Translating Dance

Learning about many facets of dance opened my eyes to a range of possibilities and prepared me to take on each opportunity I encountered.

Academic Focus: dance and English double major

Advanced Degrees: Certificate in Arts Administration, New York University

I grew up dancing and dreaming of a career in dance, but I knew I didn’t want to be onstage. I’d always liked to write, so I entered Mount Holyoke thinking that I would study English and Dance and go into journalism in order to write about the arts.

I was fortunate to have professors in both departments who encouraged my aspirations. Professor Jim Coleman designed an independent study in dance writing for me and another student; and Professor Donald Weber indulged my examination of Martha Graham in his American Autobiography literature course. Professors in just about every technique class required me to see local performances and write about what I saw. The skills I honed there, learning how to translate dance into written and verbal language, have been invaluable in my career.

Along the way, I developed an interest in all the backstage aspects of dance production and worked on one stage crew after another. Under Jean Baxter’s expert guidance I learned about stage management and lighting, and as student director of the spring concert, I got to try my hand at writing press releases, managing front of house operations and more. I’m grateful that learning about so many facets of dance opened my eyes to a range of possibilities and prepared me to take on each opportunity I encountered.

Since graduating almost 20 years ago I’ve been a production intern at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, an assistant stage manager at Atlanta Ballet and an office administrator at Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. I’ve done company management and grant writing, and for 15 years I’ve had the great pleasure of working in the Marketing department of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where I use my dance knowledge, my writing skills and everything I’ve learned along the way to attract and engage audiences. Marketing is about more than selling tickets; it’s about educating and inspiring people and selling an experience. All of my training and each job I’ve done make me better able to do that.

I always advise students to learn it all and try it all.

My favorite dancers are the ones who know and appreciate what happens behind the scenes and understand that we’re all working toward the same goals. If you want to pursue a career in administration or production, the practical experiences you gain as an undergrad will help you tremendously. If you want to be a performer or choreographer, learn as much as you can about all the roles that support what goes on onstage. That’s the beauty of a liberal arts setting that offers you so many opportunities – make the most of it.

About Lynette Rizzo ’96: Rizzo has worked in her current position for more than 11 years and serves on the executive advisory committee for Buglisi Dance Theater.