Ann Arborite Gregory George
George learned carpentry as a young man while attending the former Chicago Ballet School on a scholarship. Learning that ballet companies typically pay their dancers just thirty-five weeks a year, he recalls asking himself, "How am I going to get a job to supplement my income without taking too much from dancing?" He started as a carpenter's assistant, learning the trade from watching others.
Attention to aesthetics is an asset in both his careers, he says. And teaching dance to children taught him the patience he needed to work with adults on remodeling jobs. "You have to control the way you say things so it doesn't come across negatively--and take their negative thoughts and turn them around to a positive."
Both jobs demand constant awareness of his body movements. "I might have to lift a lot of heavy materials or be on a roof, so I really have to pay attention," he says. "With dancing, I might get a back injury from lifting girls. As I'm getting older and I get closer to shows, [the risk of injury] gets a little nerve-racking."
George sees his Great Lakes Contemporary Ballet Company as the culmination of his dance career. He figures he'll need about half a million dollars to launch the group--huge, in today's economy. But he exudes confidence. "I'm a pretty gifted choreographer, and I can do any ballet--and because of that I'm not afraid to take on bigger projects." He's counting on corporate benefactors, patrons, and a teaching academy to bring in funds.