Dancer To Watch: Sarah Kaye
In an interview with staffer Suzy Miller, we are pleased to introduce you one of our Dancers To Watch, SARAH KAYE.
Sarah Kaye is a funny, fast-talking dynamo–did I mention fast-talking? Imagine her voice in enthusiastic double-time. You get the feeling nothing could stop this vehemently unique dancer chick – and nothing has. She’s everything you’d expect a 5’3” fiery redhead to be. Aerial, Acro, styles usual and obscure – She does it all. Check out this firecracker's video below. Then learn how one dancer made a brilliant career out of Versatility. (And if you want the whole Sarah experience, read it in enthusiastic double-time!)
Best Known Credits:
Celebrity Cruise Lines - inaugural cast member & aerial captain
Coco & the Vanity Vixens - a NYC burlesque and dance spectacular
Dancing for his holiness, the 14th Dali Lama - he called us little angels after!
Manhattan Classic Cocktail Gala - Freestyling Aerial Hoop for 3k people inside the stunning NY Public Library
AERA Dance Company's FADES AWAY - upcoming contemporary aerial & pole show
25 QUESTIONS WITH SARAH KAYE (SK)
A4D: Ok Sarah, let’s go way back. When did you start dancing?
SK: (Laughs) Most little girls want to dance in sparkly pink tutus. Not me! I played soccer. I was extremely competitive, almost boyish. So my parents were like, “Let’s send her to dance, that’ll Girlify her!” (Laughs.) I eventually had to choose. People were like, “Come on, think of your future; what are you going to do in dance?” Well, what am I gonna do kicking a ball around a field?!
A4D: And here you are, still dancing. I doubt you’d still be kicking a soccer ball.
SK: Yep. I fell in love with the sports aspect of dance. I guess I just love throwing myself in the air! I love it all - African, Indian, Acro ... well, Ballet isn’t natural for me; I’m a short muscular powerhouse. But I love the technique it gives me.
A4D: You studied dance in college…?
SK: I went to SUNY Buffalo for a BFA in dance with an education minor. They’re strong in all 4 foundation styles – Ballet, Modern, Jazz, and Tap. Their tagline is “Versatility matters.”
SK: They’re open to new things - if you find your style, they’ll embrace it - and encourage everyone to take everything. Versatility has stayed with me all these years. I’ve never “married” one style. I’m a jack of all trades – contemporary, jazz, stage burlesque….
A4D: No wonder you’re always working. The more styles, the more jobs!
SK: These days, people call everything “Contemporary”, but we know it’s Modern with Lyrical and Jazz.
A4D: I call it Contempicalmojazz.
SK: (Laughs.) New styles form from the old. When hip hop came out, everyone was like, “Oh, this is malarkey!” But it evolved into its own style.
A4D: So after college…?
SK: I had 2 offers – Gus Giordano’s jazz apprentice company in Chicago … or a brand new show on a cruise line. Unfortunately, most apprentice companies only pay for performances, which isn’t often. But the ship was producing a Cirque Show, and would train me in Aerial.
A4D: Um, free Aerial training? No brainer!
SK: Yep. It was rigorous - 4 weeks, 6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Brutal.
A4D: Paid rehearsals?
SK: They put us up, but didn’t pay us – but come on, we were getting trained by Cirque dancers for free! Some people think cruises are the bastard stepchild of professional dance jobs. (Laughs.) Like it’s beneath them because it’s non-union. They think “Oh, you’re just traveling the world, it’s easy, you drink all day and dance at night.” Maybe in the 80’s it was like that, but today, it’s full-length Broadway and Cirque productions.
A4D: I’ve seen some; phenomenal productions.
SK: It’s a great gig, especially for young dancers. Hey, anything you love that pays the bills is a great job. What, I should be in NYC waitressing 5 days a week waiting for a gig? If you waitress 5 days a week, you’re a waitress, not a dancer. On cruises you’re performing, paying the bills, and doing what you love. That’s not just a job, that’s a career!
A4D: Plus the specialty skills you’ll use the rest of your life.
SK: Trapeze, hoop, bungee… by the time I was aerial chandelier spinning, I was like “Yeah, I kind of love this.”
A4D: That last sentence was awesome. I want to spin on an aerial chandelier!
SK: It was an amazing opportunity. Training in aerials is expensive and time-consuming. I always wanted to do it; when all the little girls went to see “Cats” I went to see Cirque.
A4D: Many young dancers are torn between going straight to the workforce or college. Thoughts?
10 seconds later:
A4D: Hello? That’s the first time you stopped talking!
SK: (Laughs.) That’s a hard question. It depends on the individual. For me, college was about growing up, learning to work with others. It’s not always about being the best; you have to learn life skills and professionalism. At 18 you don’t have a filter, you’re still learning when to keep your mouth shut! (Laughs.) Who you are at 18 isn’t the same person at 22.
A4D: College is such a safe place to learn from your mistakes.
SK: Plus my college network is still helpful; many classmates went on to careers, and still work in the industry. If I had to do it all over, even though I complain about student loans, I’d do it the same way. Some people want to dance a few years and THEN go to school. If that’s for you, go do it! But for me, this is a lifetime career. Of course, in 10 years, I won’t be hanging by my ankles. (Laughs.) Aerial and pole work give the body a very special type of beating. But I figure by the time I retire, my kids’ friends will say, “Your mom did all that? She’s really cool.” And my kids will be proud.
A4D: (Laughs.) No they won’t. As a Mom I can tell you, they’ll be mortified!
SK: Ha! Y’know, people see our lives as glamourous - I laugh! You’re in pain and sore, tired, or in a slow season. But, doing what you love and getting paid for it – yeah, it actually is a really cool job.
A4D: Anything you’ve had to overcome?
SK: When I moved back to NYC after the cruises, I was out of the scene, struggling to find my footing. That’s when I really used A4D to my advantage, for networking and finding classes. Hmm….I had a partial tear once in my meniscus that was hell - not bad enough for surgery, but torn enough to be unstable. Physical Therapy didn’t help, but I found cross fit and barre, which worked for me.
A4D: Injuries just plain suck.
SK: I was out 8 weeks. But at the 16-week mark, I was like “Ok, the world isn’t over. I’m even stronger than I was before.” For dancers, our identity is our bodies, so when our bodies aren’t working ….
A4D: Word. When did you join A4D?
SK: Right out of college. At first I only focused on auditions, till Emily Dann said “Get on Forum4Dancers!” I was like “Oh yeah, maybe”, but once I clicked, that was it, I was all in. Now I’m an old-timer, but I still put in my 47 cents!
A4D: Why do you love Forum4Dancers?
SK: The dance world is so competitive…. Forum4Dancers is a community with honest questions, feedback, and the kind of encouragement you don’t always get. It’s a place where people actually want community and positivity. There’s another A4D’er I encourage and give her ideas…and She told a casting director I was her mentor!
A4D: Well, you are! That’s exactly what we want Forum4Dancers to be, dancers helping dancers.
SK: Y’know, I live in the total wrong decade; if it has an “On” button, I don’t like it! So Reels were a real issue for me. I learned so much from Grover, Emily, and other members on how to do it. Now I see other dancer’s reels and I pass it on. “5 minutes? NO! You gotta keep it under 2:00.” On Instagram, we look at something for 8 seconds; SYTYCD solos are only 90 seconds! Why would they look at you for 5 minutes?
A4D: Exactly. How did you meet Grover Dale, our founder?
SK: How anyone meets anybody in this biz, networking. In our field, it’s 6 degrees to everyone. At an A4D NYC meet and greet, I finally met Grover and experienced the full person. He’s so – he’s just his own special being. We look up to him - I'm 30, but I see Grover up there kickin’ it at 80!
A4D: Tell me about the recent event honoring Jack Cole. (Groundbreaking jazz choreographer in the MGM Hollywood golden era.)
SK: So great. It was free for us, because Grover got us a bunch of A4D tickets. I LOVE jazz; I’ve taken classes with Frank Hatchet, Matt Maddox, Gus Giordano… the originals. I learned about Jack Cole in school, and it was like “Wow, these people actually worked with him!” People introduced themselves, and it was just - it was a Who’s Who of legendary dancers. I’m such a dance history buff.
A4D: Me too! The more you read, the more you realize we’re just a huge family tree, branching off into new generations of styles.
SK: Contemporary is so popular now, it’s hard to even find a jazz class. It was awesome to be in that room with people who appreciate it like I do.
A4D: Speaking of styles - one of your special skills is Statue Partnering?
SK: Yes, aerial body balancing - slow moving choreographed weight share. Normal adagio partnering is lifting a girl 1/3 your weight … but Statue is weight sharing while moving into crazy shapes. When you’re balancing on your tailbone on your partner’s neck while he’s standing on a 6-foot platform on a moving ship, you can tell me about core muscles!
SK: Luckily I always had male partners I really trusted. When you’re hanging from someone's ankles, you need trust!
A4D: Off topic, you have stunning red hair. Would you dye it for a job?
SK: (Laughs) On my resume under special skills, I have “Will cut and dye hair.”
A4D: That’s awesome. And smart.
SK: Someone told me it was unprofessional, but I thoroughly disagree. There are some people who won’t cut or dye.
A4D: How do you manage the daily life of a dance gypsy?
SK: I live by my calendar – if it’s not on there, it doesn’t happen. Most working pros are like that; it’s the freelance life, everyone is juggling. It seems hectic to the average person, but it’s normal for us. Plus all my life, my first priority was me, dance, and my career. Then I got married. Now it’s like, “I have one night off, I can take class! Oh wait, I’m married; I should probably go hang with my husband.” (Laughs.) I’m lucky, he’s equally passionate about his work. He understands I’m not just a performer, but to the root of my soul I am a dancer. It’s part of my identity, and without it, I would not be myself. I’m a better partner and wife when I’m happy. Ours can be a selfish career. You try to find balance.
A4D: What’s your favorite project right now?
SK: A contemporary, air, and pole show. All the things I love in one show!
A4D: Any advice for young dancers?
SK: Take class from as many teachers as you can, and stay humble – there’s always someone who’s a better dancer, but if you show them you love what you do, people will want to keep working with you. If you stop learning and growing, you’ll be aged out. And all dance careers have ups and downs; you can’t expect it to always be a high.
A4D: And what would you tell someone thinking about joining A4D?
SK: It’s an AMAZING tool. And they should use the entire website. People might use it at first to get jobs… but if they use ALL the tools on here, it will help them do just that. So sit your butt down in a coffee shop and open every single link! I mean, how valuable- for $75/year – A YEAR – you have all the tools for success right on your laptop screen.
A4D: (Laughs.) That was not a paid announcement. But it should have been!
TOP TEN THINGS SARAH DID TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS:
1 - Chose a college that trained her in 4 foundation styles
2 - Chose a job that trained her in special skillsets over other options
3 - Understands the value of versatility
4 - Asks for guidance when she doesn’t know how to do something (i.e.: Reels)
5 - Understands networking… and – joined A4D and got on Forum4Dancers for it
6 - Was pro-active in healing her injury
7 - Dance History Buff – knows the more you know about your chosen field, the more valuable and informed a performer you are
8 - Willing to change her appearance for a job
9 - Pays it forward – mentors others as she was mentored
10 - Manages her gypsy freelance life with a very organized calendar – no double booking or missed rehearsals for this girl!.
TOP 3 CHALLENGES SARAH HAD TO FACE:
Challenge #1: INJURY
Sarah tore her meniscus, and physical therapy wasn’t working for her.
SOLUTION: She was pro-active – She tried different modes of Physical Therapy till she found one that worked for her.
Challenge #2: CHOOSING JOBS
Sarah had to choose between 2 long-term job options.
SOLUTION: She weighed the pros and cons, and went with the job that would give her a new skillset.
Challenge #3: OTHERS’ OPINIONS
Sarah worked in a field some friends pooh-poohed.
SOLUTION: Sarah knew the value of all she was getting from cruise ships, and refused to be swayed. She chose her career over others’ opinions.
Challenge #4: NEW IN THE CITY
Sarah went to New York and struggled with finding her footing.
SOLUTION: She took loads of classes, and used Answers4Dancers and Forum4Dancers to network.
Challenge #5: MAKING A REEL
Sarah was not computer savvy, but she needed a reel.
SOLUTION: She sought feedback in the reels section on A4D, and learned how to get the job done.
5 QUICK FUN FACTS FOR SARAH:
We gave Sarah 15 seconds to answer each question. Ready? Go!
1 – What’s in your dance bag?
SK: Oh! Laptop, my go-to fingers-only makeup bag, 45 bobby pins, peanut butter granola bar.
2- What’s your power snack?
SK: Peanut butter. I put it on everything, and mmmmm! It’s my version of chocolate.
3 – Biggest audition embarrassment?
SK: Ha. I wanted to be cut but wasn’t. You know, that moment you realize you aren’t right for the job? When it came to the imaginary sword fighting, I was like “I’m out!”
4 – Favorite audition outfit?
SK: My go-to tall black lace-up boots that come over my thighs. There’s something about fiery red hair and black lace-up boots that always help me in casting!
5 – Celebrity crush?
SK: Tom Hiddleston – brilliant actor with a sense of humor & a unique look. YUMMY!
Sarah has been a member of Answers4Dancers since 2010.