The Whole Nine Yards
According to Suzy Miller: ‘Grover’s successes grew out of realistic-be-easy-to-work-with-and-make-the-most-of-it experiences. Considering what he accomplished,’ Suzy adds, ‘his leap from a 3-room shack on a dirt road in rural Pennsylvania to the stages of Broadway and Hollywood is pretty remarkable.’
SEE GROVER’S 4-DECADE CAREER IN 4 MINUTES
The exchanges below between Grover and dancers searching for answers speak for themselves.
I FINALLY WOKE UP AT 25!
It was a blessing to find your website! Just what I needed! Your encouragement to others about following their dreams helped me a lot. I am 25 years old. Yikes! Fortunately, I don't look it and I certainly don't feel it! I could pass easily for 19 or so people say.
Dancer's body? Got it. It is a little rusty though. Here's the bad news...I started dancing at the age of 4, received good training and participated in many competitions, and then stopped completely when I went to high school. Did high school things like swimming and cheerleading, performed in a high school talent show. Then I went to a college that didn't have a dance program (yet another regret), and received a BA in psychology. To me, dancing never really seemed like an obtainable career, just a wishful dream. Now I have a degree in something that bores me to tears and a longing to dance.
So after talking about it for 11 years, I took a dance workshop. The teacher was amazed when I told her how long it had been since I danced. She said it looked like I never stopped. Those were the words I needed to hear.
I've read every word of your website. I need some direction. I keep hitting a brick wall. I have been calling studios and asking if they offer adult classes, and they really don't. Not at the level that I am looking for. I need to be challenged! This is not a hobby. My goal isn't to perform well at a recital at the end of the year. I want to dance!! And if I can make a career out of it, then my dreams will have come true!!! Finally!! I could take a train to New York for classes, no problem. Where do I sign up?
Can I just sign up? Help me, please.
Good for you! At 25, you're in touch with what you want to do with your life. If anyone's ready to stimulate a "wishful" dream into a reality, it's you! You are a fine example of someone who's ready to take meaningful action.
Yes, you can just sign up. NYC is the dance mecca. Great schools, great teachers, great possibilities. Broadway Dance Center and Steps, just to name a few. BDC has five floors of classes going on simultaneously. You can monitor until your heart's content. Your intuition will tell you which classes will give you the challenges you're seeking.
Don't discount that BA in psychology that you worked for. It's what you needed to do to arrive at where you are today. It has served you well and, no doubt, will continue to do so. When you're ready to talk about kind of career you want and the agent you want, drop me a line.
Wishing you well,
- Grover D
For more topics, click on the titles below to show the questions other dancers asked Grover.
DO I HAVE TO CHOREOGRAPH MY OWN STEPS AT AUDITIONS?
Dear Mr. Dale,
Your website is awesome! It's already answered a lot of my questions.
I'm 21 and have been dancing since I was 9. I'm teaching hip hop and Latin dances at a studio near San Diego. I love it. I'm so happy I've found something to be passionate about. Dance means so much to me. I'm ready to do whatever it takes to make it as a professional. BUT I'M SO WORRIED ABOUT AUDITIONS! I don't know what to expect! Will I have to choreograph my own dances?
Will I have to get up and perform by myself? Can you help me, please?
Give yourself a pat on the back. The passion you've got for dance is written all over
your message. Your questions are good ones.
I'm happy to assure you that you can rest easy about the choreography part. At professional auditions, the choreographer and his/her assistants teach the dancers a combination that they expect to be performed. Depending on the availability of time (and how big the turnout is) the choreographer will break down the combination, offer direction, and (again, time permitting) give dancers an opportunity to ask questions about it. After several times through, it's customary that dancers are positioned into smaller groups of 5-8 for the performance. It's not unusual for choreographers to ask
for repeat performances, give individual corrections, or add on a few extra 8’s for dancers to ‘freestyle.’ Freestyling means improvising within the style of the music and movement that’s already established. It’s not choreography per se, it’s ‘intuitive movement.’
Stay flexible. Listen carefully. Explore everything you’ve got.
POTENTIAL BROADWAY STAR WANTS ADVICE
Dear Mr. Dale,
I say "WOW!" about your website. It really ROCKS! When I read your articles I get so inspired. When I read about the auditions in L.A. (8 hours away from me!) I just want to get up and go there! I wish there were auditions in San Francisco so I could show everyone "LOOK, I CAN PERFORM!" This is my dream. I wanna be great, Grover. I want to be known as one of the legends.
I desperately need direction. I'm only 17, but I want to do so much. I take 5 dance classes and sing 2 hours everyday. I want more knowledge, more experience, more auditions! I guess you can see where I'm coming from. I hope you will respond. Thanks and God bless you always,
Ann, the biggest dreamer and hopeful star
A Wow right back to you! Your enthusiasm is great.
Your choice to pursue a triple-threat career is a wise one. Dancers who sing and act enjoy the strongest prospects for career advancement.
Re: the programs you're considering. Ask questions about the curriculum. You want to know if the school's program reflects today's casting standards. Does the school have "active" professionals participating as guest professors? When and where does the school showcase students for agents, casting directors, etc.? Questions like these send a message that you want a program that not only improves your skills, it increases exposure to employment options.
Keep in touch. I want to hear about your progress,
CAN DANCE SPRINGBOARD YOU INTO OTHER PROFESSIONS?
I work for the New Orleans Ballet Association. We have a program that serves inner-city children. Some of the students are about to graduate high school and want information about dance careers. Are there job opportunities that go beyond the obvious performance choices? Can dance springboard you into other professions?
Education Residency Manager
I'm pleased to hear that programs like yours are out there, guiding students into dance careers. Your question comes at an interesting time.
Last night, I participated in a benefit performance with a dozen cast members from the original "A Chorus Line." In addition to Donna McKechnie (the original Cassie) and other dancers included Trish Garland (who now owns a thriving Pilates studio in L.A.) Clive Wilson (who is a successful painter who exhibits his work in major galleries and museums) Ron Dennis (who has developed and written a successful one-man show) Kathryn Wright (who now works as a television script supervisor) and Cheryl Clark (who teaches dance at the university level). All of these extended careers are natural outgrowths of dance. Multiple careers are common. Personally, I've experienced the benefits of performing, choreographing, directing, writing, producing, and publishing. Creative beings continue to grow. They just can't help it.
Thanks for contacting me, Susan.
DO I HAVE TO LOSE WHAT'S IN MY HEART?
I'm a Brazilian 17-year-old girl who's always wanted to be a dancer. But now, I'm very doubtful. Worse, I'm fearful. The fact is that dancing in Brazil is not considered something of substance. Consequently, it's not so easy to earn good (or even enough) money with it. The point is I'm almost ready to give up, although I believe I've worked hard to achieve a professional level in my dancing.
My dream, of course, is to be part of a major dance company, but reality leads me to going to college and putting dance as a second plan in my life. Maybe I could just do it for fun. This would be a good solution if it weren't for that pain inside my heart when I think of a life without dance. I'm finishing high school this year and have to make a decision. I don't know what to do. Your opinion would mean a lot to me.
I empathize with your situation. You are not the first person to tell me how hard Brazilian artists struggle to keep their creative goals alive. You've reminded me how fortunate I am to be living in a country where pursuing the career of choice is possible.
Be grateful that your heart speaks to you, reminding you of what you've got inside you that longs to be realized. Many of us are unable to identify what gives our lives meaning and purpose. You already have that. The conscious decision that you speak of...must be your own. Deep down, only you know the limits of what you'll endure to get what you really want.
I wish you well,
FUTURE BALLET DANCER IN NEED OF A ROADMAP!
I'm a 19-year-old college student who just started dancing this past summer. After falling head over heels for ballet, I can't stop thinking about becoming a professional dancer. I read in one of your other Q&As that you encourage people with a late start to keep following their dreams, and that's exactly what I plan on doing. However, I'm uncertain about how to do that. Should I live in NY where there is an abundance of beginning classes to take all over the city? Or is there a university program somewhere in the world that's right for me? I'm looking for ANY suggestions (no matter how costly or outlandish!) to help me become a ballet dancer.
Aha! The bug has bitten.
Be aware that Rudolph Nureyev didn't take his first ballet class until he was 17! He brought his skills to a professional level in a couple of years. The pacing… is strictly up to us.
I'd recommend the conservatory approach instead of a college program. Most university programs cannot provide more than 12-18 hours of dance a week. You may want more than that. Yes, New York is a breeding ground for ballet dancers. It’s loaded with wonderful teachers. Since affordability doesn't seem to be an issue for you, you could do well there.
The good news is that male ballet dancers are always in demand, especially if they're 5'10" and taller. When you feel you've reached the intermediate or advanced-beginner level, you might consider auditioning for apprentice/internships with different companies. Write them NOW and inquire about the opportunities they offer male dancers.
Go for it, Adam!
I DIDN'T KNOW THAT I COULD LOSE MY TECHNIQUE!
My name is Stefanie and I've been studying dance for ten years. I was on my studio’s top line, performing at events, the whole shebang! My mother was my teacher. When she left the teaching business, I got scared and pulled out. It's been two years and I miss it SO much! I'm trying to get back into it by being on our school dance team. The other day, I was trying spins and jumps. Guess what? I couldn't do them! I SUCKED! I don't know what to do! What should I do?
The good news is that you understand how much dancing means to you. You’re also learning that technical skills fade away when training is left at the curb. Experience teaches us a lot, right? If you want encouragement to get back into class, I’m enclosing it here in this message. Truth is, I'm thinking you know exactly what to do. Just make a choice... and make it one that you'll feel good about.
WITHOUT DIRECTION, I'M TOTALLY LOST!
I’m 16, and all I do is worry about how I’ll ever get my first job as a dancer. My parents tell me to relax and trust my teacher’s encouragement. I know they love me, but I can’t help think they don’t know anything about dance careers. I feel so hopeless and alone. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know anything about dance careers!
Please help me!
You’re not alone; you’ve got plenty of company! Many of us start out like you, fearing we don’t have what we need to launch our careers (but we launch them anyway!). Dancers tend to share similar tendencies. Whatever it takes, we do it.
Last week, I interviewed a working dancer about her early struggles. At 16, all she wanted was one gig under her belt so she could honestly say, "Hey, this career is a real possibility!" That’s all she needed to validate the passion she had inside. She ached to get to that place and, like you, felt it was totally beyond her grasp.
It wasn’t. She got the first gig and went on to many others. Today, she is one of the most active dancers on the west coast. The same possibility exists for you. You already have some of what you need to get started. You’ve got the desire… the courage to reach out and ask for help (to someone you don’t even know!)… You’ve got training … a supportive family and teachers … and access to websites loaded with career information (that’s how you found me, isn’t it?). Acknowledge the assets you have, and keep going! The confidence you’re wishing for will kick in when you’re ready to accept it….
P.S. And don’t overlook that good advice your parents gave you. A little relaxation and trust is always a good idea
MOM AND DAD DON'T SUPPORT MY DANCING!
Hey! I’d like to say how happy I am to find this site. I’ve danced for 9 of my 17 years and love it to death. I take ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, hip-hop, and lyrical.....one problem: my parents think their money would be better invested elsewhere. How can I make them understand how important dance is to me, and that I’m considering it my future? I cannot pay for all my lessons with my part-time job, so I’m at a dead end. HELP!
The road to success has different rules for different people. The challenge comes when the rules of the person(s) we turn to for support are different than our own. When that person is a parent, the challenges intensify.
For a start, I’d like to share an example of a healthy exchange between a 16-year-old dancer named Jessica and her parents:
Jessica shared her fear that she'd never have enough money to relocate to L.A and pursue her passion. Once she conveyed how much dancing meant to her, her parents rose to the occasion and volunteered to "match" every dollar Jessica saved from babysitting and odd-jobs. The nest-egg she fretted about… happened because she took steps to talk about it. Everyone rose to the occasion. Half of the financial responsibility was in Jessica’s hands (where it should be).
Dilemmas like this are a two-way street; they take work on both sides of the fence. Parents' intentions are usually well-meaning. A child’s desire to pursue a career in dance can bring up fears about financial security. How does an 18-year-old earn enough to put a roof over their head and food in their belly? In most families, the struggle is about the safety and well-being of a child that’s loved.
Talk more. Be as honest, courteous, and loving as you can.
You can also look to other family members, dance teachers, friends, or school counselors for guidance on approaching your parents.
I wish you luck, Ash!
CAN I AFFORD TO HAVE THE CAREER I WANT?
Dance is the only thing that makes me feel good. I want to go professional. But most of the time, I think "what's the use?" The thought of getting started by waiting on tables and stuff disgusts me, even though I know certain sacrifices will have to be made. Growing up near the entertainment industry, I'm familiar with competition and the fears that come along with it. Do you have any suggestions as to how to get started when you haven't any financial support from your family? How did you handle it? Did you go to college?
I didn't go to college. Instead, I enrolled in the "School Of Hard Knocks." At 17, I bypassed higher education and got on a bus to New York with $130 in my pocket and a dream to dance on Broadway. Four years later, with three Bway shows and dozens of TV appearances, I was cast in my first featured role in the original company of 'West Side Story.' A better education I couldn't have found at any price! It was like being selected for a world-class university program on ‘creating musical theatre history’ led by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Steven Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents. Only 28 dancers got to do it. I was one of them.
One of my biggest assets was an "industrious" nature. I thrived on doing whatever it took to get the job done. Somewhere, I remember being inspired by someone saying, ‘When you work hard at what you love, you tend to get darned good at it.’
So, Nikki, the choices are up to you. Are you going to satisfy that dream or not?
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