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The Freelance Dancer Who Wants to Hire Other Freelancers

Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy of Donna Salgao

Donna Salgado knew she wanted to be a choreographer as early as her preteen days in the Nutcracker snow corps. "I'd be standing there, in B-plus, thinking about how it might be better if the teacher put us in a circle here," she says. After eking out a career as a freelance dancer in New York City for a few years, she finally made good on that dream and founded her project-based contemporary ballet company, CONTINUUM. "I started my company to give opportunities to great dancers who weren't getting seen," says Salgado (who still performs as a freelance dancer). "I felt this responsibility." Now, seven years later, she's still providing opportunities—this time, to emerging choreographers. Salgado is curating the contemporary ballet portion of Bryant Park's Contemporary Dance Festival this month. "My curatorial focus is independently produced dance," she says. "There's a rich community of artists in New York who are so dedicated to their craft, and I want to give them exposure at this awesome space in the dance capital of the world."


Training: BFA in dance from Towson University; MFA from SUNY Purchase

Performance: Eglevsky Ballet; Connecticut Ballet; ad Hoc Ballet

Choreography: Founded CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet in 2010

Teaching: The School at Steps on Broadway; Joffrey Ballet SchoolOn the importance of ballet class "If you don't have anything going on, go to ballet. If you're filled to the brim, go to ballet. You have to be prepared at any moment for that next gig. And you have to be able to demonstrate without injuring yourself, even as a choreographer. There's nothing worse than not being able to demonstrate for your dancers."

How she handles directing herself as a performer "If I'm in the section I'm working on, I have to videotape. That's key. I'll have someone come in and watch and give me notes. It could be something as small as holding your breath in one section. You need someone to tell you to breathe. Or I can call on my sister Vanessa [a dancer in the company] to step out and give me notes. She's really honest, and she knows I won't take it personally. It takes a lot of discipline—there've been a couple of times when I didn't do that, and I wasn't fully happy with the project."

On finding the right music "One time I went to a music concert that was really avant-garde. I didn't connect with it at all. On the way home, I saw a bunch of musicians on the subway platform. They got into my train car, and suddenly I was surrounded by them playing. Their music was so infectious. I just started bopping my head along, tapping my foot. When I got out of the subway, I started crying, because I'd really connected to that music. It was so serendipitous. I ended up making a piece, Prismatic Abstractions, using all of that [Jon Batiste's] music."

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