Careers are sometimes described as ladders—linear paths ascending to a predetermined aim. However the nonprofit group Regional Dance America bursts out of the stale metaphor fully, appearing as a springboard for younger dancers to achieve profession heights in a wide range of industries.
By RDA’s applications—together with its Regional and Nationwide festivals, Nationwide Choreography Intensive, adjudication, and scholarship choices—dancers acquire invaluable expertise. From performing in new kinds to creating significant profession connections, the alternatives are as quite a few because the distinctive paths individuals could take within the years that comply with. In any case, a profitable dance firm alum isn’t just an skilled artist, however a curious, open-eyed, bold particular person who can apply expertise discovered from their youth to studios and worlds past.
Forward of the 2024 Nationwide Pageant going down April 24–27, 2024, in Daytona Seashore, we requested 5 RDA alumni to hint their profitable careers again to these seeds planted throughout their early experiences with Regional Dance America.
Kerry Kapaku: Proprietor of DanceWorks Indy
Firstly of highschool, Kerry Kapaku made the swap from her earlier dance studio to Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater, an RDA member studio. On the time, Kapaku didn’t know the way essential that call can be, however the expertise ended up shaping her total profession trajectory.
Earlier than attending RDA, she says, “I really was ballet, ballet, ballet, my complete life. I believed it was going to be my ceaselessly factor.” After highschool, Kapaku spent a yr as a trainee at BalletMet. Quickly sufficient, nonetheless, she realized that her ardour for dance burned brightest when she had been getting ready fashionable and modern items for RDA’s adjudicators and coaching in jazz and African dance as a scholarship recipient at RDA festivals. Kapaku determined to lean into these experiences and went on to main in fashionable dance at Ohio State College.
Kapaku now owns DanceWorks Indy, an all-adult dance studio in Indianapolis. In DanceWorks’ drop-in courses, significantly in its newbie workshops, Kapaku’s academics incorporate historic parts, even emailing college students movies, articles, and different supplies in regards to the dance type to allow them to additional their research outdoors of the studio. Kapaku completely beloved it when an RDA trainer had performed this for her, and has discovered that her grownup college students really feel equally: “We now have gotten such good suggestions. Individuals assume, ‘I’m actually invested as a result of I’m studying extra than simply steps.’ ”
Tommie Earl Jenkins: Award-winning voice, tv, and musical theater actor
Tommie Earl Jenkins is an unimaginable performer. Full cease. But the dance world could by no means have seen his potential with out the alternatives afforded by RDA and Canton Ballet throughout his teenage years in Ohio. “I grew up in a small city the place most individuals relinquish their desires and aspirations and go, ‘Effectively, that is my life.’ ” However Jenkins was decided. “I knew from an early age that I used to be going to get out of this metropolis.” His household couldn’t afford dance classes, so he labored out a cope with Canton Ballet director Cassandra Crowley to do odd jobs across the studio in change for ballet courses.
When the alternatives got here by way of RDA, Jenkins seized them. He carried out at a number of Regional festivals and acquired a scholarship to attend the Nationwide Choreography Intensive in New York Metropolis. The intensive modified his life in two methods. First, he was noticed by Duluth Ballet of Minnesota’s inventive director, who supplied him his first paying dance job. “I felt like, ‘I truly made it. I’m truly incomes cash doing what I like.’ ”
Second, it gave him the boldness to return to New York Metropolis and attain for even increased performing desires in musical theater. Immediately, Jenkins is an award-winning actor with credit starting from exhibits on Broadway and the West Finish, together with CATS, Jersey Boys,and A Refrain Line, to TV and voice-acting appearances for NBC, ABC, CBS, USA, The CW, and Netflix. “Desires don’t have an expiry date on them. They solely expire for those who allow them to expire,” says Jenkins. “You simply need to preserve strolling in direction of them.” Jenkins did the strolling; RDA set him on the trail.
Elizabeth Yilmaz: Performer with the Metropolitan Opera, founder and producer of Artwork Tub, and educator
In the event you had instructed Elizabeth Yilmaz’s teenage self that she would maintain this many titles, she won’t have believed you. She’s a dancer with the Metropolitan Opera, a college member at 92NY and the Joffrey Ballet Faculty, an alumna and advisory board member of Marymount Manhattan School, and co-founder of the New York Metropolis–based mostly artwork and dance salon Artwork Tub. And, lately, Yilmaz additionally began educating with RDA. “It’s a full-circle second,” she says.
Yilmaz attended RDA Regional festivals with Roswell Dance Theatre yearly all through highschool and was awarded quite a few scholarships to coach at Atlanta Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Boston Ballet. Nonetheless, attending a Joffrey Ballet Faculty summer time intensive in New York Metropolis, by way of a scholarship earned at RDA, marked her first style of the dance world wherein she’d later be absolutely immersed.
Whereas she excelled onstage on the festivals, Yilmaz additionally credit RDA for her first publicity to the behind-the-scenes realm of dance, together with accompanists and costume distributors. Now, whether or not she’s producing experimental works with the likes of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher at Artwork Tub, educating the subsequent technology of younger dancers, or performing in such opera classics as La Traviata and Eugene Onegin, Yilmaz carries her RDA experiences into all the things she does.
Gabriella Galati: Sports activities reporter and producer for 6abc Motion Information in Philadelphia
Gabriella Galati is aware of a factor or two about being sidelined. “I truly by no means needed my dance profession to finish. It ended underneath circumstances that have been out of my management,” she says. “Little did I do know, my coaching had already ready me for all times.” She had been concerned with RDA from a really early age, attending Regional festivals in seventh and eighth grades as an understudy. “One yr, I understudied 5 items and by no means carried out a single one at RDA. As a scholar that may be irritating,” she says. Nonetheless, it was precisely this expertise—studying how one can keep ready and motivated from the wings and how one can carry out at any second underneath stress—that gave her a bonus in sports activities broadcasting. “TV is analogous in that you just at all times need to roll with the punches. It’s not a flawless medium. Issues occur on a regular basis, however I do know I’ve it in me to assume on my toes, modify, and proceed ahead.”
After her dancing days, Galati went on to function an on-air persona for the Philadelphia Eagles soccer group and anchor the NFL’s dwell draft protection. In 2023, she joined Philadelphia’s 6abc Motion Information as a reporter, anchor, and producer. Although she has traded Nutcrackers for touchdowns, Galati credit her dance background for all the things from studying punctuality and self-discipline to being a group participant and having a thick pores and skin. She displays, “I draw numerous inspiration from the fearless younger lady who took the stage at RDA.”
Henry Griffin: Boston Ballet artist
For ballet dancers from smaller regional studios, competitions could appear to be the obvious path to high nationwide ballet colleges and, ultimately, corporations. Nonetheless, Boston Ballet firm artist Henry Griffin, who grew up coaching at RDA member studio Philadelphia Dance Theatre, by no means set foot on a contest stage. His foot within the door was the direct results of an RDA competition, at which he was supplied a scholarship to coach on the Ballet Academy of Texas. There, he met visitor trainer Peter Stark, who would later turn out to be his first boss because the affiliate director of Boston Ballet II. When Griffin turned 18 and auditioned for Boston Ballet II, he says, “Peter knew me straight away. He fast-tracked my video to the director.”
Griffin attended the RDA Nationwide Pageant in 2017 and a Nationwide Choreography Intensive along with RDA Regional festivals. He finds that he grew extra from RDA’s emphases on dancing in a bunch and inventive growth than he would have from a contest. “I distinctly keep in mind popping out of these performances feeling like a distinct dancer. It’s performing underneath excessive stress with out worrying about, oh, first place, second place.” With out that premium positioned on profitable and scores, he says, “RDA is far more like a competition—a celebration quite than a contest.”