to you by
New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women
and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Book Review, 3-2: The Next Stage
Tales of Transition from Nancy Upper, Edward Villella, Violette Verdy....
By Catey Ott
Copyright 2005 Catey Ott
MILWAUKEE -- The life
of a dancer involves extreme dedication, perfectionism, and imagination.
The joy of dance and the exhilaration felt from performing onstage
is difficult to turn away from. When the time for a dancer's career
transition becomes apparent, the shift involved requires delicate
handling. Nancy Upper felt drawn to interview 16 dancers at a variety
of stages in their journeys after dancing professionally. Several
of her subjects were still in the process of establishing new identities,
others were well on their way to new endeavors, and a select few
were pleasantly looking back on their path and choices. Upper has
smoothly wrapped these interviews up into chapters for her book,
"Ballet Dancers in Career Transition," published last year by McFarland.
Upper's intention, she
writes in an introduction, is to provide encouragement, advice,
and a form of moral support to dancers who are facing a transition
in their dance lives. Her accounts of these performers' transformations
are truly inspiring, even as they realistically address the difficulties
they faced while coming through them.
Upper interviewed Edward
Villella, Violette Verdy, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride,
Ben Stevenson, Nancy Raffa, Michael Byars, Jeff Plourde, Erin Stiefel
Inch, Max Fuqua, Amanda Ose, Linda Hamilton, Joysanne Sidimus, Jim
Sohm, Christopher Nelson and Robin Hoffman (who is also the webmistress
and art director for this publication).
The interviews revealed
the pains of the body and heart as each subject faced the end of
his or her dance career. Some of the endings were abrupt, prompted
by devastating injuries, while others were more gradual departures
due to over-use injuries, shifts in energy, and changing desires.
The physical and emotional healing process was no easy endeavor,
regardless of the closure. The extreme passion exuded through dancing
and performing was not easily washed away. The honesty, integrity,
and vulnerability shared by this group is admirable. They generously
offer up their stories with the intention of helping other dancers
to move forward through their lives.
Edward Villella, the
former New York City Ballet star, literally wore out his hip after
"years of jumping and landing on hard surfaces," Upper relates.
A star one day, he turned into "an invalid the next. He became a
physical cripple and a mental wreck." After fighting depression
for ten years and undergoing hip replacement surgery, Villella went
on to be appointed artistic director of Miami City Ballet, where
he developed an appreciation for humanity and individuality and
created a company atmosphere of togetherness and exploration. After
driving himself mercilessly to be a great dancer, he drove himself
mercilessly to be a great artistic director, Upper concludes.
In researching the book,
Upper came to realize that the very same qualities that brought
these dancers success in the world of ballet helped them reach fulfillment
in their new careers. Some turned towards a directly related field,
becoming teachers, choreographers, and/or company directors. Others
chose dance-related fields such as psychology for dancers, dance
notation, and counseling other dancers in career transition. A few
from the group veered away from their dancing past and redefined
themselves in fields such as law, accounting, and parenting.
Linda Hamilton, an advice
columnist for Dance Magazine, saw her performing career with New
York City Ballet interrupted by injuries to her ankles. She became
drawn to psychology while receiving therapy to help her overcome
a divorce and injury issues. After asking herself what she liked
to do besides dance, she realized that she seemed to gravitate towards
helping people in distress, and because of her injuries was "always
trying to figure out the mind-body connection." She found clinical
psychology, specializing in performing artist issues, to be her
answer. She earned a Ph.D. from Adelphi University, and currently
practices privately in New York City, also teaching at Fordham University.
Jeff Plourde clearly
relayed his internal ballet talents from his career with Fort Worth
Ballet, Ballet Dallas, and Ballet West, in building his new career
in accounting. "When dancers go through school," he tells Upper,
"initially they're just trying to learn steps, trying to learn the
language of dance, the positions and the movements. As they get
more advanced, they get better at it and try to take the language
and express more and more. It is the same with accounting. When
you're in school, you're learning all the rules and basics of accounting.
But through practice, you can take the basics and the foundation,
then see where you can utilize different interpretations to make
a financial position change. So accounting just seemed very similar
to what I was trying to achieve as a dancer,"
Robin Hoffman formerly
danced for the Joffrey Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, and Louisville
Ballet. Her career has since involved a series of shifts: first
dancing, then dance notation, then training in high-technology and
multi-media, then designing for and maintaining Internet media companies,
and, currently, pursuing an undergraduate degree at the School of
Visual Arts. Hoffman's greatest assets for making her transition,
Upper suggests, have been "knowing what she wants to do and having
a keen vision of how to get where she wants to go."
Also included in the
book are five appendixes filled with guidance. One section includes
a map of innovation and transition which graphs out the emotional
ups and downs of a major transition. Another compiles helpful transition
tips from the featured dancers. The final section provides a variety
of career transition resources such as books, organizations, Web
sites, and businesses.
"Ballet Dancers in Career
Transition" is a gift to look to for a dancer facing the next stage.
The biographical stories included encourage reflection, compassion,
and inner strength through the struggles involved in rebuilding
an identity after soaring through a performance career. Nancy Upper
brings a realistic and positive light to the inevitable process
Catey Ott is a graduate student in dance at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She danced professionally in New York for nine
years. Highlights of her career were dancing and directing rehearsals
for Heidi Latsky, touring with Allyson Green, and working for Soundance
Repertory Company. Her choreography, along with the work of Eun
Jung Gonzalez, was produced at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church
in 2003. Ott reviews dance for Milwaukee's weekly community publication,
The Shepherd Express.
Go back to Flash Reviews