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Life After The Stage: Fund Helps Milwaukee Ballet Dancers Transition Into New Careers

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Although ballet dancers begin training quite young, their professional lives are often short. Most dancers have moved on to another career by the time they’re in their mid-30s. But when you’ve spent hours a day in class and rehearsal since you were a child, it’s hard to imagine yourself doing something else.

Fortunately for the dancers at the Milwaukee Ballet, they have a resource to help them. The Milwaukee Dancers’ Fund, Inc. exists to help dancers transition from being full-time performers into other careers.

"We thought it was really important to honor the talent and the passion of the dancers in their dance career by helping them then go on into the community in another capacity and bring that same passion to another line of work," says president Rachel Malehorn.

The nonprofit organization is run by Milwaukee Ballet dancers, but on their own time. The Fund helps with things like career counseling and tuition assistance. Vice president Janel Hutchison says that both moral and financial support are crucial during the time of transitioning out of dance because it is not only a job, but a change of identity.

"As dancers, we are in very unique situations in that we are able to be young enough when we retire from dance to really build an entirely new career," she explains.

Whether the dancers decide to remain in the arts or go into a different career field, Malehorn says that part of their goal is not only to help dancers transition into a different professional career, but to also keep the assets Milwaukee Ballet dancers offer in the city.

"We've been here enjoying this city and dancing in this city and participating in the arts scene in this city, and we want to encourage our dancers to stay in Milwaukee and continue contributing to the culture and the arts scene, or just the community in Milwaukee," she says.

The Milwaukee Dancers' Fund annual fundraising Behind the Curtain performance event takes place Saturday, January 21 at 7:30 pm at the Ballet’s home on 5th and National.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.