Scholarships guide 2004.
THE CORPS CURRICULUM
Pacific Northwest Ballet Helps Dancers Go to College
BY GIGI BERARDI
Maria Chapman remembers the day at age 12 when she first understood she might have a career as a professional ballet dancer. For years after that, while dreaming of the dancer she would become, Chapman rarely thought of college. Instead she worked single mindedly to realize her goal and currently dances with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. Yet, on a typical Monday, Chapman now finds herself taking company class in the morning, rehearsing all day, and at tending a two-and-a-half-hour academic class at night taught by Seattle University faculty at PNB studios. She is not alone: About half the PNB dancers do the same.
PNB's "Second Stage" program coordinates the university-level classes and helps dancers with tuition costs. Dancers apply for grants that are typically worth about $350 but range up to $1,000. Most dancers take Seattle University classes; a handful take class elsewhere. And the program also provides grants to dancers who want to pursue interests unrelated to academics--for example, starting a business.
PNB trustee Rick Redman, a former football star wine himself made the transition From professional athlete to business executive, helped found the program. "We did the easy things first," says Redman, "like career counseling, aptitude testing, and centering programs. The permanent linkage with a school of higher education, however, was the critical component. Seattle University bent over backwards to work with our dancers' schedules. Now the greatest challenge is funding."
Chapman chairs the dancers" committee that promotes the grant programs and helps with fundraising. Among the donors are the dancers themselves. Each company member donates a single night's salary, and PNB matches the amount. Audience members and trustees also contribute, and the program is seeking funding from foundations.
Chapman notes that PNB assists in other ways too. "An assignment for one of our first Seattle University humanities classes was Oil capital punishment," she says. Co-artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell helped by clipping newspaper articles on the topic. "Suddenly, we were talking about something other than ballet, which was stimulating."
"It took awhile for people to see that it's not only the dancers thinking of retiring who are taking classes," says 27-year-old Chapman. "The program helps us realize that we're multitalented individuals. It also helps take away the fear of planning for the future."
Perhaps scare day dancers will be choosing companies, in part, on the basis of such perks--taking class not just as an entree to another job but also to develop other skills and interests, and to boost confidence, leer Chapman, who recently performed a leading role in Kent Stowell's Carmina Burana, the combination of her ballet and academic class work gives her a self-assurance in (lancing, as well as the subject matter for man) a term paper.
Gigi Berardi writes on dance for The Olympian, Dance International, and DANCE MAGAZINE.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Kansas City Ballet Corps Member Pursues Her Degree, One Class at a Time
BY JANET WEEKS
For Stephanie Greenwald, choosing between college and a professional dance career wasn't easy. But one spring day in 1998, while she was dancing with American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, she had to decide. "When I got to my building, there was a packet from Columbia University, where I'd been accepted," remembers Greenwald. "Then I went upstairs to my apartment, and John Meehan at ABT called to say I had a job offer from Kansas City Ballet." She chose Kansas City and liked it--especially when she realized she could enroll part-time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
For the last five years, Greenwald has scanned the UMKC catalogue and signed up for classes that meet oil Monday (her day off) or on Tuesday night. She fits her homework in between rehearsals and classes. Right now, she's taking a course called "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll," which will get her one step closer to her American Studies degree.
The 25-year-old Greenwald is the only KCB dancer currently in college. Company members are more likely to teach dance, bringing money in, than to pay for academic classes. But for Greenwald, going to school felt like a natural choice. "Education is very important to my family," says the dancer, whose sister went to Yale and then Duke University's law school. And as far as the extra expense goes, Greenwald feels fortunate that she's able to pay for her own degree, one class at a time.
She estimates that if she continues at the current rate, it will take ten years to earn her diploma. This fall she will leave Kansas City for a job with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin Ballet Ensemble, directed by Vladimir Malakhov (see "Dance Matters," page 24). But luckily, her university career will not be interrupted. She's signed on to take a UMKC independent study course, which can be completed while in Germany.
"You don't want to be caught when your career is over," she says. "Even taking a few classes can help you narrow down areas of interest. If you're a dancer, it's hard to imagine what else you'd like as much. But school helps you see beyond."
Janet Weeks is based in San Francisco.
Dancers Receive College Credit for Professional Experience
BY RACHEL HOWARD
Vanessa Zahorian enrolled in college for fall 2003 because she was feeling "settled" and "established" as a principal at San Francisco Ballet. Little did she know that in the season ahead, she would step in for an injured dancer and perform a string of opening night debuts that would test her like never before.
Yet 25-year-old Zahorian describes her first two semesters of classes as "meditative." "It's a good break from constantly thinking about the roles I'm performing," she said one afternoon between rehearsals of the lead in Mark Morris's new Sylvia.
If she sounds surprisingly un-frazzled, due credit goes to St. Mary's College's LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) program. It's designed for working dancers, and practically tailor-made for SFB members, though the program also has a cluster in Los Angeles. Often Zahorian dances that day's matinee, showers, and grabs a bite before class. Sure, she's exhausted after a week of performances. "But what would I do at home?" she says. "Watch TV and go to sleep."
Her spring semester class helped her find new, non-physical ways of communicating. Called "Personal and Professional Assessment," it teaches writing skills and allows dancers to earn up to three units by creating essays about their dancing experience. "It's a little like therapy," says Zahorian, who drew upon her year as a Kirov apprentice to write about Russian stage culture. "Dancers express through our bodies, but it's great to get your thoughts down, or just to raise your hand in class and speak. You don't get to do that at the ballet."
Zahorian's desire to brush up her Russian prompted her to consider college. She doesn't know what she'd like to do with her degree yet, and is hardly approaching the twilight of her performing career. Still, she says, "I didn't want to wait. Time is too short."
And the opportunity to broaden her perspective was appealing. "The focus at a ballet company is so extreme," Zahorian says. "I was ready to use my brain in a different way."
Rachel Howard is a freelance dance critic in San Francisco.
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|Date:||Aug 1, 2004|
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