Courtney’s dream comes true as she joins Mark Morris Dance Group
This year Courtney Lopes got her dream job, a full-time position with the acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group.
The 32-year-old auditioned four times before she was accepted into the Brooklyn-based company as a “supplementary dancer” in January.
Four months later she was offered a permanent spot and is now one of ten dancers touring with MMDG’s latest musical collaboration with Ethan Iverson, The Look of Love: An Evening of Dance to the Music of Burt Bacharach.
“It's actually a dream come true. And it was pretty cool because I didn't get the job from the audition; I had to prove myself. I felt like I had auditioned for this man for so long and I think he was really trying to get to know me in a way that we had never really gotten to know each other before. And once he did, I think he realised that I could actually do what he needed me to do.”
Ms Lopes started lessons at about the age of eight with In Motion School of Dance. Six years later she left Bermuda to attend a performing arts school in North Carolina. She then continued her dance studies at SUNY Purchase in New York. In 2012 she began dancing professionally with a number of smaller companies.
And then in 2020, with the arrival of Covid-19, she came back to Bermuda to teach at In Motion.
“I think I was very much settling down in Bermuda in a way that felt really good but then there was this audition for this dance company and it was my dream job,” she said.
“It was the November 11 holiday that weekend and I was like, I'm just gonna go. This will be my last time and if I don't get the job, then it's a sign. I'm done.”
She did not get the job but was instead hired as an extra in case someone fell ill and was unable to dance while on tour.
The job was only meant to last “a couple of months”. In January Ms Lopes moved back to New York and started working.
“It was around May where they called me in to have a meeting and they offered me a full time job.”
Delighted, she immediately called her family and her mentor, In Motion founder Lizz Pimentel, to give them the good news.
“I feel like I've kind of done everything a little bit backwards,” Ms Lopes said.
“A lot of people join a company like this right out of college. It’s their first job and it's this incredible thing. But I feel what's unique about my experience is that I struggled; I hustled. I did the whole freelance lifestyle for the past 11 years and then, I wasn’t giving up but I think that I was getting tired. I was trying to figure out next steps: do I go to grad school? What do I do from here? And then this job, it just kind of happened.”
She officially started the full-time role in July and is now nearing the end of a six-month probation period, which she feels went well.
“You get to know the dancers and the company; you get to know the style of work and you kind of get a feel of what you're getting into,” she said.
The company’s last hire before her was a 22-year-old. Although starting at 32 was “a little weird” for Ms Lopes, she believes the company was thrilled that she had so much experience behind her and could “just start working”.
“At 32, starting a new dance career feels silly to a lot of people but I think that for me it was proof that it's really never too late. It’s the job that I’ll retire from my performing career.”
Her hope is to get Bermudian dancers in with MMDG for summer and winter intensives in New York. The group performed here with the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts in 2011.
“I feel like this new relationship can maybe happen. I don't think any Bermudian has ever even done a summer in New York at Mark Morris. So that's something kind of cool that I've talked about with the artistic director of Mark Morris Dance Group.”
Ms Lopes has had her eye on MMDG since she left Bermuda for high school.
“I saw the company perform and I got a taste of his work – I danced a little bit of it in college. I remember feeling really at home with the movement. I watched documentaries about him. Listening to him speak about the way he made dances and the way that he approached dance, it felt very much like something that I wanted to be a part of.”
While studying about Mark Morris in dance history classes at school, she remembers being impressed that he incorporated live music in all his performances.
“The things that matter to him also matter to me when it comes to dance. Especially that aspect, the live music part of it, is really amazing. I never perform now without a band or an orchestra or a live singer. I think he's a genius. He's been making dances since the late Eighties and I think that he just keeps getting better.”
The Look of Love will tour the world for the next two years. Ms Lopes has a leading role. Although Mr Morris is a hard taskmaster she is up for it.
“He expects a lot from us. He really challenges you in a way that some people hate and some people can't handle but I've always wanted to work really hard. I think that he really pushes me in a way that makes me be my best and I think I've grown.
“People give up so quickly. A couple years out of college, if they don’t get the job they want, they decide not to keep dancing, to do something else. But it's 11 years later and I landed a job that I've literally always wanted my whole life. It feels pretty incredible.”
For more information visit www.markmorrisdancegroup.org