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By Nancy Wozny
Day-job certification and training that can help your dance career
Frances Lai Baca, foreground, teaching Gyrotonic at Kinesphere in Manhattan, Photo: Kyle Froman
More and more dancers are rehearsing, performing, and choreographing while holding down jobs in the somatic and fitness field. There’s an obvious compatibility between dance and training in Pilates, Gyrotonic, yoga, Feldenkrais, and massage therapy. Pursuing a certification in one of these disciplines takes time, money, and an ongoing commitment, yet can lead to the kind of flexible income stream that allows dancers to manage a freelance schedule. Most of these career choices require continued training to maintain certification and keep skills current. Dance Magazine spoke with four dance artists who juggle their artistic lives with their livelihood as certified body workers.
Frances Lai Baca
Gyrotonic, Pilates, Choreographer, Dancer
Dance is what Frances Lai Baca does to express herself creatively; Gyrotonic and Pilates are what she does to make money so she can do that. “It helps to have both Pilates and Gyrotonic to offer. That way the client can select which works better for their needs,” says Baca, who performs with Refractions Dance Collective in New York City. She went through Pilates certification first, then Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis. There are prerequisites, several hours a day, sometimes for weeks at a time. For Baca, the process for all of the certifications took a total of three years. “While in training,” she says, “I had to limit the rehearsals and projects that I opened myself up to. Because the course work is so vigorous (especially Gyrokinesis), I often did not have the energy to teach my clients, participate in the course, and go to class.”
When she has a show coming up, she knows she has to put in more time in her non-dance job to be able to pay for the time away. She has settled into a workable schedule of teaching during the week and rehearsing during the weekends and off-hours midweek. She teaches at Steps on Broadway, Kinespirit, and Pilates on Fifth, and also sees between 15 and 25 private clients a week.
She prefers to be completely up front about her dance career with her clientele. “They absolutely know that I have other interests,” she says. “They are a flexible group, and most of them support me as a dancer. They know they are getting the whole package.”
Both parts of her life require a high degree of commitment. She needs to continue her training in both Gyrotonic and Pilates in addition to taking dance classes. “I need to be available to teach, but I can make more money than in other second careers.”
Baca’s choreography will be presented at the Ailey Citigroup Theater April 26–28.
Contemporary Flamenco and Feldenkrais
Niurca Marquez chose to train in the Feldenkrais method because of what it could offer her as a contemporary flamenco dancer and teacher. Having studied and lived in Spain, Marquez is on the forefront of innovation in flamenco. “I’m often working with students who do not have extensive flamenco training. They need a way to access movement and an entry into the improvisation process,” says Marquez. “Feldenkrais can help with that.”
She finds Feldenkrais’ Awareness Through Movement classes ideal for her work with actors and dancers. “I incorporate Feldenkrais material in all my classes,” she says. “I see the work enmeshed in my artistic practice.”
Balancing work with performing takes a little doing. “It’s tricky,” she says. “I try to keep it about a 50/50 ratio. I really have to be disciplined about dancing. I need to set aside time just as I do with my classes.” She has presented original solo works both in the U.S. and Spain, and she’s shared a stage with flamenco masters Belén Maya and Juan José Amador.
The one-on-one Feldenkrais sessions, called Functional Integration, are less tied to her dancing and teaching, but a more personal reason brought her to this end of the work—a niece with cerebral palsy. Marquez also appreciates the financial flexibility. “They created a payment plan that is workable for an artist,” she says.
Choreographer, Dancer, Massage
Vanessa Walters toured with the performance troupe Fischerspooner for 12 years. Now she works as an independent choreographer for artistic and commercial projects.
An early injury set Walters down the therapeutic path. For a year, she attended the Swedish Institute, known for its excellent massage therapy training, while also bartending four nights a week. Today, she divides her time between choreographing and being a massage therapist.
Walters is well versed in several types of massage, from deep-tissue to trigger-point to shiatsu. She takes additional workshops as needed. (“I’d love to learn how to do cranial-sacral therapy.”) She offers her services to dancers on a sliding scale. “I want to give back to younger dancers,” she adds. One or two massages a day—three at the most—keep her arts life afloat financially. “It’s not just physically draining but psychologically as well,” says Walters.
She works on contract for a spa here and there, but needs the control of being her own boss. Scheduling can be time consuming, but she’s come up with a system of doing it all via email, spending less time on the phone.
Dance comes first in her book, and most of her clients know that her time is limited. “I never say no to choreography jobs,” she says. There were times when her double life had its price. After a 2008 tour with Fischerspooner, she returned to half the client load—they’d found masseurs who were more available—and the recession. “It’s still hurting me,” she says. “The good thing is that I can be a massage therapist wherever I go because I can take my table along with me.”
Walters’ current project is the mixed-media collaboration with video artists called Ripening.
Choreographer, Dancer, Yoga Teacher
Keely Garfield wears three hats: She is a dance lecturer at The New School/Eugene Lang College, a clinical coordinator for the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) program at The Farber Center for Radiation Oncology, and an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) 500.
In 2009 she completed 200 hours of teacher training in yoga as well as 500 hours of UZIT training, where she worked with cancer patients utilizing yoga, reiki, and meditation. The UZIT training convened one weekend per month for a year, and also required 100 hours of clinical rotation and 50 community hours.
“It was intense,” says Garfield. “I was able to maintain my dance and yoga commitments. Contrary to popular thought, artists are specialists at time management, and also well versed in creating a tapestry of life’s comings and goings.”
She works about 30 hours a week in her non-dancer life, while she also juggles the needs of two children. “Every day, I wonder, What hat do I wear today?” she says.
When a show of her own choreography is coming up, Garfield prepares ahead of time by putting in extra hours so her finances will be in order. This allows her to get substitutes and cut back on clients during intense rehearsal and performance periods.
Garfield likes to keep her double lives separate. “Generally I don’t bring it up. Clients will come in and tell me they saw my name in The New York Times. It’s a little thrilling. It’s like I’m Batman and get to reveal my other identity—another version of a yoga outfit.”
Keely Garfield Dance performs at the Chocolate Factory in New York, March 13–16.
Nancy Wozny retired from both Feldenkrais and dancing to write from Houston.
The Feldenkrais Method
Hours of training: 740–800 hours of training over a 3- to 4-year period.
Approximately $4,500 per year.
After the first two years of training, you are qualified to teach Awareness Through Movement classes. After four years you may offer private Functional Integration sessions.
450 to over 750 hours.
Teach mat work and use the reformer and other apparatus with clients one-on-one.
Training involves pre-training, foundation
Teacher training course, apprenticeship, and Level I certification course, which allows you to work privately and in group setting with the equipment covered in Level I.
$3,400 through Level I.
Varies depending on type of yoga.
Teach privately or in a group setting.
16–32 months depending on full- or part-time
Training prepares you for the state licensing exam in New York, where you can then open a private practice. Standards vary by state.