Jul 7, 2020
This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra interviews Jessica Deahr, who is currently in her eighth season as Artistic Director at Chicago Dance Crash. Her work includes lengthy story ballets such as the award-winning The Bricklayers of Oz, which was named Chicago Tribune’s Best Dance in 2017 and Dance Magazine’s Most Inventive New Work. Towards the beginning of her career, Jessica also did commercial work for the World Wildlife Fund, Vital Proteins, and Royal Caribbean Productions, to name a few.
Jessica took the nontraditional route into professional dance, but she’d be the first to say that she has no regrets. Jessica, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, didn’t initially pursue dance out of fears of inadequacy; however, she was eventually drawn back to the stage and has since built quite an accomplished career. On the podcast, Deahr speaks to how her life experiences made her into a well-rounded dancer and how a wide range of knowledge is necessary to thrive in today’s industry.
“One other thing I could advise dancers on is adding business to their [dance] degrees… Nowadays, if you’re able to write grants and speak to that side of the dance company world, you make yourself even more versatile."
“I haven’t used my [sociology] degree yet officially, per se, but I would say I have no regrets in getting it. I think in many ways, I do have to use that degree now that I’m a director when I’m dealing with other people."
“The more variety you have under your belt, the better off you are."
“[When it comes to your passion,] if you don’t love it, it’s not going to work out. But if you do, you can make it work, even if you’re not the best technician or the whatever. It’s all about finding that thing where, when you wake up, you think, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do today. It’s not a chore.’"
“A lot of productivity comes from time spent in unmanaged down time."
“[Delegation is] something I’ve been trying to learn and work on and get better at as I get older. I think we don’t all know how to do that automatically, but that’s been a really cool thing for me in the past couple of years… It’s been fun learning not to bite off more than I can chew."
“I’m proud that I got to this position where I can make my own path with the dancers that I want to surround myself with, doing the art that we want to do. It’s easy to forget how lucky I am to do that."
“There are so many female artistic directors out there now that are proving you can both [work full-time and be a full-time mom]. You can have four kids and direct a company in the same way a male could. The open-mindedness of our culture is really working to eliminate that old mindset."
Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:
3:27: Jessica walks through her nontraditional journey into the dance industry and her nontraditional choice for a college major.
9:12: Jessica shares more information about her company, including its unique style of dance.
10:45: Deahr discusses her wide-ranging responsibilities as an artistic director and how, in this leadership role, she is learning the art of delegation.
12:52: Jessica retells her earliest days pursuing a dance career and how she quickly learned the importance of resiliency and time management.
14:53: Deahr describes how she manages the full workload of artistic director and reflects on how the COVID-19 quarantine has helped her gain focus.
16:56: Deahr discusses her favorite and most challenging aspects of her current role at Chicago Dance Crash.
21:54: Jessica reflects on the gender gap in dance leadership and how, today, significant progress is being made in that area.
24:19: Jessica speaks to the pride she feels in her long dance career and how she wouldn’t have thought this possible 20 years ago.
26:10: Deahr shares some advice for those that are seeking a career in the dance industry.
28:17: Jessica discusses how she first found her passion and why it’s worth your time to spend your life pursuing that passion.
Bullet List of Resources –
Chicago Dance Crash