Next steps: dancers talk about carrer choices and life after their final bow.
I remember watching the makeup artists at the Opera House when I was a student at the San Francisco Ballet School--all the "paint jobs" they did and the tools they used--and thinking, "That would be an interesting career." I danced professionally for 10 years, but once I started working in makeup full-time, I never looked back. I really love it.
Even in makeup school, the transition felt pretty natural. I learned to paint silicones and foam latexes, sculpt clay to make creatures, create old age likenesses, work with gelatin appliances, as well as do regular "beauty" makeup. I found that doing makeup is a different kind of performing--it's making an idea come to life. And like in dance, there's leeway for artistic interpretation. Sometimes there are ways to take it all the way to the nines.
So I'd say my daily life is still challenging and as focused as it used to be. There's definitely less exercise, even though when I'm on a big show like Pirates [of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest], I'm up at 3:30 a.m. and not in bed until 8:30 p.m., six days a week for the better part of a year. But there's also less worry about physical issues and less extracurricular body maintenance. I don't miss that. When I'm out on set in the jungle with boots on up to my knees and ticks flying everywhere, painting up movie Indians, it doesn't seem very glamorous. But it's a cool job to me, and very satisfying.
I also know from being a performer myself how to surmise a situation in my makeup chair--that when an actor is focused and about to do some heavy stuff, he doesn't want to talk garbage. I actually get more respect from actors when they find out that I was a ballet dancer--I instantly gain credibility because I've done something. I'm no longer just "that geeky makeup artist."
I don't want it to be taken the wrong way that I don't really miss dance. Some dancers are offended by that. I've just found something else that I love to do, and in a way, I think it comes more naturally to me. I'm happy about what I did as a dancer, and I was ready to move on. I'm lucky that I've been able to do what I've wanted with my life, two times around.
--as told to Kim Okamura
Lynne Calamia Food stylist Ballet Hispanico;Broadway productions of Chicago, Cats, and Fosse Stopped dancing at age 34
I wanted to quit dancing two years before I did. I didn't want to move anymore. I wanted to be appreciated for more than how my body looked. I was in Cats. It's hard to do eight shows a week.
I loved entertaining and looking at food magazines. Who does the food for these pictures I wondered? Perfect, I thought. I'm going to go take a food styling course. A friend and instructor at the French Culinary Institute made me realize that you don't just take a food styling course to become a food stylist. It's kind of like going to a modern dance course and then expecting to join Paul Taylor. You have to start with the basics. I needed a classical technique, much like a dancer needs a classical ballet technique. I went to the six-month French Culinary Institute program.
After I graduated, one of the instructor chefs contacted the Food Network. They let me trial for a day, which is like an audition. Then they hired me as a freelancer. It was great, but I felt that I was unprepared. I didn't have the same knowledge as the others who had worked in restaurants. So I left Food Network to work for Jean Georges Restaurant at Trump Tower. It was probably the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. For three months I worked for free. I would shuck fava beans for four hours straight. After about a year, I went back to Food Network. I had immediate clout and experience.
Last week I worked for chef Paula Dean. Her show is filmed in Savannah. The day starts at 6 a.m. and can run up to 12 hours. It's very strenuous. Paula was doing five recipes. All of the food had to look perfect. It's a lot of prep work. We walked Paula through the recipes step by step, much like a dance captain does with a dancer.
Working behind the camera has been a little bit challenging. Not that I want to be the talent, but it is where I came from. Now suddenly I'm the one catering to them. I had to get used to that. But I don't want to be in front of the camera. It's why I left show business.--as told to Rachel Straus
Kimberly and Katherine Corp Owners of Pilates on Fifth, NYC Rockettes with Radio City Music Hall Stopped Performing at age 30
Kimberly: Our path really isn't typical. We did corporate work, then dance, then went back to the corporate world to open our Pilates studio. After getting undergraduate degrees in East Asian Studies from Duke University, we moved to Japan for four years to work and improve our language skills, then came back to New York for grad school.
Being here, we just couldn't stay away from dance. So we took a leave of absence from Columbia and started auditioning. Our first job was touring with a famous magician. We'd danced in college and in Japan but the magician's tour was our first professional dance experience and it was so unlike the work world I was used to. At Fuji Bank, if you and your boss had a difference of opinion, you could discuss it. I quickly learned not to try that with the magician. It was the same when we were Rockettes. If the director said kicks weren't together and you knew they were, you just kept quiet. We loved performing with the Rockettes but after two seasons, I was ready for a change. I needed more stability. Opening our own business is risky but not as unsettling to me as not having a year-round contract. Plus, I was ready for more of a mental challenge. I love performing, but doing the same show day after day got old.
Katherine: Pilates work is easy for dancers to transition into because it lets you continue to embrace your passion for movement. For us, it's a great mix of getting to work out (we always make time for that no matter how busy we get), using our business skills, and our Japanese because we offer certification courses in the language. We do all the teacher training because we've created our own, new Pilates certification program.
The other big focus is the studio remodeling. We got the opportunity to take over the whole floor and, even though we weren't planning to expand, we went for it. Along with all of that, we have the daily duties of running the business. I do most of the financial stuff--looking for ways to cut costs, analyzing where to advertise, keeping the records. Kim handles more of the human resources duties--hiring, training staff, scheduling. She also handles client care and manages the facility.
Kimberly: That includes maintaining the equipment, keeping supplies and amenities stocked, locker rooms neat, making sure there are clean towels ... basically everything about a place that adds to the "wow" factor. One of the hardest parts of my job is dealing with client complaints. You get them in any business that serves the public. And often you have to adopt the attitude that the customer is always right. Dancing helped with that. Handling difficult clients uses those skills I perfected when learning to work with difficult directors.
Another challenge I have is being firm with employees who don't live up to expectations. My natural tendency is to be nurturing and supportive so I find it very hard. We have dancers on staff whose schedules shift around because of auditions and stuff. I'm always happy to accommodate them--but I need advance notice. We had one employee who would call the day before to say she wouldn't be in. I completely understood her situation, but the late notice just didn't work in this business.
Katherine: I feel good about the jobs we've created for people--especially for dancers. Also, we're able to do things like give dancers special rates and allow them to do solo workouts. Through the studio, we're able to facilitate other dancers' careers and that's really rewarding.
--as told to Janet Weeks
Jason Hadley costume maker
les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo stopped performing at age 31
I toured with Trockadero for 7 years. We did 140-160 shows a year. I was tired! When I first joined the Trocks I vowed to myself that I wouldn't stay there forever. I also knew what I wanted to do after my dance career.
I sat next to my mother and learned how to sew, starting at age five. Later I learned how to make my own things through books. When I was an apprentice at Ballet West, I would pull the costumes inside out, go home, and try to reproduce them.
My last performance with the Trocks was in February 2005. Immediately afterwards I made the costumes for a ballet performed by Complexions Dance Company. Then I worked at the Public Theater. I got a job in Barbara Matera's shop, because I knew the right people. I affixed crystals on the dresses of 80 Rockettes costumes.
Holly Hines, the New York City Ballet costume director, was in the shop one day overseeing the production of her costumes for American Ballet Theatre's Kaleidoscope. I went right up to her and I said, "You know, I sent you my resume and you never got back to me." She said, "Oh, I'm really embarrassed." The next day she returned and asked me if I wanted to work with her. I said, "Absolutely!"
When we recreated the costumes for Balanchine's Western Symphony, I made ruffles on the costumes--for days. Now, with the Diamond Project, which comprises seven new ballets, I'm constantly sewing different costumes.
Because I know what dances we're making many of these costumes for, I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the work. Holly coaches other company's costume shops on how to make Balanchine costumes made by Karinska. She is the only one who keeps the Karinska legacy alive. I told her that I would like to be the next person.
As a dancer, I liked to think of myself as a perfectionist. A perfectionist loves the work, loves the ritual, the commitment. I knew that I wanted to work in costumes and that acquiring and perfecting skills was just as important as having talent. I read Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit twice. She believes that successful dancers leave their emotions at the door. They commit themselves to the work and not how the work affects them. I learned that as a dancer. At the costume shop I have been told, "it's so nice to see someone who is not emotionally involved in the costumes."
Being a Trock, not to sound arrogant, but you kind of feel like you're a star, even when you take class. The hardest part is to no longer have that. I miss expressing myself physically. I miss the work, but I don't miss the bump and grind of it all.
--as told to Rachel Straus
Suzanne Longley Landscape designer
Houston Ballet Principal stopped performing at age 31
The artistic part of garden design came easily to me. I place every plant and choreograph the garden, in a way. Every house is like a set. I also have a good sense about landscape lighting. Plants are the slowest performing art, but their beauty and poetry are there just the same. A blooming flower is nearly as ephemeral as dance. I get cards and notes from my clients all the time thanking me for bringing beauty into their life. Beauty is not optional for me.
My strong work ethic comes directly from my dancing years. Dancers can do anything because no one knows how to work harder. I enjoy the mental challenges of learning all the details about the needs of each plant. I also had to learn to speak Spanish [to manage my crew] and how to run a business. Dancing was an indoor life. I am outdoors most of the time now and I love it. Landscaping is a morning person's job, and per forming is a nighttime job.
I didn't know who I was without dance. I needed to discover "Suzanne the person." It took me a good seven years to learn to create boundaries for myself. I miss the camaraderie of being in a dance company; we were so close at Houston Ballet. My dancing life seems short in retrospect. If I could do anything differently, I would have enjoyed it even more and taken more videos and photos!
--as told to Nancy Wozny
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|Title Annotation:||Richard Redlefsen, Lynne Calamia, Jason Hadley|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
|Next Article:||From dancer to dean.|