Category: Work

Discovering a New Future

By Gail VanDervoort, dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse recipient

Gail Vandervoort
Former Bevertainer Gail Vandervoort

Over a year ago, Linda Bunch from the Los Angeles office came to speak to our group of “Bevertainers” in Las Vegas. We are professional dancers who serve cocktails and perform our choreographed routines once an hour on stages throughout the Rio Casino and employed by Creative Production. Linda explained what Career Transition For Dancers was all about, and told us if we ever wanted help in looking past our “dancer” years through counseling, that CTFD would be there to lend an ear. That was such a comfort to hear, as I knew that my days as a dancer were few, due to a hip injury and being in my 40s.

Now I’m 44, and in March I scheduled my hip surgery. While I was in recovery, I gave Linda that call she’d offered way back when. She was fantastic and really helped open my mind to the future and how I could keep dance as a part of my life offstage.

My personality test really leaned towards counseling and therapy. Maybe it’s the carrying over of the proud upbringing of my two daughters, aged 20 and 23, but I like to help people be the best they can be—even if there are challenges, such as the injury I was dealing with. Linda and I discussed options, and I spoke to a couple of my dancer friends, who found teaching Pilates to be a fulfilling way to help dancers, athletes, and individuals with injuries from accidents.

Through my research, Stott Pilates was continually referred to as the “Ivy League” of the technique, and to my surprise, the first Intensive Reformer class was to be offered in my hometown of Las Vegas. Linda was sincerely happy for me in finding such a wonderful opportunity and I thought, “Gosh, I have this amazing coach by my side cheering me on, most people have to travel to complete their courses – it must be fate!” I look at it as though preparation met opportunity, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I returned to work in April, but unfortunately, the pain in my hip continued. I knew this was my “Turning Point,” and that I had to end my job in June.

I loved having this opportunity to delve into a new future. Although it’s scary, and dance and performing are all I know, I see my daughter getting ready to graduate college and begin her Master’s Program, and it gives me inspiration to not only show myself, but to help be a role model for her and to teach her that life continues to be about education. We would do anything we could to help her work hard at learning; however, there is no room in our finances to help with my future. Moms are always the ones keeping themselves on the “back burner” and helping everyone else first.

Thanks, CTFD, for being so wonderful, and for helping a dancer’s spirit turn to a new “Pointe” in her life!

From the Barre to the Bar

By Daniel May, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship recipient

To be a dancer is an all-consuming passion.   But it’s a short-lived career.  It makes you drag your tired butt out of bed in the morning, with every muscle aching, and trek down to the studio to start the day with a barre, stretches, floor work, rehearsal, and in many instances, a performance to end the day.  Dancers are conditioned to be disciplined, but a life in dance can make your pulse race like nothing else.

Daniel MayMy career as a dancer started my first year of high school.  It was “Once Upon a Mattress,” and I was in the chorus.  I loved it.  After a “long run” of two weekends, I started tap dance lessons.  It happened that my tap teacher was a ballerina with the Fort Wayne Indiana Ballet.  She came over to me after class one day and asked if I’d considered taking ballet lessons.

The next thing I knew, I was in class nearly every day.  I decided after two years of college that I was wasting my time.  So, I packed up and left the farm in Indiana and moved to New York in September of 1977.  The subway cost a couple of quarters and there was graffiti on every visible surface, but there were dance studios everywhere and dance classes at all hours. I remember taking classes with legends like Gelsey Kirkland, Helgi Thomason, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Natalia Makarova.  I also took class with Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse dancers.Dance is egalitarian—classes include stars and chorus dancers alike;  everyone is welcome as long as you keep up.  After all, we all knew we were just steps away from our big break.

My break came when I was cast in the tour of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.  For years I performed and toured in musicals, dancing in New York and regional theaters, playing London’s West End, and even German television.  My last performance in a musical was in tights and high heels as a ‘Cagelle’ in La Cage Aux Folles.

By that time, I was over 30 and wondering, “where do I go from here?”  I had to make a decision:  move away from dance and see if I could work in some other part of the business, or transition into another career all together.

Dancers understand that there comes a time when the older generation has to move on, and I was lucky to have a life partner in Mark who also knew these decisions were right.  I decided to go back to school and complete my undergraduate degree.  And after that, I decided on law school—from the barre to the Bar.

Career Transition for Dancers is an important organization.  In its 27 years, it has assisted dancers who need to make the difficult and sometimes painful decision to end a career that’s like no other, and start another chapter.  The transition requires that a former dancer, still young, has to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree, or a vocational certificate, and in most cases, acquire an entirely new skill set.  I had to complete my Bachelor’s degree before continuing on to law school, and then the Bar exam.

Career Transition for Dancers provides help in navigating a dancer’s interests and skills other than dance.  They also provide grants for those returning to school; I received a grant that I included in my financial aid portfolio when I started law school.

As everyone who’s attended a ballet, or a Broadway show, or watched an episode of the new series “Smash” knows, dance is essential; it’s fundamental.  It’s a life for those who train and sweat to bring a beat and some beauty to the world.  And it’s a gift to those who watch and enjoy what it is that dancers do.  Bravo, Career Transition for Dancers.

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.