrity has been a part of my journey as a dancer and now as an administrator.  My goal is to become a leader of an arts organization, encouraging artists to express their ideas, educate the public, and breakdown cultural barriers.

Michael Smuin's Fly Me To The Moon with music by Frank SinatraMy journey as a dancer started simply enough, dancing around the living room to music – the instinct to move that dancers have.  After four years of training, family pressure forced me to quit dancing to pursue undergraduate studies.  The desire to dance, however, was so intense that I returned to dance class after one year of college and became a professional dancer with the Hong Kong Ballet Company the following year.  In addition, I danced with Cleveland Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Smuin Ballet performing leading roles all over the world.

After 16 years of dancing professionally, I transitioned into the artistic administration of Smuin Ballet as Ballet Master.  When I met with Founder and Director Michael Smuin to discuss my retirement, he said, “No, you are more than just a dancer here.”  He got up form his chair, hugged me, and let me walk out of the room still a part of his family – Smuin Ballet.

That was the last time I saw him.  He died in the studio two weeks later.  Becoming the Ballet Master was the hardest event in my career, but I knew that Michael was behind me all the way.  Supporting my fellow company members while still maintaining Michael’s vision was tough, but using my natural leadership skills, we were able to succeed with extraordinary reviews in New York only four months later.  It was at this point that I knew I had found my calling; to lead artists in a way that will bring out their very best and nurture them to grow as artists.

I currently work in the Rehearsal Department at the Metropolitan Opera.  Branching out into different forms of performance art has enabled me to expand my horizons while at the same time still helping to support artists to be the best they can be on of the world’s biggest stages.

At this point in my career, my desire is to further my education and obtain a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Baruch College.  This will provide me the additional skills needed to reach my ultimate goal:  leading an international arts organization.  I wish to help build an organization with outreach that will go beyond the border of our country; preserving the integrity of the organization’s mission while not compromising the artistic ideas and forms of expression.

My journey from dancer to administrator to leader is one of excitement, hope, instinct, and determination.  I am looking forward to the next step in my career, which will be aided by the skills that I hope to learn in Baruch’s Graduate Program with the support from the Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies.

Ricardo Garcia: The Newest Addition to our Chicago Office

Ricardo Garcia, Administrator at the CTFD Chicago Office
Ricardo Garcia, Administrator at the CTFD Chicago Office

Career Transition For Dancers is proud to introduce our newest addition to the administrative staff, Ricardo J. Garcia. Ricardo will join us as the Administrator of the Chicago office.  He began his dance training at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a BA in Dance. Upon graduating, he joined the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, under the direction of founder Jeraldine Blunden and subsequently Kevin Ward. Currently, Ricardo holds a Master’s of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy from Bay Path College and is on the faculty of The Chicago High School for the Arts.

Ricardo has worked with such acclaimed choreographers as Bill T. Jones, Doug Verone, Donald McKayle, Ronald K. Brown and Dwight Rhoden, among others.  He has also performed with The Joffrey Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Rhythm in Shoes, Walt Disney World and most recently with Luna Negra Dance Theater. He has taught classes throughout the US and Russia and has choreographed for Luna Negra Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II, South Dayton Dance Theater, Stivers School for the Arts and Piel Morena Contemporary Dance.  Ricardo was the recipient of the Josie Award for Outstanding Male Dancer of the Year in 2002.

Ricardo with his five-year-old son Julian.
Ricardo with his five-year-old son Julian.

“To this position I bring over fifteen years of experience in the field of dance, acute knowledge of the nonprofit sector and a true passion for Dance.  I became a dancer-client of Career Transition For Dancers in 2010 and I feel that my appointment to this position serves as a testimony that the mission of the organization really works.  It is my honor to join the Chicago team and I look forward to expanding our reach to the Midwest and beyond.”

Ricardo will work collaboratively with our Career Counselor Maryellen Langhout to heighten the awareness of Career Transition For Dancers’ programs and services available to professional dancers, apprentices, students and pre-professionals in the greater Chicago area and throughout the mid-West, including Puerto Rico. Together, Maryellen and Ricardo will increase CTFD’s outreach through initiatives such as Career Conversations, a series of seminars dealing with the ‘hot topics’ of transition led by a panel of professionals within the Chicago dance community.

We are thrilled that Ricardo is joining the CTFD family!

Kirk Sprinkles: Full Circle

By Scott C. Pfeiffer

Kirk Sprinkles became a CTFD client and grant recipient after a successful career as a dancer on Broadway, national tours, cruise lines, regional theatre and dance companies. After owning and operating two performing arts schools in North and South Carolina, and managing a regional dinner theatre, he returned to NYC to further his career. He was asked to serve a two year term on the Program Development Committee for CTFD.Kirk_ChorusLine

In the spring of 2012 CTFD’s Executive Director, Alex Dubé was contacted by Dances Patrelle regarding an immediate interim replacement for the position of managing director.

“He was calm, intelligent, energetic, and sprang into action. Shortly after, we hired Kirk as our full-time Managing Director.” –Nancy Peters, Board of Directors President

“Kirk has brought, very much needed, new energy to the company and especially our Board of Directors. We are all thrilled with the job he is doing.” –Francis Patrelle, Artistic Director of Dances Patrelle

Kirk continues to serve as a mentor to his former students, many of which are currently working as professional dancers. In his spare time he continues to teach master classes and choreograph. He is grateful for the support and opportunities that have arisen from his CTFD affiliation. He would like to encourage all dancers, even those aspiring to dance professionally, to take advantage of CTFD’s incredible services and resources.

Furthermore, I wish to encourage other CTFD alumni and former clients, such as myself, to give back to the organization that helped and supported us all during our transitional period. Aside from volunteering and donating to CTFD, I encourage you all to consider becoming a mentor to a current CTFD client and/or aspiring dancer! It’s about giving back and “paying it forward”. That is the true gift!

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.

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!


Elizabeth LaCause
Director of Development & Communications