In a glass-walled room above New York’s 42nd Street, a group of dancers sit around a conference table, listening closely to Annette Lieberman explain why they need a financial plan. There are women in their 20s and men in their 40s, dancers just starting out and dancers looking a career transition in the face.
“Each of you is an entrepreneur, not an employee,” says Lieberman, author of The Money Mirror: How Money Reflects Women’s Dreams, Fears and Desires. “Even if you have a gig, you need to remember you’re in business for yourself. No one’s going to take care of you, especially in show business.”
The financial straight talk is part of “Healing the Dancer,” a seminar presented last May by the Dancers’ Resource, a new initiative of The Actor’s Fund. Brainchild of Broadway triple threat Bebe Neuwirth, DR aims to help active dancers deal with the rigors of professional life and plan for the future.
Neuwirth realized when she was recovering from hip replacement surgery several years ago that many dancers had to face the challenge of coming back from an injury without the network of support she could draw on. “If you’re a dancer you probably have injury, financial woes, stress,” she says. “It’s exacerbated by the need for secrecy. Dancers can’t let anyone know they’re hurt because they’re so replacable.”
The Actor’s Fund offers many services to help dancers, but Neuwirth realized that few took advantage of them. So she raised the seed money to launch a special outreach program to the dance community. DR now employs a full-time social worker, Alice Vienneau, as coordinator. The initiative will periodically hold seminars like “Healing the Dancer,” which offered free workshops on nutrition and injury prevention, emotional wellness, and financial counseling. It will also plug dancers into ongoing services, support groups, and referrals.
Neuwirth hopes the program will help dancers realize that they need not struggle alone with the rigor of a dance life. “You get a group of dancers in the room, and whether they’re a Paul Taylor dancer or a Rockette, they speak the same language,” she says. “We’re all the same animal and the goal is that dancers now know the Actor’s Fund is there for them.”