Name the dance job, Taylor Gordon's probably had it: The 27-year-old's resumé includes performances with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, off-Broadway productions and stints with concert groups like Exit12 Dance Company. But only this year did the New Yorker fulfill her longtime dream of dancing abroad, earning a spot as a dancer with TUI Cruises. What's it like to travel the world on a giant ship? Gordon documented the first few months of her seafaring adventures for Dance Spirit.
August 10, 2015
I'm in Berlin! It's the first day of my six-month contract with TUI Cruises. I'll be performing aboard the new Mein Schiff 4 cruise ship as it tours around Europe and Africa. First, though, we have a nearly two-month rehearsal period here in Germany. It'll be intense, but on the weekends I'll have the opportunity to travel to European opera houses and villages.
Today began with a meeting for the full cast: eight dancers, six singers, four acrobats and four actors. Only one other dancer is from the States. The rest of the cast is from all over, including Italy, Germany, Hungary, Austria and Ukraine. I'm excited to get to know such a diverse group. We have to learn 10 different hour-long shows (!), and we spent this afternoon working on “Beatles Forever," in which I have a featured role as the main character's daughter.
September 7, 2015
By this point, I have my Berlin morning routine down pat: I leave my Airbnb apartment at 8:15 am, grab a big coffee en route, rub on Voltaren for my back pain and go through my Pilates routine before 9:30 am class with the dancers from all the various Mein Schiff ships. Having daily technique class here is a luxury. When I'm freelancing in NYC, it can be tough to squeeze in training.
With 10 different shows, there's a lot of choreography to keep
organized in my brain, but that's a good thing—it means I'll never be bored on tour! Two of my favorites are “Musical Gala," which has fun musical theater repertoire, and “Varieté," which is based in ballet. There's lots of fast petit allégro.
The language barrier was challenging at first—most of our coaches are Italian. But Italians really do speak with their hands, and it's becoming easier for me to communicate through body language. I've learned the Italian words for arms, legs, fast, slow, jump and turn—all the dance essentials.
October 4, 2015
It's finally embarkation day! We boarded early this morning in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Spanish port we'll be revisiting weekly. Our cabins are in the bow of the ship. My room is tiny—the bed folds down from the wall—but I've lived in closet-sized apartments in Manhattan, so it wasn't too much of a shock. And having a two-floor commute to work will be great.
After lunch in the crew mess hall, we had a meeting in the theater. It's a beautiful space with several stage elevators and almost 1,000 seats. Then we had the first of many safety training sessions, and fittings for the more than 35 different costumes we'll be wearing.
Thankfully I found Wi-Fi onboard, so I could Skype one of my best friends—she's getting married today. I'm sad that this job means I'll be missing important moments back home, but happy to be starting a new adventure.
Courtesy Taylor Gordon
October 12, 2015
Tonight's opening night! From 10 am to 1 pm, we had a run-through of “Beatles Forever" with costumes and corrections. I'm slowly learning to adjust to the wobbly movement of the ship as I dance. Our final dress rehearsal was at 2:30 pm, and then I went to the gym—which has an ocean view—before the performance at 9:30 pm.
It was a great show. The energy the audience gives you makes all the time in the studio worth it. Afterward, we celebrated in the passenger area of the ship, where a lot of people recognized us from the performance. I finished the evening playing a German card game with some of the crew. Not a bad day!
November 3, 2015
Now that all the shows have premiered, we have a little more free time. The ship has traveled to Senegal, the Cape Verde islands off Africa and several small Spanish cities, but we haven't had more than an hour to disembark—until now. This morning we docked in Madeira, Portugal, and I walked through a beautiful garden before having lunch with the whole entertainment department at a restaurant called Kon Tiki. Its “beef on a stone" is one of the best things I've eaten on tour. So delicious!
My contract is half over, but the best part is just beginning. I'm excited to explore Morocco in a few days, and to spend the holidays in the Canary Islands. Performing and traveling for a living—what more can I ask for?
Gordon (center) and her fellow cruise dancers onstage (courtesy Taylor Gordon)