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Kentuckians in Dance

What kinds of jobs and careers are available in dance, and what does it take to be a dance professional? Read below to get the who, what, when, where, how, and why straight from these Kentucky dance professionals.

Harlina Churn-Diallo: African Dancer/Artistic Director

Louisville, Kentucky
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WHO
Harlina Churn-Diallo, founding artistic director of Imani Dance and Drum Company, started dancing as a young girl living in the Park Hill housing project in Louisville. She has degrees in Pan-African studies and cultural anthropology from the University of Louisville and has studied and performed in Africa, Japan, and Paris as well as throughout the United States. In addition to African dance, she has studied, performed, and taught tap, ballet, clog, Native American, salsa, jazz, and belly dancing. She has choreographed for Stage One children’s theater in Louisville and for the Experimental Black Actors Guild of Chicago. She teaches African dance at U of L, has taught dance at the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS) in Louisville, and has served as arts and education director for youth outreach programs at Louisville’s Chestnut Street YMCA. With her husband, Yaya Diallo, a world-renowned expert in African drumming, Harlina performs traditional African dances around the world with Faraa Donia, which means “African Knowledge” in the Mandinka language. Imani means “face” in Swahili.

In the Dance Arts Toolkit, Harlina is featured in the “West African Dance” and “African Dance Performances” segments on the African Root video/DVD and in the “Iye, Iye” segment on the Dance Performances video/DVD. She also contributed to the “Dance and Culture” section of the Dance Arts Toolkit binder.

WHAT
“My job is to design the vision, mission, and goals for the [dance] company—what the company is to be known for. I also do costuming, and I look at the lighting and props that are used, the music that is used. I do basically all the work, because I don’t have people who work for me.”

WHEN
“I usually work five days a week, plus at festivals in the summer.”

HOW
“Having a dance company is a business as well. One challenge is the difficulty with funding. There are fees to rehearse and perform in various venues. You have to make sure you have a nice environment to produce dance in. Another challenge is getting the community to buy into and take ownership in a locally owned business. One of the biggest challenges, because I do traditional African dance, is that I don’t use recorded music, so I have to find people who are committed to learning to play African drums. Training to play an African drum is time-consuming, like with any instrument. There are women who drum, but it’s hard to find men who are committed to learning an instrument, because of the whole stigma that’s placed on dance and music for men.”

WHY
“After getting my college degrees, I came back to Louisville. One day I heard some drumming in Shawnee Park. There were people teaching drumming and dance at that time, but they hadn’t had a chance to share with the community the marriage between music and movement. I started to dance, and a really big celebration happened in the park. A connection happened. People were just dancing what they felt. There was an African-American theater company in Louisville, and I choreographed The Wiz. Imani was formed in 1987. I help develop self-confidence and self-worth in African-American children and adults and give others greater appreciation and respect for African culture and the polyrhythmic sounds of Africa. When I hear people say, ‘I didn’t know that …,’ then we’ve created a bridge of dialogue.”

GETTING THERE
“Get a passport and travel the world, so you can bring to your dance company a world base, not this little-bitty myopic view about culture. Music has been a tool of communication for thousands of years. You don’t have to be the best dancer in the world. You have to be able to give to your students this knowledge that you have that makes them want to get more knowledge, to understand that their bodies are works in progress. You add sound and props to help give light to your dancers. We’re like the light bulb as artistic director. How you get there is on the dancers themselves.”

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Jeff Holland Cook: Conductor

Buffalo Grove, IL
WHO
Jeff Holland Cook is the Louisville Orchestra conductor for the Louisville Ballet. Before coming to Louisville, he was with the Mansfield (OH) Symphony Orchestra for 19 years and was music director of the Wheeling (WV) Symphony for 12 years. He has been associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and has conducted for the San Francisco Ballet. Maestro Cook has also conducted for world-famous pops artists, including Sarah Vaughan, Carlos Montoya, and the Canadian Brass, and has been music director for musicals such as My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! He also has arranged music for orchestras and developed special programming for young people’s concerts. Jeff plays the trombone.

WHAT
“As conductor, I am the connection between the orchestra and the dancers. I am not a dancer myself, and one of the things I’ve had to learn over the years is what dancers are thinking on stage. As a musician, I’ve always connected with singers and other musicians. You can anticipate what their problems are and what they need. Conducting dance was a new learning experience. Phrasing in dance is different from phrasing in music. It’s a physical phrasing based on the choreography and the ability of the dancer. The musician’s whole focus is on the music. I have to reproduce what the dancer has been used to from rehearsal. I have to provide the dancers with what they need and provide a musical accompaniment. My job is to put the music together quickly for the dancers.”

WHEN/WHERE
“Most of my work musically, for my preparation, is before I get to Louisville. I get a tape to learn the music and a video to learn what the dancing is. In Louisville, I spend four to five days watching rehearsal, learning the ballet and the concerns of the dancers and the ballet master. Then the orchestra comes in and meets with the dancers. That’s the most difficult time for me, because we’ve read through the ballet once, and the dancers expect it’s going to be as it’s going to be in performance. We go through trial by fire. We rehearse the music as if it were a regular concert performance. Then when the dancers come in, we have to be flexible enough to adjust to the dancers.”

HOW
“It takes different skills from what I would do as a regular conductor, in that the performance is already put together by the choreographer. Analysis and musical expression are not parts of the package until I’m trying to make it a musical performance. First comes the accompaniment for the dancers. It isn’t something that is really taught somewhere. I’ve learned this in the course of working with dancers for the last 20 to 30 years. There is not a common language between dancers and musicians. Understanding what the dancer is doing—the ‘language’—took a long time. The biggest challenge is not having enough time. I do my best to anticipate all the problems and issues that might come up in the course of the performance, based on my experience. Another conductor once said [that] getting ready for a rehearsal is not running into any surprises.”

WHY
“I love the music of the ballet. Both Alun [Jones, former Louisville Ballet artistic director] and Bruce [Simpson, current Louisville Ballet artistic director] have programmed works that most symphony conductors don’t get to do. My goal is to keep working. I’ve seen, over my career, fewer and fewer live performances. Every arts organization is struggling to keep an audience. If I were a young conductor coming up, that would be my main concern.”

GETTING THERE
“You have to be a trained musician. You have to learn the instruments, hear the scores, understand what it is to make a musical performance, and you take those skills into the area of ballet, and you start learning another art form all over again.”

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Mary Riesenfeld Crawford: Dance Company Pianist

Louisville, KY
WHO
Mary Riesenfeld Crawford grew up in New Jersey, but has lived in Louisville since 1974. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at New York University and has a master’s degree in education. Mary also studied piano performance with Lee Luvisi at the University of Louisville. She has been company pianist for the Louisville Ballet for more than 20 years and also plays piano in a big band.

WHAT
“Every day, the ballet has a class for dancers to do the fine-tuning and practice for what they’re performing. The format of the class is the same every day—an hour and a half. The teacher gives the dance step combinations, from slow to quicker and less complex to more complex. The combination is demonstrated or spoken, and it happens very quickly. My job is to play music that fits the combination that’s been given. Different teachers have different preferences in music: It can be something jazzy or something classical. Some things I create on the spot that might imitate another style that I know. There is music that’s been put together that’s considered ballet music and CDs, but the Louisville Ballet prefers to use a live pianist, because I can keep going and give them what they want on the spot.”

WHEN/WHERE
“I work in a large studio for an hour and a half a day. As the company goes into production, the time of the class is moved to later in the day. It helps to have a flexible schedule.”

HOW
“I have to choose music and rhythms that support what the dancers are dancing and are also satisfying to listen to. I want my music to help them jump when they jump, to help them lift when they lift, and so on. They’ll ask for a tango, a polka, and a march…. I have a couple of notebooks where I collect music that fits the kinds of things the dancers do in class. I also listen to CDs of other ballet music.”

WHY
“I really enjoy the freedom to choose what I want to play. I like the hour and a half of focus. It’s almost like a meditation sometimes, where I think of nothing but what I’m doing. I have a sort of semi-audience. I know the dancers are listening, but I am not the performer here. I get to perform without being the center of attention, which suits me very well.”

GETTING THERE
“You need a hodgepodge of training. You need to know classical piano for technique and endurance, you need to learn ballet music, and you need to be able to improvise. I learned while doing. Helen Starr [former Louisville Ballet principal dancer and now assistant artistic director] and another company pianist, Jackie Metzler, taught me. It’s not going to make you rich in a financial sense, and that’s important to know. It could be a job to supplement something else. If it’s something you want to learn, it really helps to learn from somebody already doing it.”

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Antoinette Crawford-Willis: Artist/Educator

Louisville, Kentucky
crawford-willis
WHO
Antoinette Crawford-Willis holds a Master of Arts degree in dance education from the Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater and dance from the University of Memphis. She has extensive experience as a dance educator, having worked with schools throughout the state through the Kentucky Arts Council and with special-needs children through Very Special Arts Kentucky. Antoinette is executive director of Dance!Kentucky, an organization formed in 2004 to promote dance education and performance across the state. Before coming to Kentucky, she was a part-time adjunct faculty member at the University of Memphis and Shelby State Community College in Memphis as well as the Wolf Trap program coordinator and lead teaching artist with the Memphis Arts Council, Center for Arts Education. Antoinette is also developing her own one-woman show.

WHAT
“I am a dance educator. I promote dance education in the schools. I advocate arts education and dance careers past high school. I’m also the executive director of Dance!Kentucky, a new statewide dance education association. We act as a referral service if a student wants to pursue a career in dance. Our goal is to promote and support dance education in Kentucky. I also do professional development workshops [with teachers].”

WHERE
“I work in schools. I visit the sites—school and community residencies, also churches—anywhere in the state of Kentucky.”

WHEN
“My typical hours are from 9:00 to 3:00—school hours. I also do after-school programs, summer art academies, and summer art programs in Louisville and around the state.”

HOW
“I work with students, teachers, parents. My biggest challenge is trying to find the comfort zone for the students. I want to work with middle school to focus on self-esteem. I like to work with young kids so [that] by the time they’re older, they feel comfortable dancing. You want kids to feel safe doing movement and developing their character. I want them to attempt to find their true selves through character exploration based on their life experiences. It’s a good way to study a middle school student’s behavior and understand their choices.”

WHY
“I enjoy meeting the people and the teachers. When I first approach them, they know what they want in a classroom, and they don’t feel like they can do it. When I leave them, they’re dancing, even if it’s just from a chair…. I feel like I leave something with the teacher when I leave the classroom. My goal for Kentucky is to help educators understand that there is a place in academia for dance education and dance educators. One of the objectives of Dance!Kentucky is that the state Department of Education has to understand you don’t just hand out dance education certification.”

GETTING THERE
“Go to college. Get an undergraduate degree in theater and dance. If you have a professional performance career … when you can’t go up on your toes anymore, get a graduate degree and teach. You can major in dance, and a lot of parents don’t know that. For example, there are theater and dance departments at Northern Kentucky University and Murray State.”

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Dan Fedie: Ballet Costume Master

Louisville, KY
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WHO
Dan Fedie has been costume master for the Louisville Ballet for 15 years. He also has served as costume designer and costume shop manager for Stage One children’s theater in Louisville and the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and has worked in the costume shops of Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and the Kentucky Opera. A native of Wisconsin, Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master’s degree in costume design from the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana.

WHAT
“I work closely with the costume designer to bring the concept of the costume designs to life on stage. I’m involved in building the costumes, scheduling the people needed to help construct the costumes, and working to stay within budget guidelines.”

WHEN
“When the ballet is in rehearsal, I work during the day—about 8:30 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays. During performances, those tend to be really long days—8:30 in the morning to 11:00 at night. In theater they call them ‘10-out-of-12-hour days.’”

WHERE
“We have a costume shop in the Louisville Ballet studio building. We have a nice large space with tables for cutting fabric, a fitting and dyeing room, storage for various articles, and so on.”

HOW
“I work with the costume designer, and we have two people on staff full-time. Then we hire in on an as-needed basis. I supervise and guide the building of the costumes, work out how to coordinate and put it together in terms of the time we need. The costumer (who works for the costume master) actually supervises pattern making, stitching, and so on. Depending on the choreography, the costumes have to be light in weight. The dancers have to be able to do a lot of lifting and turning. We work a lot with the dancers. When they’re in costume fittings, we have them do lots of movements—deep pliés, arabesques. Ballet costumes also have to have a grand look to them, which can be created by the type of fabric, color, texture, and ornamentation. The biggest challenge is to be able to execute the costume design according to the design that’s on paper, meeting the goals of the budget and the design itself.”

WHY
“There’s a lot that I really enjoy. The creativity of it all, the versatility—you’re not stuck in one thing all year. Every time you do a show, it’s something different.”

GETTING THERE
“I have an undergraduate degree in speech and theater and a master’s in costume design. My assistant has a background in art, and one of my full-time stitchers has a background in the fashion industry. You need a very creative mind and an aptitude for constructing fine garments.”

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Kacey Frazier: Tap Dancer/Artist-in-Residence

Louisville, KY
frazier
WHO
Kacey Frazier grew up in Shelby County, Kentucky and has been dancing since she was 4 years old. She especially enjoys tap dancing. She spent many years studying classical ballet and modern dance and holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Eastern Kentucky University. Since 2001, Kacey has been an artist-in-residence, teaching creative dance, jazz dance, and dance history in Kentucky public schools. She also teaches tap dance to adults. In the Dance Arts Toolkit, Kacey teaches the “Exploring Time” model lesson on the Teaching Creative Dance video/DVD. She also contributed lesson plans and other ideas for several sections of the binder.

WHAT
“I teach a lot of different kinds of dance, and I also teach about the new dance forms that resulted when African and European dance met.”

WHE/WHERE
“I teach during the day in public schools. I’ll do a residency for two days, five days, or ten days. I also teach an after-school dance class for kids at one school.”

HOW
“I grew up doing the kind of tap dancing you see in Broadway shows—rhythm tap. It’s more related to jazz, not cute and prepackaged. It’s very much based on improvisation, and that’s where tap started. Guys would just jam together. The biggest challenge in working in schools is classroom management skills.”

WHY
“I am enthralled by rhythm…. I love hearing different sounds and figuring out how that will come out in my feet. I also love jazz music. I use hip-hop and get kids dancing. I love letting kids in on where tap came from. It’s a combination of Irish step dancing and African dance, and it happened here in America because people were living next to each other who had never lived next to each other before. Tap is a purely American dance form because we’re such a melting pot.”

GETTING THERE
“Take classes from as many different teachers as possible, and study as many different styles as you’re interested in. Whatever dance form you’re studying, find out where it came from. Is it different from the way it was 100 years ago? How is it different? When I started looking at where tap dance came from, it became a whole lot more fascinating to me.”

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Rafaela Cento Muñoz: Principal Dancer

Lexington, KY

Rafaela is shown dancing the role of Christine in <em>Phantom of the Opera</em>.

Rafaela is shown dancing the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera.


WHO
Rafaela Cento Muñoz is a native of Cuba and a recent American citizen. She has been the principal female dancer of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre since its founding in 1998. She was trained at the Camaguey Ballet Academy and the Professional Ballet Academy of Cuba, where she received the Gold Medal and the Grand Prix for best female performance in the National Ballet Festival of Cuba. She has toured with the Camaguey Ballet Company in Brazil, Uruguay, Jamaica, Venezuela, Mexico, Martinique, and the Guadeloupe Islands. Rafaela is also director of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre Academy.

WHAT
“My job is to represent the company. I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, because I have to do the principal roles. I have to be in good shape all the time. In ballet, you keep learning every day, and you have to practice and practice to achieve perfection. I also help my husband [Kentucky Ballet Artistic Director Norbe Risco Avila] with rehearsals and choreography.”

WHEN/WHERE
“I practice five days a week—Tuesday through Saturday—from 10:00 in the morning to 4:30. We dance at the theater four times during the season, plus Ballet Under the Stars in Woodland Park. Plus I do a lot of guesting, including in Owensboro and Chicago as the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

HOW
“I work with my husband as artistic director, and with the other dancers. I also work with students as director of Kentucky Ballet Theatre Academy. I think everything is a challenge. In our company, we do a lot of classical ballets. Classical ballets are very hard—for example, the pas de deux [featured dances for male and female principals] in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, and Sleeping Beauty. You have to be so clean in your technique, so soft and pure. This has been done for so long. As a dancer, it’s my responsibility to keep that alive for the next generation. It’s not that you did it; it’s how you did it—how you’re maintaining that beautiful thing that was created so many years ago. My challenge is to keep my body in shape and my mind focused. I’m a perfectionist, and when I see my videos I want to do better all the time.”

WHY
“What I like best is the performance, because I feel like I’m in heaven. It’s the perfect moment. You feel like all the hard work paid off. My goal as a dancer is to keep educating this community. I don’t think they are getting as much art as they should. People should see the importance of arts to their kids. I want to be here and show the next generation what I have learned and all the things that I have done for them to be better than me. That’s what I tell my students all the time. I cannot dance forever, and I love to work with kids.”

GETTING THERE
“Everybody is open to take ballet classes in the U.S. You don’t get rich dancing, but if someone really likes it, that’s the most important thing. They need to have it in their hearts. Every day they come here and do the same thing, and you need to like what you do so much that you can work hard every day.”

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Jennifer Rose: Folk Dancer

Berea, KY

Photo Credit: Steve Shaffer

Photo Credit: Steve Shaffer


WHO
Jennifer Rose grew up singing and dancing with her family and friends in Berea, KY and was performing as soon as she could talk. Throughout elementary and high school, she organized folk dance groups, and by the time she was a junior in high school she was teaching dance at elementary and middle schools. While earning a degree in voice at Berea College, Jennifer sang in the Berea College Concert Choir and Chamber Singers and performed with the Berea College Country Dancers both as a dancer and musician, often singing between dance numbers—and sometimes playing in the band, too. Her performances with the Country Dancers took her to Japan, Denmark, and Italy, as well as throughout the United States. Since graduating from Berea in 1992, Jennifer has performed around the United States and Europe. She is a full-time performer with a busy schedule of concert tours, teacher development seminars, appearances in musical productions, and educational residencies in schools. In the Dance Arts Toolkit, Rose teaches several traditional dances on the Dances from Many Cultures video/DVD and contributed information and instructions to the Dance and Culture binder section.

WHAT
“I am primarily a concert musician [playing guitar and dulcimer], but because I have danced all my life and taught dance for 17 years, I have enjoyed a part of my career in leading dance, especially for beginners, and especially for students in school. I specialize in folk dance that is traditional to the Appalachian people and their ancestors, community-oriented circle dances, singing games, and other social set dances. I also do artist residencies in schools and workshops on how to use dance in school and how to teach dance to children.”

WHERE/WHEN
“I’m in schools most of the spring semester, from one to five days at a time. During the fall, I sing at different festivals, and in winter I’m on tour in Florida singing.”

HOW
“I work with students, teachers, audiences, all ages. The biggest challenge for anybody in a non-traditional business, anybody who’s freelancing, is making sure that the work is there, that you’ve planned far enough ahead in managing finances so that if you take some free time, there’s still money there. I think that’s one thing that students don’t have a concept of—that you’ve got to be on top of it all the time.”

WHY
“There are two things that keep me excited. Every place I go is different, and that keeps me inspired. It’s also inspiring to be the person who inspires others. When I’m doing a concert, everybody out there is smiling. When a teacher says, ‘Your book really helped me,’ it’s satisfying. I like to know that I’m helping people every time I go out the door.”

GETTING THERE
“The more you dance and the more styles you dance, the better teacher you are because you know where your students are coming from, and you can better identify with them. For me, it wasn’t necessary to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance and be very good at one style. Instead, it was a lifelong learning process for me—and teaching is a lifelong process, too. I’ve watched really good teachers. You need to be a really good observer of people who do what you want to do. And it never hurts to read a lot about the art forms and their history.”

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Bruce Simpson: Artistic Director

Louisville, KY

Photo Credit: Dan Dry

Photo Credit: Dan Dry


WHO
Bruce Simpson, artistic director of the Louisville Ballet, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, where he studied at the Scottish Ballet School and danced with the London Festival Ballet and Royal Ballet. He was principal dancer and ballet master for South Africa’s State Theatre Ballet, where he was a member of the company for 30 years, and has worked with dance companies and schools in southern Africa, Israel, Russia, and Hong Kong. Before coming to Louisville in 2002, Bruce was artistic director of Texas Ballet Theatre (formerly Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet).

WHAT
“As artistic director, I am directly responsible for everything having to do with the aesthetic of the ballet company: choosing the ballets, choreographers, designers, dancers—everything down to what photos go into the program.”

WHEN/WHERE
“There are no set work hours; it’s as the job demands. My average day is 10 hours, and it can be as long as 14 if we’re in performance. I work in an office, the studio, the theater.”

HOW
“I work with the ballet’s board of directors and in partnership with the executive director, who’s in charge of the financial side of the business. I also work with dancers, choreographers, designers, and production staff. And I’m involved in all special events—galas, fund-raisers, etc. I’m the company’s public voice. I give press interviews. I’m the artistic voice of the company. The biggest challenge is financial. We are so privileged in this community that so many people donate to keep the ballet alive. But it makes us highly responsible in that we have to produce a high-class product. You have to be a people person—that’s an essential quality. You have to be a pragmatist and have the skills to bring various creative ideas from different people into a long-term view which has to be short-term specific. I know where I want the company to be in four or five years’ time, so I have to do the kinds of ballets now that will get us to that point. You have to have very, very high standards, from how a dancer ties ribbons on point shoes to how they behave in the theater to maintain high standards for performances.”

WHY
“The big attraction of the job is its multi-faceted interests. It is never boring. I can go from a board meeting, where we discuss finance, to the studio to coach a dancer and teach class, into wardrobe to decide on costumes, and then in to corporate sponsors for a meeting, and back into studio for rehearsal or to do a radio interview.”

GETTING THERE
“I was a dancer for 30 years and a ballet master, coaching and training, for 17 years. Under the jurisdiction of my previous directors, I had exposure to how a director functions, and then I was offered a position in Fort Worth when I was guesting with [that] company and they saw the quality of the work. One of the most important things was working in the theater for 35 years with so many talented people—performing artists, designers, and so on.”

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Helen Starr: Associate Artistic Director/Principal Dancer (Retired)

Louisville, KY

Photo Credit: Dan Cry

Photo Credit: Dan Cry


WHO
Helen Starr is associate artistic director of the Louisville Ballet, where she was principal dancer for 20 years, and continues to perform with the company in character roles. She was born in Kent, England and trained at the Royal Academy of Dancing and the Royal Ballet School. Helen toured the world with the Royal Ballet as a soloist and assistant ballet mistress. Over the course of her career, she has danced and taught in 36 countries on five continents. Her partners have included many world-renowned dancers, including Mikhail Baryshnikov.

WHAT
“I assist the artistic director in decision making and do all scheduling pertaining to the dancers and ballet staff, including visiting choreographers. I teach the company class twice a week and the senior school class twice a week. I attend rehearsals and coach dancers in roles and perform occasionally.”

When “I work long hours during the season. These are flexible, but absolutely full-time.”

WHERE
“I work in an office, the studio, the rehearsal hall, and the theater.”

HOW
“I work with the dancers and interact with the production staff to ensure we are all on one page with each production. After the annual audition process, I am in charge of contacting and signing up our 12 trainees for the following season. My special skills would include the years of professional experience working with a wealth of choreographers and famous dancers who passed on their knowledge, as I am trying to do. The greatest challenge is juggling the many egos of a ballet company to maintain a harmonious and productive work atmosphere.”

WHY
“I love to see the progression of the individual dancers through the daily training in class, the rehearsal process, and the coaching sessions. My goals are to help as many dancers as possible reach what I believe is their potential.”

GETTING THERE
“I had years of training, followed by years of traveling the world with two major ballet companies. Experiencing several injuries and the usual run of foot problems, due to the point shoes, has given me an extensive knowledge of first aid and rapid cures. Living in group environments has developed my tolerance level considerably, and plain common sense is invaluable.”

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Rebecca Stephenson: Public School Dance Teacher

Lexington, KY
rstephenson
Who Rebecca Stephenson grew up in Lexington. She has a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Eastern Kentucky University, a bachelor’s degree in dance from the Ohio State University, and a master’s degree in dance from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She teaches dance to 4th- through 8th-grade students at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) in Lexington and at a private dance studio as well as at Centre College in Danville, KY.

WHAT
“Giving students a foundation in dance technique is an important part of what I do. We spend a lot of time in training and also with developing choreography. The kids do their own choreography. We do a lot of improvisation. We also have a good academic component. The kids write dance reviews, for example, and I teach that as well.”

WHERE/WHEN
“I work school hours, plus after school and more.”

HOW
“I work with other teachers; we do a lot of integrated planning. I also teach general dance to students who are not dance majors at SCAPA. For example, they might learn about Native American culture to tie in with social studies curriculum. I’ve worked with a writing teacher on poetry dances, where kids wrote and then choreographed poems—so kids have a sense of what they’re learning and interpreting it in movement. The biggest challenge is budget cuts: We have to wonder if we’re going to have a job …”

WHY
“I like developing a relationship with the kids over the years. We can really work well together and have a lot of fun and create these great dances. It creates a sense of accomplishment for them; it’s something they really contribute to. There’s a lot of energy in class. I like being able to channel that into an artistic thing and then see the results.”

GETTING THERE
“It’s really important to get a college degree—even a master’s degree. And to be dancing all the time, but also pursuing that in an academic setting.”

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