This is an ongoing page – developing over time – as the RDT dancers and staff share details and information about their careers with the company. Take a look below at 5 questions each dancer and staff were asked. Their answers may surprise you as well as help guide you in your own decisions.
Click on each name in the tabs below to read and explore the answers to each question. CHECK BACK FOR REGULAR UPDATES!
Describe what you do…
At RDT, each dancer has many roles. Of course, it is obvious that we are performers, but being a professional modern dancer has more facets than just gracing the stage. Each of us must teach, to all age levels, all of the time! For example, we do many residencies in other states. When we come into that town, our sponsors usually wish for us to extend our reach as far as possible into their community. This means we come in and do master classes in high schools, local dance studios, and even senior citizen homes. Each of us is also required to switch off teaching company class throughout the year.
Besides teaching, each member of the company has at least one “company job.” I have two jobs this year: Celebrations/Events and Thank You notes. Celebrations/Events mean that I am in charge of recognizing every staff member on their birthday. I also take on the responsibility of other special occasions, like recognizing a company member when they are in their last season with us. The Thank You notes has everything to do with connecting with our donors and patrons. It is my job to make sure that a handwritten note is sent to anyone who donates or supports RDT in any way. This doesn’t mean I have to write every note, so sometimes I delegate.
A normal day starts with us taking technique class... or teaching class for our coworkers! This is called company class, and it allows us to safely warm our bodies up before rehearsals begin. After class is over we have a 15-minute break to rest or get a snack, and then we spend the rest of the day in rehearsals. Sometimes we will focus on just one or two pieces, and other times we’ll run two entirely different shows! We often switch up the repertory that we perform on tour and at home, and we have a separate educational show that we often perform in schools. At any given time we might be focusing on one, or all three, of these shows!
When we’re on tour our workday can look very different than it does at home. Sometimes we teach in elementary, middle, high schools, or universities. Other times, we’re working in private studios or with aging people. We might be doing shows in schools teaching about world dance, or hosting lecture demonstrations all about the history of our art form. And sometimes we’re spending all day driving from one state to another! The variety in our schedule from day to day is one thing that I love about my job.
"RDT develops awareness, understanding, and appreciation of dance past and present by creating performances, classes, workshops and community building activities that contribute to the health and vitality of individuals of all ages." This statement is an expanded mission statement for RDT and I feel it is a great encapsulation of what I do as a company member.
Most work days begin with company class to help prepare me for a full day of dancing. After class, there is a 15-minute break to eat a snack, move my car to another 2-hour parking spot, and prepare myself for rehearsal. What happens next will depend on what needs to be prepared, and there’s a lunch break thrown in there as well. Most of the time there are multiple things to get ready for, so the work day is usually split up. Examples of this include: preparing for shows and touring, going out to schools to teach creative movement classes and lecture demonstrations, and teaching workshops.
Everyone on the company has their own ‘company jobs’ and we do our part to make sure the studio stays clean too. My company job specifically is to help grow and curate the RDT social media image. I also share the job with company member, Lauren Curley, of helping advertise home season shows to Utah dance studios and colleges.
I am the Education Director at Repertory Dance Theatre and I am also an Artistic Associate.
I will start with the first of my jobs, which is Education Director. In this job, I oversee all the arts in education (AIE) activities and programs that Repertory Dance Theatre offers. I work with the RDT artistic staff, the Utah State Board of Education, district arts coordinators, school principals and assistant principals, teachers and sometimes parent volunteers to schedule and coordinate all our programs. These AIE programs include the following: lecture demonstrations/assemblies, creative movement classes, master classes, choreography, matinee performances, professional development workshops for teachers, workshops for students and our in-depth Heritage Project.
As well as planning and scheduling these activities, I also write lesson plans and study guide materials to accompany our activities. Teaching is also a major part of my job. I teach creative movement classes to grades K-6 in the Utah public schools.
As you can tell, my Education Director job is split between office work and teaching. I am in the office part-time and part-time in the schools. In addition to these responsibilities, I also coordinate RDT’s annual summer workshop, which for the past year and a half has been in conjunction with Ririe Woodbury and the U of U, Dance West. I also take part in coordinating the annual Healthy Minds/Healthy Bodies Elementary and Secondary Conferences with the USBE’s Physical Education Department.
The second part of my job is Artistic Associate. In this position, I am part of a three person team that makes the artistic decisions for the company. This includes, the choreography will be featured in the concerts, guest artist selection, rehearsal direction, re-staging of work on the company, and auditioning of prospective dancers.
I am the Marketing Director for Repertory Dance Theatre. I am responsible for sharing the story of our dance company. First and foremost, I am responsible for increasing awareness of our Company as well as selling tickets to our performances & events. I run our website, our social media, and design our printed advertisements and collateral. I work with press outlets to spread information about all the work our company does in the community - from our paid performances to work in the schools. A typical day for me includes some form of updating social media, sending press releases, dealing with season ticket holders, coordinating with media members, designing advertisements and playbills, and updating the website. I’m rarely bored! 😉
I am a dance artist with Repertory Dance Theatre. Our mission includes the creation, performance, preservation, and perpetuation of American modern dance. This phrase encapsulates our daily routine. We begin with company class to prepare us for the day of dancing ahead. Guest teachers or company members lead class, allowing us to deepen our artistry, work on technique, and strengthen our bodies. Typically we then go into rehearsal mode, where we will work in a variety of different modes depending upon the piece.
Historical works require a restaging process, which includes extensive research from a guest who has intimate knowledge of the piece and its origins. They will often have videos for reference and will guide and direct us in the rebuilding of the piece. For pieces recently performed by the current company, some members may be appointed to facilitate the process. We also work in creation mode during times and must keep various improvisation and choreographic tools sharp. In addition to the more traditional dance duties, we also have small administrative duties that are still integral to the function of the company.
As the Production Manager, my job is to handle all the parts of a performance—that isn’t dancing. That includes preparing all the documents and information for the show, setting up the stage, sound, lighting, video and or special effects plus executing all of those things during the show. I also coordinate with the dancers and choreographers, making schedules and keeping everything happening on time.
An average day for me is long and includes at least one meeting with everyone (dancers, crew, artistic staff), followed by the work outlined above. Then we have rehearsal with all the dancers and crew and all the lighting and sound and costume changes—almost like a pretend show without the audience before the audience gets there to see it. After that rehearsal, I will clean-up the stage area and reset it for the actual performance. Then we invite the audience in to enjoy our performance and after it’s over I clean everything up and either reset for the next day, or pack it all up to take to the next stage.
I am an active musician who began playing the piano and composing music at around the age of five. I have enjoyed decades of making music as soloist, as well as (and to me, more satisfyingly, actually) in collaborative endeavors with other musicians and creative artists. For example, I served as Principal Keyboardist with the Utah Symphony for over 26 years. (There’s nothing like making music with 80 other people!) Through the years I’ve also had the opportunity of playing chamber music (music for smaller groups: duo’s, trio’s, quartets, etc.) with many, many wonderful fellow musicians and friends.
In the early 1980’s, I had the extraordinary opportunity of meeting Linda C. Smith, RDT’s Artistic and Executive Director. I’ve enjoyed working with Linda as a colleague, friend and artistic collaborator through all these years.
Originally hired by RDT as Music Director, I now explore touring opportunities for the Company as Booking Director.
What attributes are essential in being successful in your career?
HARD WORK. I think talent can only take you so far…because what we do is sometimes a grind! You have to really invest yourself for such long hours in the studio, so having a relaxed approach just won’t see you through to success in a career like ours. I can see those who possess this ability even in an audition setting. Are they practicing on the sides? Do they mark more than they do it full-out? Do they go above and beyond what was asked? All of these small moments add up in the long run.
TEAMWORK. If you think that your career will be chock full of moments in the spotlight, you are dead wrong! Sometimes you will have your shining moments. And sometimes it is your responsibility to support your coworkers’ shining moments. Your attitude during both phases will determine your success. Without each other, we cannot succeed. A unified group will make you better people, and you will have a better experience and produce better art.
ABLE TO HAVE FUN! What we do is meant to bring joy! If you stop feeling passion towards dance at any point, it probably means that you look like it onstage as well. A little lightheartedness goes a LONG way. Friendly competition, cracking jokes, over-the-top dancing, and teasing are a part of our daily routine in the studio. We are a family after all, and so much seriousness can create a tense environment when we could just be smiling instead:)
There are a few attributes that are necessary to have a career in the arts, whether you’re a dancer or not, but passion is the ultimate one in my opinion. As a dancer you work long, physically demanding days. You get tired, injured, or overwhelmed easily if you don’t take care of yourself and your body. You may not make as much money as someone working in other demanding careers makes, and you may need to work more than one job in order to cover all of your bills. But if you love what you do, you find a way to make everything work. I feel really fortunate to have found a company that does work that I believe in, and I connect so strongly with the amount of outreach we do.
There are physical realities to being a dancer too... things that probably come to mind pretty easily! You have to be healthy and fit, and you have to have strong modern and ballet technique. You need to cross-train, or work out, outside of the studio that that you body stays balanced. You need to eat well, and drink a lot of water. My favorite ways to cross train are through barre classes, yoga classes, and hiking. Each one helps me stay strong and balanced, both physically and mentally.
There are many things that are essential to being a successful dancer. One of the most essential things is to know who you are. What I mean by that is to know the story you want to tell, the thing that you just will not do, and stand by it. Your ability to know where you stand is going to dictate what you say yes to, and more importantly what you should say no to. Opportunities that will really further your journey to the goals that you have set, no matter what they may be.
PASSION FOR THE ARTS AND OTHER THINGS: I feel that this career is too difficult to sustain without a passion for dance. I also feel that having other passions in life will enrich what I can bring into the dance space. Realistically, there will be times where dance is not fulfilling me completely and it is a wonderful thing to have other things in my life that spark joy!
HARD WORK, SELF-MOTIVATION, AND RESILIENCY: RDT is a repertory company which means we have a massive library or works that we draw from to curate shows. There are so many dances that need to be learned and retained that a hard work ethic is what gives me the ability to stay caught up. I had to figure out quickly how I learned the best to help me retain all the information that was being thrown at me. What I found most successful was writing down notes and reviewing on my own time outside of work hours so that I could go into the studio feeling prepared. There are times where things get difficult whether inside or outside the studio, and I have had to work on my resiliency to these things to help me figure out what I can let go of (usually perfection) and what I need to hold on to. Camaraderie is also important to have among my coworkers.
CROSS-TRAINING: This career is physically challenging on the body. I have to cross-train through weight-lifting, hot yoga, and cardio to make sure my body is in its best shape to keep up with the high demands of this job. Rest is also just as important to prioritize to make sure my body is healing just as much as it is growing.
FINDING JOY IN TEACHING: A huge part of our contract with RDT is educational outreach. How we incorporate arts in education is by going out to schools and teaching creative movement classes and doing lecture demonstrations. We also do a lot of teaching at our own workshops and universities as well.
The attributes that help me be successful are organizational skills, communication skills, the ability to think outside the box, flexibility in all areas, creative thinking, writing skills and confidence in my ability to be successful.
Creativity and ingenuity. We work on an extremely limited budget, so it is important to continually come up with new and creative ideas to reach a larger audience. Also, because our company is so small, it is imperative for me to help in other aspects of the company including administration.
Tenacity, foresight, and positivity. Tenacity, which includes hard work, determination and an unwillingness to give up. Foresight to see the bigger picture around you and envision yourself in the greater tapestry of dance, even if it is your own individualistic path. Positivity will help ensure you have enough mental fortitude and strength to weather this career. It is not easy to succeed as a dancer, and for traditional company work it also takes a fair bit of timing and luck.
To be a successful Production Manager you have to be VERY organized. There are a lot of moving parts and people to keep track of. It is also essential to be patient, calm and kind. With all the elements required for a performance unexpected problems are always around the corner, but the show must go on so you’ll have to solve those problems. It also helps to be punctual and detail-oriented.
I believe a good musician must have, a “good ear,” that is, an “ear” that finds itself attracted to music, and that can hear and understand music along with its infinite nuance. Whether one is a cellist, pianist or singer, one’s “ear” is the great teacher when it comes to perfecting the art of music making. A more abstract and equally important attribute would be “curiosity.” One’s love of exploring (both the technical aspects, as well as the artistic impulse itself) will carry the day during those long and endless hours of practicing. And practice we must! There isn’t a professional musician in whatever field (classical, rhythm and blues, country, etc.) who hasn’t spent countless hours perfecting his or her craft, and continues to make time for practicing. My daily schedule includes at least two hours of work at the piano every morning, more if I am preparing specific programs. Even after many years, there is always something new to discover and realize every day about music and about playing the piano. Fortunately, the scope and range of that discovery and intrigue is endless!
What education is essential for your career?
RDT prides ourselves on selecting dancers who have been through the rigorous experience of obtaining their Bachelor’s degree in dance. When I was younger, I was concerned about taking this route because of “wasting time” and “missing other opportunities.” The truth is, college is where I found my artistic voice. Had I not chosen that route, things would not be the same for me. I recognize that this may not be everyone’s path, but its something I highly recommend and do no regret in the slightest.
I personally feel that have a strong base of technique, mainly ballet-based, is going to be one of the strongest traits you can offer as a candidate for most dance jobs. In a room full of people, it’s hard to see everyone. But what I definitely WILL see is your sickled foot from across the room! In a bad way. Technique is one of the most important foundations for a repertory company specifically. We tackle so many different and challenging types of work ranging through hundreds of years of dance history. When you have technique, you have the yeast to make the bread, no matter how different the result may look. So, you will be able to shine in any work…even those you may not be as familiar with.
Most dance companies look for dancers with a well-rounded education. This means students who not only have good dance education, but ones who are good students and excited to learn. All of us at RDT have college degrees in dance, and some of us have minors in other subjects as well. I got my degree with an emphasis in dance performance, which means in college I focused on performing ballet and modern pieces. I attended a private dance studio in Massachusetts before attending the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, a conservatory style program where we took dance classes every day from 8:00-4:00 pm and performed pieces very similar to the kinds I perform with RDT now. Here in Utah, students are SO lucky to have dance educators in their public schools. That was never an option for me growing up, and it opens up so many doors for kids here that I think are really important.
I think a college degree is a must. Not just for what you learn technically, but also socially. In many ways your department functions as a safe preparation for what dance company life is. Not always, but it is the case for some. You find out what your strengths are, what you have to offer a dance company, and many times it helps you search in what might be the proper place for you upon graduation.
All of the company members on RDT has their Bachelor’s Degree in Dance. I feel that most dance companies and freelance artists are looking for dancers with a well-rounded education in their training. I firmly believe that going to college provides years for people to learn more about whatever they are studying and also themselves. Specifically pursing a degree in dance provides training in technique, choreography, improvisation, pedagogy, administration and better prepares dancers for a career in dance.
I have my BFA and MFA in Dance. During both of these degrees, I was part of the arts administrative process. My scholarship work for both degrees was in arts administration. I learned so much through this process! I also spent 18 months in New York City, dancing and working in arts administration.
I have a BA in Arts Administration from Westminster College. My degree gave me a wide variety of skills ranging from business to marketing to art itself. I actually started at RDT as an intern as part of my degree program and that experience working for a nonprofit arts company not only led to my current position, but gave me the experience and knowledge I needed to know where I wanted to go. The more experience you can get working with actual companies in the field you’re interested in, the better!
Specifically for Repertory Dance Theatre, it is imperative to have at least a four year degree. Linda Smith, our Executive and Artistic Director, believes it is a key factor in selecting the next company member. This education provides a specific background for the company to build upon. We are required to not just perform, but educate and advocate. A four year degree helps to show a certain level of commitment and drive to dance in all aspects, not just getting on stage. Pedagogy, dance theory, dance history, choreography, improvisation, and more are all critical components of the knowledge we need to possess as a member of Repertory Dance Theatre.
There’s a lot to know and a lot you need to know to be a Production Manager. You have to know about a wide variety of sound, lighting and video equipment, as well as customs and practices of a performance, and you need a lot of knowledge about safety. I strongly recommend a 4-year college program in technical theatre.
I’ve been so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with amazing, extraordinary teachers along the way. A true teacher is one who offers so very much more than just the names of the notes or fingerings for specific scales or the basics of vocal production. A true teacher inspires a love of music that is based on that teacher’s own love. A true teacher offers countless invisible lessons in the art of being a human, helping to instill in the student a true sense of humanity.
I grew up in farthest northern Idaho, and studied from age 16 through my second year of college with a rare and remarkable teacher in Spokane, Washington, Margret Saunders-Ott. Students came from as far away as Montana to study with her. You had to audition to be accepted into her studio, and I auditioned at age 15. “Mrs. Ott” suggested I study for a year with a friend of hers, another teacher in town who “prepped” me for becoming an “Ott” student. One thing Margie May always shared with her students was the importance of obtaining a liberal arts education at a college or university. If one wished, further advanced studies could then be pursued at specialized music schools and conservatories.
And because she was such special teacher, Mrs. Ott offered to all of us the opportunity to share in the delight and truly ultimate fulfillment of working with our own students as teachers.
What would you have done differently to better prepare you for your current career?
Honestly, doing things differently wouldn’t have led me where I am now. I honor my past…even the mistakes. If I could make a few tweaks, I would’ve tried to discover and train in more classical modern-based techniques like Graham, Limon, and Horton. When I was in college, I was arrogant. All I wanted to do was the “fun” stuff: tricks, jumps, turns, etc. I was too impatient to slow down and respect the nuances of these modern dance pioneers who innovated long before the dance I was used to (contemporary) came about.
I also wish that I would’ve sought out opportunities like workshops and master classes that were out of my comfort zone. Instead, I usually took intensives where the teachers and I preferred the same aesthetics. Thus, my strengths strengthened and my weaknesses weakened. It would’ve been smarter if I focused on what I couldn’t do well instead…so I encourage everyone to find a better balance of that in order to foster versatility.
I don’t think that I would have changed a thing about how I prepared for my career here at RDT. I strongly feel that my teachers growing up, and my professors in college all gave me a sound technical background filled with curiosity and passion for movement. I’m so fortunate to have parents who believed in my career path, and who trusted me when I told them that dance was what I wanted to pursue.
Everyone’s path doesn’t work out like mine… and I’m really lucky to have had the support network that I did growing up. Those being said, whether or not everyone around you believes that being a dancer is a viable career path, know that pursuing your passions is always a worthwhile endeavor. Be responsible with your time and your money, and always give yourself the opportunity to learn from those around you. Use your teachers’ knowledge and experience to help yourself further your training and networking. Allow yourself to take a chance, maybe like moving cross-country like I did, if it allows you to follow your dreams.
There are many things I wish I could have done to help me better prepare for this career. However, I try to incorporate those things into my current practice and try not to linger too much on the ‘could have, would have, should have.’ What I try to add more into my life is more cross-training and stretching, adding more ballet technique training, and more focus on my mental health. Taking priority in care for my mental health just as much as my physical health is extremely important for any sustainable career. Therapy is a wonderful resource for mental health care and should be utilized more if the means allow for that option.
I was lucky enough to start working for RDT shortly after doing my internship with the company. I didn’t know I would be moving into the Marketing Director position at the time, so I wish I would have had more experience in marketing specifically, but it has been a wonderful learning experience from the beginning!
I am thankful for my experiences. They shaped and formed my path, and while I do believe there is always more to give, I would not change much. I would possibly look into more strengthening, injury prevention, and body awareness programs. I like to have as much knowledge as possible, and I wish I immersed myself more quickly in those foundational blocks I learned from my professors.
I never intended to be a Production Manager—I studied Lighting Design in college, so my biggest regret in my training and education are all the other departments that I skipped! I wish I had learned more about Sound and Video and Carpentry and Stage Management, and Rigging, and Fly Systems...but instead I focused very heavily on Lighting—which left me with a lot of catching up to do when I became a Production Manager.
Nothing. Like one’s life, one’s “career” unfolds out of itself, and our life-path is determined by an infinite number of decisions we make along the way. Sometimes these decisions are extremely well thought out, while others are completely spontaneous. Is there such a thing as a “bad” decision? No, I don’t think so. As long as we remain aware, awake and cognizant of our present moment, I believe we are enabled to make the appropriate decision as to “what comes next.” We arrive at where we find ourselves only by taking all the small footsteps to now. After all these years, I find myself comfortable with the decisions I’ve made in life (not all of them perhaps “good”), and where they’ve brought me.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
My career in dance has been rewarding in so many ways, it’s overwhelming. First, I am so grateful for the many different people and experiences that have been sent my way through the vehicle of dance. I have been blessed to learn and participate in cultures and diversity in ways I never even knew existed. My exposure to people and places that are very unlike me have broadened my perspective on life to a much healthier and communal one.
I am also so grateful that I am able to put all of my life’s work to use. I spent so much of my childhood preparing for this moment, and to finally experience the culmination and aftermath of all that is incredibly meaningful. I was just a basic young girl living in a small country town who moved to the city and made something of herself. Some days, It feels like I’m living my own version of a Disney Channel movie!
I am also so grateful for the outlet of dance in my life. I think at one time or another, all of us feels damaged, lost, overjoyed, jealous, etc. To consider these feelings on a daily basis in a way that is so healing to me personally is a true gift. It sounds so cheesy, but it is healthy for me to release some of my struggles and commemorate some of my wins through the art form. I am left with a better life in which I am able to cope and be the best version of me I can be.
At the end of the day, while I love being onstage and sharing my passion with everyone, the most rewarding thing for me comes from teaching. I love seeing kids master new steps, seeing them push themselves, seeing the hard work and sweat pay off. I love inspiring children to explore their creativity and to let go of judgment. I love seeing kids who never thought that they could dance discover ways to move their body without being “right” or “wrong”. Especially now in this time of social distancing, expressing yourself through movement is so important for your mental and physical health. Every single body on this Earth was built to move, and there’s o wrong way to do it. Remember that always.
I am still learning in all ways. Teaching, dancing classical works, company productivity, name it. RDT is an institution that allows for continuous growth and that is something that most are not granted the opportunity to say about the job that is also the thing you feel you have been put on this earth to do.
One of the main reasons why I chose to pursue a career in dance is because I love the feeling of performing. The moments where I step on stage, feel the lights on my body, and the applause from the audience members brings so much joy in my life. I also love the journey to getting to the stage as well. I love being in the studio and going through the hours of trial and error of a process for those moments on stage. I also love going on tours. These are the times where I get to bond more with my coworkers, travel to all sorts of new places, teach and perform to new audiences, and a great escape from the regular schedule that I’m used to. The variety that RDT offers in their contract is what keeps the career exciting and provides the challenges that I am hungry for!
There are many things that are rewarding about my jobs. The first being, I love to offer students of all ages the opportunity to move! I love giving them creative freedom and the ability to use their minds and bodies together to learn. I love seeing the discoveries they make and what amazing movements come from these discoveries. I also like instilling confidence into their bodies and their ideas. Teaching them about respecting others ideas and the ability to communicate positively. Showing them that they can use their bodies to learn as well as their minds. I enjoy seeing the classroom teachers amazed by what their students show them! I hope to leave them with positive experiences so they will feel empowered to use movement in their classrooms without me!
Seeing the way that art and dance can actually affect people. Whether it is students we see in schools or people that come out of the theatre with tears in their eyes after seeing a particularly meaningful work to them.
Connecting to the community through performance, education, and outreach. I believe dance is about connection and being a part of Repertory Dance Theatre has challenged and fulfilled me in a multitude of ways.
As I’ve grown older, the sheer joy of sharing music with others (musicians, actors, dancers, an amateur choir) has become one of the most meaningful activities in my life. A good example is when I am playing a recital of music with a fellow musician, a cellist. Because he and I have spent so many hours practicing our craft on our own, we are able to communicate together during a performance on an entirely different level than basic conversation. This level of communication exists between the two of us. That is where the true “magic” of music happens, in that invisible space in-between. He and I become elevated into that “higher” realm of dialogue, and--if we are doing our job well--the audience is elevated also. All of us are lifted up together.
Jean de Sainte-Columbe was a wonderful musician, composer and teacher who lived in the late 1600’s. (His instrument was the viola da gamba, a forerunner of today’s cello.) He helped his students to understand that--as he put it--“Music exists to say things words cannot say.”