Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, Warren Adams loved to dance. From classical ballet to contemporary performances, wherever melodies soared and bodies leapt across stage, Adams felt an intense physical and emotional connection.
That connection continued as he spent time in London and Australia and finally landed in America, working for various dance companies. As a choreographer, his work ranged from ensuring Meryl Streep didn’t fall in her 5-inch heels in Julie & Julia to interpreting one of Barack Obama’s speeches into a ballet.
Now, Adams has relinquished his choreographing days (for now, at least) to focus on a new venture connecting the entire dance community: Home4Dance.com. The newly relaunched site, which already boasts nearly 6,500 members, creates jobs and opens doors by allowing dancers, videographers, choreographers, and costume designers — anyone in the field, presumably — to share resumes and contact information in one central hub.
Title: Founder and CEO, Home4Dance
Graduated from: Brunel University, The Rambert School, London, UK
Favorite genres: Classical ballet, contemporary/modern
Previous jobs: Choreographer for, among others: Disney’s Toy Story: The Musical and Julie and Julia
How Home4Dance was founded: A few years ago, I ruptured my Achilles tendon and was out of commission for many months. For the first time in my life, I was unable to pay my bills with my legs. My life slowed down and I started looking at dance from outside the bubble; I began exploring ideas of how dance could use technology to better itself on a global scale. After much research and development, I found a business partner in Anil Kappa, who also became my angel investor.
What it does: Home4Dance connects the dance ecosystem; our primary focus is on identity, connections, and jobs, but as the community grows, so do the opportunities. A young choreographer looking for a costume designer might not be able to afford that expense, but there might be a student graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology looking to expand his or her portfolio. Home4Dance has the ability to connect them, and the membership is now up to about 6,500 members.
Are you still choreographing, too? I took a leave of absence from choreographing; the last work I did was Magdalena in Paris in May 2010. But I do plan on getting back to that in the future.
How long have you been dancing? I’ve been dancing since age 7. I was born and raised in Apartheid South Africa, and a few months after Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, I won the Nelson Mandela/Sainsbury Scholarship sponsored by Linbury Trust. After graduating from The Rambert School in London, I joined a contemporary dance company, traveled to Australia, and then moved to the United States.
Where do you draw inspiration from? It’s never just one thing. For example, in [the ballet] “The Audacious One,” I based [the dance] on the “Audacity of Hope” speech Obama gave in 2003 at a convention in Massachusetts. I took the text apart and interpreted the philosophy into a dance, which premiered in 2008.
No Joe Schmo exclusive! Go behind the scenes of the Home4Dance video shoot:
How is your choreography distinctive? When listening to music, I don’t just listen to the rhetorical structure — all of the bits in between give you so much information, allowing you to create many layers. There are so many layers to choreography when you understand the music, versus just choreographing to the down beat.
Why is dance so important to you? It’s something I’ve done since I was a little boy, there is a physical and emotional connection second to none. Plus, dance has been around since the beginning of time. I try to imagine a world without dance, and that would be absolutely terrifying.
Tell me about working with Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. I staged a wedding scene where Stanley Tucci and Meryl were dancing. Meryl she was wearing very high platforms — Julia Child was extremely tall, but Meryl isn’t nearly as tall. So we staged a shot where Meryl was being twirled around in 5-inch platforms, and had to make sure she didn’t fall down.
If you could choreograph any show or program on TV, what would it be? I’d love to do a long commercial showing New York City just using motion.
Technology you’re fascinated by: Avatar’s capture of motion.
Favorite music of the moment: Kid Cudi and anything by Jay-Z.
Favorite dance piece: The dance scene in Stormy Weather with the Nicholas brothers. I could watch it over and over.
What’s the typical salary for a dancer? 92% of the industry is freelance, so even when you have a job, you’re thinking about your next job. In terms of that 8% that is “full time” — that’s still only 40 weeks of the year. On average, a working dancer usually makes $30,000/year, but there’s a range from $25,000 to $100,000/year.
The last time you laughed really hard: I met a friend at the fountain in Lincoln Center [in Manhattan] the other day, and without us realizing, the fountain rose 15 feet and soaked us both. Everyone else had seen it coming, so they moved.
LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Warren Adams distills the “move to New York and become a dancer” pipe dream.
1. My director at The Rambert School, Ross McKim, gave me great advice: the first company you dance in, is almost never the company you want to end up in. Have the tenacity to stick with it. Realize that it’s not going to be quite as you’ve planned, but that’s what makes it exciting.
2. Find mentors, stick with them, and learn from them. My mentor was Lynn Taylor-Corbett, who choreographed the very first Footloose with Kevin Bacon. She opened so many doors for me.
3. When you get to New York City, go where the traffic is. Visit the large studios like the Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. Your information will come from there. The most innovation comes from interacting with others, not by sitting at a desk, so go to studios and just interact – you’ll see job postings or overhear something. Most of my early gigs came from accidents.