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.
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.
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.
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.
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!