CAPEZIO AWARD & DANCER CAREER CHANGES
By: Hal de Becker
Since 1952, Capezio Dance Makers, the world’s preeminent dance apparel manufacturer, has, through its philanthropic foundation, annually recognized an individual or dance institution for having made a significant contribution to the American dance scene.
One such individual is former Prima Ballerina Cynthia Gregory who has been selected to receive Capezio’s 63rd award in a ceremony at The Smith Center on November 17th beginning at 5 p.m. and followed by a reception.
Miss Gregory is now a resident of Las Vegas, but during her career of more than 25 years she performed throughout the capitols of Europe and North and South America appearing as a Guest Artist with many of the world’s leading dance companies.
The legendary Rudolf Nureyev, whom she has said was one of her favorite dance partners, describd her as “America’s Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” the highest title in the ballet hierarchy.
Her primary training was in classical ballet, first with Carmelita Maracci in Los Angeles and later with San Francisco Ballet. She was soon invited to join that company and quickly rose to the rank of principal dancer. She later joined American Ballet Theatre and became a major international ballerina.
Cynthia Gregory – Photo by Martha Swope
Although her repertoire included leading roles in all the great classics such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia and Don Quixote, she also mastered contemporary works by Balanchine, DeMille, Limon, Culberg, Tetley, Tudor, Ailey, Tharp, Feld, Smuin and Nahat.
As well as the Capezio award, she has received similar recognition from Harkness Ballet Foundation, Dance Magazine, Dance Educators of America, Ford Foundation, New York Public Library, National Arts Club, Hofstra University and State University New York.
In addition to coaching, staging and conducting master classes for ballet companies worldwide, she paints, has authored two successful ballet books, serves as Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Coach and chairs that company’s National Honorary Board.
In 1991 she became Chairman of the Board of Career Transition for Dancers an organization dedicated to providing guidance and assistance to the many dancers who, at a relatively early stage in their lives, have to change careers. She still serves as Chairman Emeritus.
Joanne DiVito is the Administrative Director of the Los Angeles office of Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD). Joanne also assists dancers through another organization, Liberal Education for Arts Professionals (LEAP).
Joanne DiVito in Jack Cole’s ‘Kismet’
As a ballet-trained dancer, Joanne performed with Illinois Ballet Company and in Broadway shows where she worked with Jack Cole, Ethel Merman and many other stars. She has choreographed and directed more than 100 projects for stage, movies and TV including Dance Fever and staging the opening of the 1994 World Cup.
When she decided to make her own career transition LEAP helped her obtain the college degrees that led her into major teaching and administrative positions. She says, “I know what LEAP did for me and how it changed my life. Now I want other dancers to know about it and to have the same experience that I’ve had.”
Other artists such as painters, composers and writers don’t have to consider career change because their artistic life-span is longer than that of a dancer who, around age 35, has to face the question, “What Do I Do Now?” And, unlike some sports figures, most dancers haven’t acquired fortunes during their professional lives.
One might wonder why dancers don’t try to prepare sooner. Many do try, but with their youth devoted to daily training, auditioning, rehearsing and performing there usually just isn’t enough time left for study and preparation. That’s where LEAP and CTFD can help.
Those two organizations have assisted thousands of transitioning dancers with counseling, training and education, computer skills, workshops, grants and scholarships, special college credits based on ‘life experience’ and help to acquire a degree even while one is still dancing. All that and much more are available to dancers and it’s free.
Thanks to Joanne and her many dedicated co-workers at LEAP and CTFD no dancer needs to wait until ‘that time’ comes. If you are a current or former dancer who needs help making a career change or if you know a colleague who needs some, contact Joanne. But don’t wait. Get started now!