Pittsburgh Ballet helps its retiring dancers

By by Natalie Bell

Retirement at age 30 sounds likes a dream for most people, but for ballet dancers, it’s a… Retirement at age 30 sounds likes a dream for most people, but for ballet dancers, it’s a reality that means starting all over again. This Saturday at Point Park University’s George White Performance Theater, the Dancer’s Trust Fund will hold a show as a fundraiser for the organization. What makes the show so unique is that dancers are able to choose their own piece and partner, and so the dances are all different. Dancers at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater who were concerned about their retirement started The Dancer’s Trust Fund in 1993. Dancers who were with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater are eligible for two $1,500 scholarships to aid in their transition from dance to other careers. So far, the organization granted more than $80,500 to retiring dancers. Ballet dancers generally begin training as children and start their careers in their late teens, when many people head to college and just begin to consider their job choices. However, a full career for a dancer is a short one. ‘I think retiring for dancers can be different. Some people are forced to retire much earlier because of injury and that can be a shock,’ said Christopher Rendall-Jackson, the logistical coordinator for the Dancer’s Trust and a dancer on his way to receiving the trust, as he approaches his retirement. ‘I’m sure I’ll have a hard time once I have left because, like I mentioned, I’ve been doing this since I’ve been 8,’ said Rendall-Jackson, who received a bachelor’s degree from Pitt and will move on to Harvard Law School post-retirement, where the fund will help pay for schooling. He currently hopes to go into labor law and return to help with the Dancer’s Trust and the unionized Pittsburgh Ballet Theater dancers, though he admits that he’s keen on seeing what kind of law he enjoys once he gets to law school. Rendall-Jackson isn’t the only dancer to take classes at Pitt. Aaron Ingley, a retired dancer, enrolled full time at Pitt this year and is majoring in both finance and history. Ingley took classes at Pitt while he was still a professional dancer. In order to balance a full-time dance career and classes, he took one or two classes a semester. That said, he beats out any super-seniors. ‘It only took me nine years, but I’m finally a junior,’ he jokes. He’ll finish his degree in a comparatively speedy two-and-a-half years. ‘It sort of feels good to be moving on, I’ve accomplished this one dream, and now I have this freedom to sort of figure out what the next big dream chase will be. This is one of those transition times in life and one of those great opportunities where you can sort of do anything you want,’ said Ingley. Ingley’s not exactly sure where he’s going yet in his career, but he has a few years to figure it out. Of the Dancer’s Trust Ingley said, ‘They had a great idea back then and have successfully evolved it into a worthwhile and really well functioning fund, and they’ve managed to give out a lot of scholarships to a lot of really well-deserving people.’