There's a myth in the dance world that in order to be successful, a dancer has to choose between being onstage or behind the scenes. But what if you have the ability and the opportunity to balance both? For Megan Wright, performing and arts administration go hand in hand. Wright is a freelance dancer in NYC, and also serves as a social media and marketing consultant for the National Center for Choreography in Akron, OH. Here's how she makes it all work.
From Dancer to Administrator
Wright grew up in Portland, ME, where she studied ballet and modern before graduating from the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts. After moving to San Francisco, she participated in the ODC Theater Administrative Fellowship Program, run by then deputy director for advancement of ODC Theater Christy Bolingbroke. The program connected choreographers with individuals hoping to gain experience in arts administration. Wright worked with choreographer Hope Mohr and at the conclusion of the fellowship was asked to stay on as the company director for Hope Mohr Dance. Wright now serves on its board of directors. She also danced for six years in San Francisco, including three with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and as a founding member of Maurya Kerr's tinypistol, before moving to NYC and later performing with the Stephen Petronio Company.
Medlock, courtesy Wright
Starting a New Venture
Wright had seemingly put her arts admin career on hold in favor of performing, until a chance encounter with a familiar face led to a new opportunity. "I was running through the New York City Center studios in a unitard. Christy Bolingbroke was coming out of another showing, and she said, 'I have to call you!'" Wright says. The two met for coffee the following month, and Bolingbroke explained her vision for the new National Center for Choreography in Akron, OH, of which she was now the executive director. "I was on board right out of the gate," Wright says. The National Center for Choreography, based at the University of Akron, provides select choreographers with the space and resources to experiment in creating new works. It also hosts unique and even experimental initiatives, like a residency fostering partnership between female choreographers, or a collaboration among dance writers from around the country. "We're a big country, and right now we're a fractured one," Wright says. "Any place bold enough to call itself a 'national center' is a place willing to tackle the problem of how we move forward together. That's something I want to do."
As the center's social media and marketing consultant, Wright promotes NCCAkron's residencies, resident artists, and other initiatives online. This includes running their social media and website, working with on-the-ground partners in Northeast Ohio to market community events and serve their local audience, and talking to artists and arts administrators nationwide about how NCCAkron can share their stories. Wright describes the position as a writing-heavy job that also requires digital savvy. "Dance is a live art, and I never forget it, but through my work at NCCAkron I get to be inspired by work from makers around the country that I don't have the chance to see in person."
Medlock, courtesy Wright
Fortunately, Wright's arts admin career has intersected seamlessly with her dance career. She currently freelances in NYC, and as a member of the Stephen Petronio Company, Wright performed in Merce Cunningham's Tread at the American Dance Festival in June 2019. "I firmly believe that performance is an act of service. When I'm onstage I'm there to model a way of moving through the world with strength and compassion," Wright says.
Wright finds fulfillment from both jobs in different ways. While her administrative job offers her a big-picture overview of the American dance scene, her time in the studio provides dance experience on a micro level. "Each experience informs the other," she explains.
Wright's effort to balance two careers in dance is a challenge that not many performers get to experience. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to be held to a very high standard of work in support of endeavors I believe in," she says. "But I can say that about either my arts job or my administrative job!"