Don’t let your day job get in the way of your dreams
by Dianne Hales
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.
Why do busy women add yet another commitment to their crowded schedules? Some are dusting off a girlhood dream or exploring a path they never had the opportunity to take. Others seek greater balance, personal fulfillment or a break from an all-too-famliar routine. As these stories illustrate, an “extracurricular” activity can add extraordinary richness to one’s daily life.
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.
“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.
Ten years ago, 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 one-hundred thirty-five 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 company’s annual dance spectacular sells out every performance. But no one enjoys the show more than the dancers on stage. Lisa Star has appeared in all 13 shows the troupe has put on over the last decade. The first time she rehearsed, she had to look down at her feet to remember which was right or left. This year she took center stage as a brassy, sassy, red-wigged superhero.
Over the years her confidence has grown offstage as well. “I was washing dishes at a restaurant when I started dancing with Doree,” Lisa explains, “Now I’m the international sales and operations manager for LucasArts Entertainment Company. After a lifetime as a wannabe, I get to live my dream.”
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, 2003http://www.womansday.com/