Category: employment

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!

A Hip-Hop Perspective: The Music Video

Anthony Rue II, CTFD dancer-client

Wouldn’t it be cool if Choreographers had their names listed in music videos?

I believe music videos played a huge role in bringing hip-hop to dance studios. It was hard to find a good hip-hop dance class during the 90’s and smaller studios did not offer the style at all. The music video era of dance changed everything. It sparked the minds of dancers and gave them another goal to reach beyond performance. Fans fell in love with the dancers performing beside their favorite artists.

Aaliyah's Rock The Boat
Aaliyah’s Rock The Boat, Choreography by Fatima Robinson

The same effect consumed the next generation of dancers.  The impact dance has on a music video will never go unnoticed. People love to watch dance. Dance helped some of the biggest music videos raise to a superstar status. Can you imagine Michael Jackson’s Thriller without dance? Choreography from that music video is still performed over two decades later but we do not see Choreographer Michael Peter’s name mentioned.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Choreography by Michael Peter

Perhaps in the future we will see choreographers’ names credited on music videos.  This change would help dancers research what styles they love and consider choreography as a career choice after performance. This listing would also promote the choreographer to the consumers and people could follow their work like film directors. Everyone would love to see their name attached to the work they choreographed.

When I started working with Laurie Ann Gibson I was shocked. This woman choreographed so many videos I was in love with! I was very lucky to have her as a mentor early in my career.  I learned so much from her about performing, music videos and the work that other choreographers created. I believe this was very important for me.  I think it’s really important to know who is responsible for the work you enjoyed, and Enjoy.

Choreographer Darrin Henson
*NSYNC’s Choreographer Darrin Henson

by Anthony Rue II

The challenge of getting paid a decent amount

By Anthony Rue II, CTFD dancer-client

Dancing to me was about having fun.  Before I called any jobs, I started dancing with a couple of friends and we formed a group called AmountBoyz. Back then dance was not at the heights it is now.  We danced on the streets for money, joined talent shows, and performed at local block parties in the summer.  Once I started to work in the professional world of dance, I noticed a couple things that I wanted to change.  Dancers were not getting paid on time.

The challenge of getting paid a decent amount was also presented to me a number of times.  This is when I started to think outside the box.  Before agents and managers
were a big part of the NYC dance scene, you had to handle your own rates for jobs.

The companies or managers that hired dancers did not care about our rates.  You had to be a pest to get paid, so having an agent or manager helped a lot once they were set up in NYC.  Being a performer, we look at the business side of things.  With a different eye, different ideas filled my head.  I knew what dancers and performers wanted, needed, and loved to do, so I started to work on my own projects.

For example when I’m looking for a venue I’m not only thinking how many people can fit inside, I’m also thinking about the sound system at max volume.  Does the stage have a sprung wood floor?  It’s left to the performer to make the best of it.  When doing business I look to please the artist and the audience.  It excites me that I’ve been able to learn so much through my experiences of dancing with different artists on tours and that I can help the next generation coming in the door.  I can show them how to make choices for both business and artistic  development.  Dancers need to give both equal amounts of energy to have success.