Real Talk - Transitioning Dancers: Brian McNeal


By Armando Braswell

When someone is being interviewed, they always put their best face forward. “Real Talk " is designed to help young dancers and professionals by providing them with the whole truth about the problems faced by artists … on stage and off.

For this issue we talked with Brian McNeal, a New Yorker with a degree in dance from the Juilliard School. He is a former soloist with Balletttheater München and star dancer with Kevin O’Day Ballett Mannheim. After recently deciding to leave the stage, he currently teaches and even still performs as a freelance artist, all over the world.

At what point did you start thinking about stopping dancing in a company?

During my last seasons in the company, I began to participate in small projects around town both as dancer and choreographer. This sparked my curiosity and interest for new artistic challenges.

Things you like to do other than dancing?

As I was not dancing full time, I was able to explore other ways of moving that helped me stay physically active. I was learning how to swim, bouldering, running, and CrossFit training. I also like to cook and travel when possible.

The hardest thing about being outside of the theater?

The theater provided stability. Now I am solely responsible for finding work and earning income, networking, finding funds for projects, creating projects, and arranging my insurances and pension plan. I’m completely out of my comfort zone. It’s hard but I love a challenge.

The best thing about being a freelancer?

The best thing about freelance is the freedom it provides. I have time for myself and to do what I want. It has also forced me to re-evaluate who I am and as a result I feel more confident as an artist and a person. I have also met many new people outside of the dance community.

How do you stay active and fit now?

CrossFit! It’s a strength and conditioning high intensity fitness program. It is a combination of gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, calisthenics, strongman and other exercises such as running, swimming, and rowing. I recently began my journey as a CrossFit athlete, and will be competing in several competitions this year in France and Germany.

What do you do for work now?

It’s an exciting time. I have the opportunity to expand my network and work on my craft as a choreographer. I am developing my own movement workshop called “Juicy Joints”. Juicy Joints looks to provide a playful exploratory atmosphere to physically investigate the movement possibilities of the body. I am teaching different dance styles ranging from ballet to afro jazz at various schools throughout Germany and Switzerland. This year I have accepted a resident guest teacher position in Switzerland, which keeps me traveling and running into new opportunities.

One of your favorite ways to relax?

Rest and recovery is important for the balance of life. I love going to the salt cave in Mannheim. It’s a very relaxing 45-min salt therapy session.

Upcoming projects or goals for 2018?

As of right now, I will be presenting choreography at several festivals in Germany, I will be performing in the US at the international dance festival “Dance Salad Houston”, and I am scheduled to give dance workshops in Germany and Switzerland throughout 2018. I am also excited to expand my Juicy Joints movement workshops and get more people moving! Aside from dancing I am also looking to become a CrossFit coach.

Photos by Jubal Battisti



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