Part-Time Passions 
Don’t let your day job get in the way of your dreams                                        
by Dianne Hales

The theater lights dim.  The curtain rises.  Cancan dancers with frilly petticoats kick sky-high in a Parisian cabaret.  Sultry couples, swathed in red satin and black velvet, sizzle through a torrid tango. While the sets, costumes and choreography look professional, the dancers are not.  From 9 to 5, these energetic performers file legal briefs, teach classes, sell jewelry, treat patients and run homes and businesses.  
By day they’re working women: teachers, nurses, lawyers, sales clerks, managers. But during their off-hours, many women are pursuing personal passions rather then paychecks. They dance, they sing, they paint, they craft, they train dogs.

“They’re meek drones of society by day and daring devil-may-care dancers by night,” says Doree Susanne Clark, the dancer and choreographer who founded the aptly named Don’t Quit Your Day Job Dancers in Marin County, California.

Doree recruited students from her popular dance classes to put on a show.  “The first one was literally in a barn, but we now have over 100 dancers,” she says. “The only theater that can hold the audience is San Francisco’s one thousand-seat the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.”

The time commitment is immense, with months of rehearsal culminating in a frantic crush before the May performances.  Architects in the troupe design the scenery; carpenters build the sets; everyone pitches in to sew costumes or apply makeup. “Our shows are the size of Radio City Music Hall spectaculars,” says Brenna Holden, who worked on Broadway as a stage manager for West Side Story and Evita.  “This group is so much more fun: no egos, no competiveness.  Just about everyone has to get over being too big, too small, too old, too whatever—and they do.  Something magical happens on stage that is bigger than all of us.”

Two weeks after a performance, preparations begin for the following year.  “After the show, we say we want our lives back,” says Cecile O’Conner, a psychiatric nurse who works the night shift from 11 pm to 7 am so we can make evening rehearsals.  “Then we realize the company is our life and our family.  If we had to choose, most of us would quit our day jobs rather then give up the sheer joy of dancing together.”

Woman’s Day, February 1, 2003

Press & Reviews