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Meet Dani Maloney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dani Maloney.

Dani, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in a small little country town in the upper left corner of Pennsylvania called Corry. Growing up here, there was not much access to art of any form. In fact, you would have to drive an hour in one direction just to get to a movie theater. While the arts were hard to access, I always had an interest in performing.

Because of this, my mom put me in dance classes at a young age. She would drive an hour to get to work, another hour to come back home to pick me up, yet another hour just to take me to dance classes, and then another hour to get back home most days of the week. That would be 4 hours in the car just to let me take a couple of hours of dance classes. My mom is a rockstar.

My passion for dancing always continued to grow above most things. I tried cheerleading, soccer, softball, and a whole lot of other sports, but dancing always seemed to be the avenue I was most interested in. I danced at a studio called Long’s School of Dance in Erie, PA, and that became the place I spent the most time in besides school. I also had a growing love for circus arts, specifically aerial work and contortion, that I would continue to train in as well over the years.

Fast forward to college auditions. Fresh out of high school, I didn’t know how to make a career out of dance. I didn’t have the tools to jump straight into a career, making a college dance program the next logical step. I auditioned for at least 12 schools, and got a whole lot of “no’s”. I got tapped out at plie’s, got cut off before singing the rest of my 32 bars, and got all of the “keep trying but no” rejection letters in the mail. It was difficult but I still knew that this was something I had to do. In one of my college auditions in Pittsburgh, I met someone named Haley who was a lovely ballerina. She was just one of those people you notice right away because of her talent and her look. Oddly enough, she happened to be in one of my last auditions at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia. Admiring her skill, I stood by her during this audition and tried to emulate her technique and grace. And what do you know, I got into that school! I have a totally unknown girl, who would later become one of my good friends to thank for helping me kickstart my career.

Once I got to Shenandoah, I hit the ground running as a dance BFA student. I trained harder than I ever thought possible, made connections with my faculty and fellow dancers that would last a lifetime, and really tried to be a sponge, absorbing all the information thrown at me. There are so many teachers from this institution that shared invaluable information about this career with me, and I cannot thank them enough. Even with my occasional sickness, I never missed a single dance class until my senior year when I was out working or at auditions. I truly committed myself to the lifestyle of training and it became a healthy addiction. I would attend a lot of dance intensives for companies starting my freshman year of college and started to audition as soon as I was a sophomore.

My first professional job was as a dancer where I also did contortion for a show called “Luminosity” and Cedar Point. I worked this job in between my sophomore and junior year. While I was a junior, I also started developing a passion for creating my own work. I made a dance collective named DMD (Dani Maloney and Dancers) and started performing my work at various festivals. I was also performing in Maurice Fraga’s company, Ekilibre, during this time. Once I was a senior I was asked to come back to Cedar Point to perform in their Halloweekends as a contortionist. So I would train at school Monday to Friday, drive 6 hours to Ohio Saturday morning, perform 11 sets between Saturday and Sunday, drive 6 hours back to school Sunday night, and do it all again. I was planning on graduating early in December of 2017 to go train in Israel in the springtime with a company called Kibbutz, but life threw another curveball at me. I went to an audition for a company called Diavolo, a company who I attended an intensive for after my freshman year, and was fortunate enough to book the job. They wanted me to join them right in the middle of their tour, so as soon as I was done with my final performance at Shenandoah, I flew to Oklahoma City the next morning to join Diavolo. I am very impulsive by nature, so the performer lifestyle of just going with the wind really seemed to work for me. I was excited and ready for this next chapter.

I toured with Diavolo for the rest of the 2018 season into August of the 2019 season and moved to Los Angeles March 2018 because that is where the company is based. The time I was with Diavolo was one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences of my life. The company works with set pieces and does acrobatic dance work that manipulates and is manipulated by the set. I have never been more sore, had more bruises, or had to be this alert in my life. In some of the shows, halfway through we would think to ourselves, “Wow, I am exhausted, how am I going to make it through another 20 minutes of this?” But we always did, and every show ended with an emotionally exhilarated crowd standing and screaming surrounded by some of the most badass artists who just went through this experience together.

Out in Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to be signed with Go 2 Talent Agency in the Spring of 2018 and started gigging both aerial and dance in the area. One of my favorite jobs I have worked was with the LA Philharmonic in the fall of 2018. Patrick McCollum choreographed and Berry Edelstein directed “The Tempest.” It was a cast full of amazing actors, musicians, singers, dancers, creators, and I learned so much from each and every one of them. I began working more jobs with a circus focus and started doing events with TMU Events in Los Angeles and Interlaced Productions in Dallas, Texas.

After booking a show in Vegas called Cherry Boom Boom, I moved out to Las Vegas in December 2019 and started performing at the OYO casino on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This show has been something very new and exciting for me because it is totally different from everything I have ever done. It is a stiletto heels rock and roll show, where we swing and do aerial from different rigs, and really give the audience an immersive experience. I also work the desk and train at a beautiful aerial studio in Vegas called Shine Fitness and began on-call teaching at Millennium Dance Complex Las Vegas.

I am really excited to continue growing my career here not only in dance but in circus as well, and I am currently working toward bringing DMD back and starting to do project-based work again. I commute back and forth between LA and Vegas, to work different jobs and attend all of the auditions I can. I still am signed with Go 2 Talent agency, and my agents are phenomenal and really do everything they can to help me create the career I have dreamed of. I look forward to continuing the impulsivity of my dance career. Who knows what will happen next!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I got diagnosed with an autoimmune system disorder called HSP, short for Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. In short, it made me experience a lot of joint pain, random swelling, a constant fever, and little purple dots that grew on my legs from my feet up, basically making me look like Mystique’s distant cousin by the time we figured out what was wrong with me. This disorder is more common in babies, so it took a lot of doctors looking at me like I was a mutant to finally get a diagnosis. This disorder also messed up my kidney function, making it more serious and forcing me to go on a year and a half of some intense medication. One of those medications was CellCept. This essentially slowed down my immune system, and then a high dose of medical steroids that did the opposite. The steroids had a lot of negative side effects. The symptoms include feeling extremely hungry all of the time, weakening your bones, making your emotions run haywire all hours of the day, massive weight gain, and something called “moon face”. Moon face is where you have water retention in your face and neck, ultimately making you look like a different person entirely. I used the doctor telling me I was going to gain at least 30 pounds on this medication as motivation. I ran all the time, I didn’t eat anything with over 100 mg of sodium, and I avoided most processed foods, resulting in me actually losing about 15 pounds by time I had to go into my next check up. However, I could not stop the moon face growth so I basically looked like I was 50 pounds heavier in my face, and 15 pounds lighter on bottom. A very odd combination to say the least. After a year and a half of medicine, the HSP went into remission, and I was able to work off the side effects of the medication. But all of this craziness took me in and out of dance, and it was in the times where I couldn’t dance that I realized how much I needed it. Even though I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do it, I knew then that this was the career path I should be on. I would still have to deal with little issues with my immune system, but with time I learned how to control it the best I could with my eating habits and workout routines.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I specialize in contemporary dance but I do partake in all different forms of dance. My career has strongly reflected a circus/athletic style of movement. Lyra is my favorite aerial apparatus but I also have done silks, bungee, static trapeze, hammock, wall running, dance harness, and a few others. My career has really been focused around the word “badass” or “intense”. I often book work that includes successfully completing challenging physical feats.

My choreography is normally in the athletic contemporary category, but I do occasionally push myself to new realms. I love to exploit topics society rarely talks about, physically challenge my dancers both independently and in partnering, play with musicality, and emotionally push my dancers to break the fourth wall with honesty and commitment.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My parents both work functional careers. My mom is a chemist and engineer, and my father is a business owner and accountant. They have always been my number one support system even during the most challenging times of my life. There are moments where you are not booking anything, times where living is more expensive than the money you’re making, and times you question if you are doing the right things to be successful. My mom and dad never had a doubt about me or what I was doing.

I feel a great sense of pride when my parents get to be audience members in a show I am performing in. There is something so satisfying about showing them how much I have grown, demonstrating the possibilities that are in the artistic world, and also showing them the faith they have put into me and my dreams wasn’t incorrectly placed.

Another moment that makes me feel immensely proud is when I take a bow after a live show. This is not because of the recognition from the audience, but it is normally the time that I first recognize myself. I am a bit of a workhorse, and when I am prepping for a show or training, I only see the things I want to improve and I fixate on that. Knowing that there are endless things to work on has become the way I constantly stay inspired. When you reach the moment of the bow, there are still so many things to improve upon, but in that moment, you are able to say, “I just did that.” There is a moment or relief. There is a moment of pride. There is a moment of inspiration. Then we do it all again.

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Image Credit:
Estate Serenity Imagery, NLink-Photography, Lindsay Rosenberg

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