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Dancer Gets Second Chance

After raising a family, Cathy Malin got a second chance at pursuing her passion, classic modern dance, while working at the same store for 13 years.

Cathy Malin is a classical American modern dancer originally from New York who has been in the Arlington area for 20 years. She loves dancing and could not imagine what she would be doing otherwise. She dances for Kathy Hardy Gray Dance Company based in Alexandria.

Q. How did you start dancing?

A. I started dancing ballet when I was younger, but found that it was not very accepting of my physical attributes. I consider the beginning of my dance career in high school, where I participated in modern dance. My high school was very unique in that it had a dance program that was part of the Physical Education department. We were able to put on shows for family when other schools did not have anything close to a dance department.

Q. Did you continue dancing after high school and up to this point in your life?

A. I danced through college. I got a degree from Washington University in St. Louis in Liberal Arts with a concentration in dance. At the time they did not have a dance major, but now they have one of the best in the country. After college I put dancing on hold in order to raise a family, but I really missed it. However, I wanted to be home when my children got off the school bus and so I was not able to do both.

Q. If you weren't dancing, what were you doing?

A. I worked in the restaurant business in New York, which is where I met my husband, who was also in the restaurant business. We were both transferred to this area, so we continued to work in the business. I was working in a deli, which closed, and my current employer offered me a job working at his company, which is Diversions, a little card boutique shop next to the deli that I once worked at. I have worked at Diversions for the last 13 years and have enjoyed it. I was allowed to leave early so I could be home with my children when they were done with school for the day. To let out some creativity, I also made jewelry.

Q. How did you get back into dancing?

A. I started getting back into modern dance by taking some classes at a local college. I ran into Kathy Hardy Gray at the grocery store and she told me to take one of her dance classes. I took one of her modern dance classes and she invited me to audition for her dance group. By audition, I mean I took a class and learned some of her choreography and performed it. It was not one of those auditions that you think of dancers taking part for Broadway. She liked what she saw in my dancing and offered me a position in her dance company.

Q. Why did you choose modern dance?

A. I tried ballet, but I found that it was not very accepting of my body type and physical attributes. Modern dance is more acceptable of anyone. Any person can succeed in modern dance if they just have the discipline and drive to want to succeed. With ballet, you have to have a certain body type in order to succeed and I did not have that. There are no limitations in modern dance and that is very important to me.

Q. Are the dancers in your company close?

A. We are very close. We go out after every performance, either to someone's house or to a restaurant and sit there and talk about the performance and the audience and then whatever else comes to mind. Kathy likes to celebrate everything, so we will get together for birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, anything that can be celebrated. The people in the company also really care about the other people in the company. They understand what is going on in our lives. In this company there are usually somewhere between 10-15 dancers, and right now two of them are mother and daughter.

Q. Why do you dance?

A. I dance because I love that I get something out of it. I was given a second chance to be a dancer, that is something that most people never get. I enjoy the emotion from the music and movement that I get out of dancing. I like to feel the passion of the dances; I like to know what I am doing is moving to people. I also need some creative outlet. I feel that my life is not complete without letting my creativity get out in some way. That is why I created jewelry when I was not dancing. It was a way for me to be creative.

Q. What is a memorable experience that you have had dancing?

A. After Sept. 11 happened Kathy Gray created "Grant us courage, grant us peace," which we danced to raise money for the Pentagon Memorial fund. We raised $20,000 for the fund. The dance was an experience based on stories her brothers, who were firefighters in New York City, told her after Sept.11 happened. We were also asked to perform at the Pentagon this past Sept. 9 as a tribute. People were moved to tears during the performances. Other memorable experiences pertained to guest artists that came during college. We were able to get advice from other well-known modern dancers.

<ro>Statistics

Born: New York

Family: Husband and 2 children

Education: Washington University - Liberal Arts degree

Job: Works at Diversions for past 13 years

Enjoys: Dining out with husband at new restaurants

Books: Does not have time to read many books, but will sit down and read magazines or newspapers that come to the house.

Web site: www.khgdt.org