Letter to My Teenage Self: Rita Donahue

As Juliet in Mark Morris' Romeo and Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare (photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group)

It takes a special dancer to perform Mark Morris’ rhythmically and spatially dynamic choreography. But Rita Donahue more than fits the bill: She moves with precise musicality and unabashed physicality, gliding through Morris’ challenging works with ease. The Virginia native, who grew up studying ballet, jazz and tap at her local studio, first performed Morris’ Marble Halls as a dance and English double major at George Mason University. In 2003, shortly after graduation, Donahue auditioned for the Mark Morris Dance Group in NYC and was offered a contract. In addition to touring with MMDG roughly six months a year, Donahue teaches with the company’s Dance for PD program, leading movement classes for people with Parkinson’s disease and their caretakers. This month, catch Donahue in a Morris premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. —Jenny Dalzell

Dear Rita,

You’re not going to believe this, but someday you’ll get to do what you love for a living!

I know right now all you want to do is focus on ballet, but don’t be too strict with yourself. Don’t get me wrong: You’re definitely going to need all the ballet technique you can get. But listen to the dance teachers who encourage you to try other styles, too. The dance world is much wider than you think, and there are many paths to take to keep you dancing and happy.

As a George Mason University student (Evan Cantwell, courtesy George Mason University)

The competition for a career in dance and the pressures of performance can be intense. Make sure to take care of your mind and body. Trying to be the thinnest or the most flexible dancer won’t make you the best dancer. It certainly won’t make you the strongest!

And don’t worry if you choose a different path than your friends who are already in dance conservatories. You’ll be glad you decided to study academics as well as dance in college. There’s so much in life that will add to your performances besides honing your ballet technique. Read, listen to music, see shows and engage with the world you live in. It’s a beautiful journey you’re about to embark on—try to enjoy every minute of it!

Love,

Rita

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search