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Dancers Over 40 ARTS Legacy

DO40 Arts Legacy Interview

Mary McCatty | Jamie Pierce

Mary McCatty

What inspired you to become a dancer?

My path to dance started with the Olympics. As a young girl in Troy, Michigan, after watching the gym-nastic competition on TV, I went into my front yard and started flipping. As my mom watched me throw my body around without fear, she decided to enroll me in a gymnastics program. I absolutely loved it. I was a competitive gymnast for many years and on my way to becoming a physical education teacher. My mom encouraged me to  start taking private ballet lessons (at 14) to help my floor and beam routines.  I ended up leaving my gymnastic team in my senior year of High School and switched to my new passion, DANCE! After moving to NYC as a ballerina/gymnast, my Michigan friend Alan Onickel persuaded me to go to take jazz and tap at Phil Black’s Dance Studio. This was the beginning of a dance and musical theatre career that took me around the world and filled me with happiness.

Who were most influential in your career?

There are so many people who helped me reach my goal to become a professional dancer (singer/actor). My mom, Frances McCatty, helped me with everything, and my dad, Donald McCatty encouraged me to go for my dreams.  In my beginning years, Delores Allison gave me ballet technique, confidence and many performance opportunities. I danced for a few years in her contemporary ballet company, Metropolitan Ballet Company of Michigan.  I also studied in Detroit with Enid Ricardeau who encouraged me to move to NYC.
Once in New York, I studied jazz and tap with Phil Black and Eddie Wright, Jr.  Eddie gave me my first professional job in Atlantic City.  I continued to take ballet with Madame Darvash and eventually found Finis Jhung, who taught me new ways of dancing.

I was introduced to an awesome voice teacher, Stephanie Samaras, who worked patiently with me on my singing and guided me through many auditions. She really gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of musical theatre.

Phil Black was definitely the most influential dance teacher in my career. He would push us but he was also very, very supportive. He didn’t just teach his dancers to dance, he wanted a performance with style during class. Every day was   different (Lyrical, Latin, Swing, Breakdancing/pop locking, Charleston, Jack Cole) so you really learned a diverse repertoire of movement. I miss those classes!

All of my dancing friends were a big part of my showbiz career and my support system. At the Phil Black studio, there were Broadway stars and people like me just starting out. The atmosphere was so exciting and always with electrifying energy.
That first year I was in awe of those amazing dancers in the front line. Eventually, I was invited into that front line (in those days you had to be “invited“) which made me work even harder. Those jazz and tap classes not only pushed me to be my best but guided me in the direction of dance education and choreography.

What were your most memorable dance performances?

Like most of us, there are so many.  A few of my favorites: first time on stage in My One and Only when I had to dance inches away from Tommy Tune. I could not believe I was tapping on stage with him. My first time on the Radio City stage with 35 other women facing an audience of 6000 felt very powerful.  Dancing a solo at the Silverdome in front of 60,000 people (I was a Detroit Piston cheerleader). And opening night in a Broadway show.

What was the most frightening or funny story?

Mary McCatty Rockette Life


At a special event at Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes were doing two numbers with Mayor Giuliani speaking in between. We had a quick change into Parade of the Wooden Soldiers costume.  The mayor ended his speech early and the stage manager thought that we were ready. Most of us were, but there were a few missing. That occasionally happens and there is a point in the routine that others can enter late without being too obvious.  So, the music started, I was second girl to enter on stage right and like always, the other 16 Rockettes would be following. As we marched out, we could see the other Rockettes (or most of them) coming out from the other side. The first move was a turn and as we faced the wings, there was no one behind me! It was just me and my friend Eileen Grace. As professionals, we continued with the choreography for another couple of 8’s and then the music stopped. We stood there in character looking at each other on that huge stage. The stage manager made an announce-ment to the audience and we marched backwards upstage so they could close the curtain. At the time it was embarrassing but later we loved laughing about it. I can still remember Eileen’s wide-eyed expression.  It makes me laugh all these years later.

What experience or legacy would you like to pass on?

As an educator, choreographer and director for over 20 years, my goal is to share my extensive knowledge in dance and inspire people to feel the Joy that I feel when dancing.  There is nothing better than watching a person grow, build confidence and find the passion that dance and theatre bring into the lives of people of all ages. 


Jamie Pierce

Jeri Kansas


What inspired you to become a dancer?

My mother was a dancer, it was her major in college. This was something I was vaguely aware of grow-ing up. But my own impetus to start dancing was seeing a bus and truck production of A Chorus Line when I was 11. In an instant not only was I inspired to start dancing but I was given a template for a career. The concept of the Broadway chorus dancer just intuitively made sense to me as the obvious and inevitable professional path. The next day I asked for lessons. My mother had tried putting my two sisters into dance and neither had maintained any interest. She was not expecting her son to be the one to carry the mantle but was nevertheless thrilled by this development. It also became the thing that really brought us close and for that I am grateful.

Who were the most influential people in your career?

Ann Reinking was an idol of mine growing up. For my 16th birthday, my mom took me to New York to see the Chicago revival and watching her on stage was like nothing else. I was thrilled when, at 21, I auditioned for and was selected to participate in her musical theatre training program, Broadway Theatre Project in Florida. That year was particularly magical because we had an incredible lineup of guest artists including, among others, Ben Vereen, Gregory Hines, Charlotte d'Amboise and an unannounced surprise from Dame Julie Andrews! But mostly having the opportunity to learn from and work with Ms. Reinking was invaluable. Many a of my cohorts that summer ended up going on tour with Fosse. I sadly wasn’t able to be considered since I’d decided to pursue an opportunity with Utah Ballet. I was disappointed not only to miss out on being a part of that production, but I wanted so badly to have Anne as my boss!  So, imagine my delight a few years later when she hired me to be her assistant during an extended teaching workshop at Broadway Dance Center. From her I learned about subtlety, artistry, musicality, storytelling, professional integrity and joy. I was devastated when we lost her last year. Talk about a legend.

What were your most memorable dance performances?

I will never forget in 2004, I was performing as part of Broadway in Bryant Park and we were doing Irving Berlin’s “Heat Wave” with Karen Ziemba and a male ensemble. That day set a record for turn out - 4,000 people showed up to watch the performance. Did I mention our costumes consisted of merely a Speedo? Well there I was, scantily clad, about to start the number when I took a moment to look around - out at the vast crowd (which included my parents) and, this being outdoors, New York City itself surrounding us with tall buildings and taxis whizzing by. I glanced over at our Tony-winning leading lady and this crop of amazing male dancers, the best of Broadway. Taking it all in, fortunately I had the wherewithal to pause and say to myself, “Never forget this moment because it truly doesn’t get better than this.”

What was the most frightening or funny story?

During a performance of Urinetown, I grabbed a lighting fixture that we used as a prop. There was a short in the wiring and it ended up sending a paralyzing shock through my entire body. It felt like I was being electrocuted! I let out a blood curdling scream but it just so happened to coincide with the very moment in the show when they throw the dead body of Bobby Strong over the ledge. The audience assumed I was reacting to that and must have thought, wow he really committed! 

Jamie in Evita

What would you say to the next generation of dancers?

The best advice I was ever given was from the great Chita Rivera who said, “Take care of your injuries.” I see the way musicians treat their instruments with the utmost respect; they pamper them and behave lovingly toward them. As dancers our bodies are our instrument and, unlike a musician who can replace it if need be, we only get the one! Handle with care. 


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