Focus on Freelance: On the Road

I love NYC, but my favorite dance jobs take me out of town. Traveling for dance means I get to perform in new venues and to connect with new audiences. It also gives me the opportunity to experience different cultures and landscapes. Here are the top five places I've performed outside of NYC.

1. The City: Lisbon, Portugal
The Gig: MTV Europe Music Awards
The Details: This was my first trip abroad as a professional dancer. I performed with The Black Eyed Peas and Akon. The show was much bigger than any American award show I've performed in because it celebrates recording artists from around the world. Onstage I struggled to hear the music over the roaring crowd. The  arena was at capacity, packed with people on their feet, and there was no distance between the audience and stage. When fans reached out, I extended my hand and almost got pulled off stage! In Lisbon, I was able to relax after a day of hard work, because locals make it a daily point to slow down and enjoy leisurely talks and meals with family and friends.

2. The City: Istanbul, Turkey
The Gig: A Luca Luca fashion show at the Royal Dolmabache Palace
The Details: The palace grounds were the most majestic I'd ever seen. The garden had an arrangement of flowers shaped to create a giant clock set to 9:05, the time of death of the first President of the Republic of Turkey. The night of the show, I danced on the palace steps. The surrounding garden was all lit up, and tables were set with dinner and champagne for the celebrity and VIP audience. With two other dancers, I opened the show with a sultry dance wearing a glittering dress and I savored every second. Though the show was only one night, we were in Istanbul for about a week. In our downtime, my fellow dancers and I visited the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, an outdoor cabaret show with traditional belly-dancing, and the Grand Bazaar, where I learned to haggle for candies. Downtown, we tried dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), olives, and all sorts of pastries. Because of the country's diversity, with Asian and European influences and a huge Muslim population, the food was the best I've ever had. We had ice cream that stretches like cheese from storefronts in the city, the gooiest baklavas and turkish delights, and sushi from a cliff-top restaurant overlooking the whole city. 

3. The City: Athens, Greece:
The Gig: I spent six months dancing with Anna Vissi, Greece's biggest pop star.
The Details: This job allowed me to live abroad for the first time. Half of the cast was Greek, and they helped me to immerse myself in Greek culture. I spent a lot of time visiting islands and ancient sites including Poseidon's Temple (the mythological home of the God of the sea), Santorini (a volcanic island full of little white houses built onto cliffs over the water), and  Delphi (where the Pythian Games—the Olympics of the arts—were once held). Since we only performed on weekends, I also used my weekdays to travel to other major European cities. My roommate and I visited Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and Barcelona.

4. The City: London, England:
The Gig: A cabaret show at historic Wilton's Music Hall
The Details:  Wilton's Music Hall is an old wooden theater, with quaint dinner tables and creaky staircases. It evokes a sense of what London was like when the theater opened in the 1850s. The show featured a brass band and Vaudvillian-style dance numbers. Performing vintage dance styles in an historic theater was like stepping back in time. I loved being in London because it felt both fashionable and ancient, at once.

5. The City: Las Vegas, Nevada:
The Gig: Dancing in a stage show
The Details: I first visited Las Vegas during a stop on a cross-country bus tour, when I was performing in The Most Interesting Show in the World, a traveling variety show. I was in awe of the lights and grandeur of the strip, but I didn't think it was my style. However, years later, I came back for six months to perform in Jerry Mitchell's Peepshow at Planet Hollywood. We had eight shows a week, packed with exciting dance numbers during which we wore ornate costumes, and it was wonderful to be on stage regularly. Plus, my extended stay in the city helped me to see that beyond the strip was an awe-inspiring desert and deep red mountains, old-timey surrounding towns with drive-thru movies, and the most beautiful sunsets imaginable.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

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Photo by Erin Baiano

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