Karen More’s resumé reads like a dancer’s greatest-hits list. From gigs with modern companies like Donald Byrd/The Group and Elisa Monte Dance, to ensemble roles at Radio City Music Hall and in the European tour of West Side Story, the petite, sparkly-eyed dancer has worked in virtually every dance genre.
But now at 33, More must face a new reality: Her injuries require more attention than they once did. Early this year a severe hip problem resurfaced and abruptly halted her plans to perform with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company for its 40th anniversary season in November. Though tempted to try and dance through the pain, More decided to put her health first.
“I was lying on the floor in my room in horrible pain,” she says, when she realized, “If I stayed in the pieces, I would most likely get too injured and have no choice but to have surgery. At some point you have to take responsibility and choose what makes sense.” Fortunately, with the help of physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage, she hopes to return to performing later in 2008. In the meantime, she has gained a new respect for her body, as well as patience—a quality that was absent earlier in her career.
As a child, More trained intensively with Deborah Agrusa and Luba Kytasta in Rochester, Michigan. When she moved to New York City at 18 to attend Marymount Manhattan College, More was indefatigable, often taking class for an entire day at Steps on Broadway. Although she enjoyed college, she left it behind without a second thought when she was offered a job with Philadanco. “I didn’t think about the future at all,” she says. “I could only see dance in front of me.”
Consistent work followed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t ignore that increasingly her body was not bouncing back from injury the way it once had. So in 2005, she started looking into options with the help of Career Transition For Dancers. Her long-time love of children led her to consider elementary education, and in 2008 she began volunteering at the Taft Day Care Center.
More also applied for a grant to finish her bachelor’s degree through the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals (LEAP) program sponsored by St. Mary’s College of California. The New York branch offers classes located in midtown, convenient for dancers arriving from theaters or rehearsal studios. With LEAP, a performance career can count for up to 30 credits toward a liberal arts degree—it’s seen as the equivalent of a college dancer’s technique training.
“They took all of my transfer credits and are extremely helpful and accommodating. That’s so important at this stage,” she says.
While sidelined, More will focus on yoga and Pilates. But with encouragement from her health team, she is eager to return to dance as soon as possible—her future career plan tucked into her pocket. “It’s so important to have a serious focus in dance. But you learn that finding balance and exploring other passions as they pop up is important too—and as early as possible. The transition is easier if you have looked into whatever has sparked your interest outside of dance along the way.”
photo by Topher Cox, courtesy of dre.dance