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While many dancers dream of joining a company, dancing on Broadway, or starring in music videos, the reality of the field is that performing is not for everyone. However, many dancers do wish to stay in the field but perhaps aren’t familiar with what types of opportunities exist. On this week’s episode of Making the Impact, Courtney and Lesley sat down with Lauren Manning, Susie Riefenhauser, and Ryan Parma to talk about non-performance careers in dance. Each guest has had a unique path into their career and cites their training as hugely influencing their current success.
For Lauren, the ability to pair a performance career with work in communications was key, having majored in Dance and Strategic Communications at Elon University. She is currently splits her time between Boston and NYC as a seven-season Radio City Rockette. When it’s not performance season, she works full time for Dance Media, which oversees major dance publications including Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, Pointe, among others. She noted how important her dance training was, not only in booking her performance gigs, but also in teaching her the value of resilience and how to take feedback, which are both critical in any career. She also discussed how she balances her day job with her performance career, reminding us that dancers are incredibly skilled at time management and are totally capable of fulfilling their creative goals alongside other related interests.
Like Lauren, Susie grew up dancing, but she ultimately decided to veer away from performing and into a multi-faceted career in product design, marketing, and consulting. Upon securing her first job at the Bloch retail store in Manhattan, she was hooked on this side of the industry. She’s now the co-founder of Other Space Innovation, which is the first and only marketing and business consulting firm specializing in dance.
Following yet another path, Ryan is a freelance director based in LA, mostly working on music videos and dance concept videos. Pre-pandemic, he often filmed classes at major LA studios, including Millenium, Edge, and Movement Lifestyle. Dance has always been his passion and hobby, but never a professional goal; growing up, he learned to dance primarily from videos, and it wasn’t until college that he was able to attend conventions and intensify his training under master teachers. He mentioned that all of the relationships he formed over the years, as well as his college education, taught him the importance of hard work, the ability to learn from failure, and the ability to step into fear to move forward.
Given their unique trajectories, each guest also had great advice for dancers thinking about possible career choices in their futures beyond performing. Lauren encouraged listeners to take advantage of public speaking opportunities, especially since dancers often lack confidence in this area. She also suggested pinpointing areas of interest and finding podcasts to continue to learn--they’re free, easy, and portable! Ryan highlighted the importance of networking with like-minded people, which he was able to do easily and early on in his college days. Susie leaves us with sound advice for any career path:
“Be invested and ask the right questions...find the place that allows you to be curious because it’s through that curiosity that you’ll be able to meet the people to help get you to your end goal.”
To learn more about all three guests and their careers, as well as reap the benefits of their amazing advice, be sure to listen to the full episode!