Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Callahan.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Mary. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve danced for as long as I can remember. My mom put me in ballet at age three and I never stopped! As a kid, I would take every class I could, watch movie musicals and attend local live theater performances, and make my family and neighbors act as my audience while I put on full productions in my garage. Dance was my favorite thing in the world, but I also had other interests. I played lots of sports, did the spring musicals, was a cheerleader, and I enjoyed school, too. Even though dance was my passion, I didn’t feel compelled to pursue it right out of high school – neither professionally nor in college.
After high school, I attended Scripps College, a very small all-women liberal arts school in Claremont, California. What I loved most about Scripps was that every student was incredibly passionate about and invested in what she was studying whether visual art, biochemistry, or political science. It was in college that I discovered a love for writing. In high school, writing felt forced and formulaic… You had to write about certain straightforward themes or concepts in a structure that was uninspired and unforgiving. But at Scripps, I realized writing was its own art. You could be both creative and clever, inquisitive and impactful. It was a sort of choreography.
I also kept up dancing while at Scripps—I took ballet and modern classes, auditioned for the student-choreographed concerts, and was part of the dance team. And in my sophomore year, when a guest choreographer (LA native, DJ Gray) came to set a theater jazz piece for the spring production, I was eager to be a part of it.
While most third-year students at Scripps study abroad, my upcoming plan to spend the fall in London suddenly didn’t feel right. Throughout the weeks of rehearsal, DJ noticed my passion for dance and raw talent. She encouraged me to audition for a four month intensive training program at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. I submitted, was accepted, and convinced my parents that 1) I would still graduate on time, 2) NYC was cheaper than London, and 3) this would get dance “out of my system.”
The Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center changed my life. I was challenged as a dancer, taking twelve technique classes each week along with mock auditions, workshops, and masterclasses. I learned about the business side of the industry, experienced the hustle of New York City, trained with world-renowned teachers and choreographers, and—ultimately—realized that this is where I belonged. After our final mock audition at the end of the semester, the visiting dance agent handed me her card. A fire was already beginning to burn inside me, and this was validation that someone else believed in me, too.
It’s crazy to say I have officially lived in New York for almost nine years. Since the program at BDC, I’ve worked professionally in commercials, national tours, television shows, music videos, and live concerts. In addition to actually dancing, I still love to watch dance. But seeing shows can get. Back when I was at BDC, I noticed an ad seeking contributing dance reviewers for broadwayworld.com. This gig, though unpaid, allowed me to see shows for free and process and share my thoughts and feelings in my writing. The challenge of putting dance—an ephemeral art form that transcends language—into words was exciting. I believe that taking the time to digest, question, analyze, and write about different genres of dance has helped shape the performer I am today.
As my “portfolio” of reviews for Broadway World steadily grew, I began reaching out and pitching to other dance and theater publications like Dance Spirit Magazine, Dance Informa, and On-Stage Blog. I’m so grateful to have found a “side-hustle” that I truly love—and one that keeps me learning, growing, and participating in the industry. After my semester at BDC, I finished my bachelor’s at NYU where I created my own major, Writing Dance. This fall I will graduate with my master’s in Performing Arts Administration. I love school and I love learning… Maybe next will be my Ph.D.!
I hope my writing encourages and inspires dancers to have a voice, choreographers to explore new ideas, audiences to engage in performance, and the world at large to have greater respect and understanding of dance… and each other.
Has it been a smooth road?
My path has definitely been a winding road like the Robert Frost quote about taking the road less traveled. Hiccups popped up along the way, but I sincerely believe that in each case, I was either meant to go in another direction or to learn a very valuable lesson. Even my trajectory from high school to New York City was a bit zigzag. That’s the beauty of discovering your vocation. There really is no formula. Even if everyone else is following the same path, you can still forge your own. Of course, there will be bumps. But it’s much more exciting to follow your heart than to follow the leader.
The Dance Journalist – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’ve been writing about dance since I’ve lived in New York, but I only came up with “The Dance Journalist” a few years ago. I love marketing and branding, so giving myself this persona felt both fun and pseudo-official. I continue to pitch stories and contribute to various online publications. Since quarantine, I’ve begun writing pieces just for my blog. I like diving into the tough questions…That’s when the growth and understanding happens. Since starting “The Dance Journalist,” I frequently get inquiries via Instagram, email, and my website. That’s been a really cool feeling… To realize that my writing is contributing to the greater dance dialogue.
But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think there’s anything “exceptional” about what I do. I love to dance, to question, to learn, and to write. Yet, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in any of those fields. I will say that I strive to make my writing a conversation with readers. I don’t believe in being cruel and critical or fluffy and insincere. There’s enough of that out there and, really, what good does it do? I want to ask meaningful questions, pose provocative ideas, recognize trends and trials, and do what I can to encourage the evolution of this inspiring and transformative art form.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Most: I was born and raised in California and will always be a California girl at heart. I love the weather, landscape, and the easy-going vibe. (And In-N-Out Burger)
Least: I don’t like driving… At all.
- Website: www.thedancejournalist.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @thedancejournalist
Justin Patterson, Paul B. Goode, Murphy Made, Mallory Pettee, Rachel Neville