At a book signing in Pasadena, California for his motivational publication, So You Want to Be a Dancer, author Matthew Shaffer said, “This is a book for anyone who loves the plight of the artist.” Though the book’s target audience is dancers and the people that love (and support) them, it is a valuable primer for any creative or non-creative who is seeking to make their mark in their chosen field.
So You Want to Be a Dancer is a compact (less than 200 pages) body of work where Shaffer shares with hilarious wit and appropriate Millennial snark how to take your passion for dance from performance to profit. Shaffer spills industry insight from a sassy pop culture point of view, and reveals the juicy details of his career as a dancer on Broadway, in film, and on television.
But this is more than a how-to book: Shaffer intertwines advice and answers to the probing questions artists need to know at every stage of their career. From the backstage to the backlot, you’ll gain a new perspective on the careers available for dancers, as well as some savvy advice and anecdotes from Shaffer and other industry veterans and professionals.
Matthew Shaffer wrote, directed, and starred in his first production when he was 7 years old, and has been entertaining family members—and now audiences—ever since. After graduating from the prestigious Orange County High School of the Arts, Shaffer chose to continue his professional career as a principal dancer for the world-renowned company Giordano Dance Chicago. He has danced, choreographed, directed or produced over 40 projects between Broadway, film and television. As a choreographer, Shaffer’s work has been performed by the likes of Ben Stiller, and Rebel Wilson. He has worked as a master teacher for over 14 years at leading performing arts conservatories and conventions across the United States and Europe, including the Broadway Dance Center and Giordano Dance Center. Shaffer also judges dance competitions across the United States and around the world.
Shaffer has crafted his book for a wide-ranging audience, from pre-teen ingénue to middle-aged parent. Interspersed with #DanceNotes and kitschy mini-anecdotes, Shaffer’s engaging and cleverly crafted tidbits are served in bite-sized portions for easy digestion and future research and reference. He is a storyteller, no doubt, and in his book he regales the reader with true tales from his professional life to illustrate and reinforce his sagacious and astute advice.
With the advent of “Dance Moms”, dance competitions, and shows like “So You Think You Can Dance”, those seeking a dance career and the potential for success in that career have increased exponentially. The possibilities within this profession have been opened to wide-eyed and hungry youth throughout America, and the world; so Shaffer’s book is not only timely, but significant, offering much needed guidance to these individuals throughout the various stages of their entertainment industry journey.
In a recent Backstage article, Shaffer was asked what is the one thing he is trying to convey to readers. He said, “You’ll always be trying to find the next gig; that’s the hardest part of a [performer’s life]. Everyone asks if you know what you’re getting into but no one says, ‘Not only is it hard, but this is exactly why it’s hard.’”
In this not-so-new Millennium, this is not only true for dancers, actors, and other creative folk, but for the 9-to-5 average Joe. So Shaffer’s prescription to not “let anyone define who you are or what you are capable of,” can be applied across the spectrum of career pursuit. Shaffer reassures the reader, “Follow your passion and trust in your path. You control your future.” This is excellent encouragement to anyone who wants to create meaningful work that impacts others, whether they’re a dancer or a dietician.