Magazine article Working Mother

How She Does It

Magazine article Working Mother

How She Does It

Article excerpt

This holiday season is Cassady's eighth with the world-famous precision dance troupe of more than 200 women. Balancing these high-profile performances with motherhood can be tricky. Cassady puts in nearly 50 hours a week rehearsing for and performing in the Chicago version of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, held at the Rosemont Theatre. Dance troupes in eight other cities perform this version, which differs slightly from the famed production at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. "It's hard to juggle everything, but I'm a better mom when I perform, because besides my kids, being onstage is my joy," Cassady says. "I love going to work and spreading cheer and excitement to families everywhere. That energy spreads into my own family."

Cassady started dance lessons when she was 3. At 10, she says, "I made a declaration that I wanted to dance for the rest of my life." Four years later, her parents let her leave their home in Dallas to attend Interlochen's performing-arts boarding school in Michigan. There, she shifted her focus from ballet to jazz and tap, which she calls "my real passions."

Before she graduated, she was approached by jazz dance educator Gus Giordano, who asked her to audition for his company, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. She delayed college and began a two-year apprenticeship with the company and also performed in industrial shows to help pay the bills. In these corporate stage productions, she did everything from dressing up like Cinderella for a Disney movie premiere to sitting on a Porsche and smiling at people for an entire day.

In her fourth year with Gus's company (she'd been asked to stay on), Cassady decided to try out for her dream job. She'd grown up watching the Radio City Rockettes dance in the televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. She remembers calling her grandmother, who lived in Shreveport, LA, to critique the show with her each year. Also, Cassady's first dance teacher had been a Rockette, "so I grew up telling everyone I'd be one, too."

Unlike the hundreds of women each year who try out but don't make the line, Cassady was selected after her first audition. "Working for the Rockettes is a very physical and time-demanding job," says Karen Affinito, publicity manager for Radio City's entertainment programs. "It's twice as difficult for moms. What Cassady does in balancing performances with two young children is nothing short of spectacular."

Cassady spent huge gaps of time away from her investment-banker husband of six years, James, during the early years of their marriage because the Rockettes sent her to perform Christmas shows in Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and other cities. She also continued touring for another three years with the Giordano company. "My husband was very understanding about the demands of my job because he had once been a professional trumpet player who also toured," she says.

But when the couple decided to start their family, Cassady stopped performing with the Giordano troupe to focus on her home life. The births of son Jac, 2, and daughter Calli, 5 months, were perfectly and purposefully timed. "I planned both of my pregnancies so I could be ready to perform in the Christmas Spectacular," she says. "With my son, I got pregnant in October, danced pregnant for three and a half months and gave birth in July. That left me two and a half months to get back in shape for October rehearsals." She repeated the pattern with Calli.

After having each baby, Cassady was able to return to fall rehearsals in shape and within her required weight range. …

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