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‘Off Stage’ with The Dance Project’s Melanie Catanio

Last fall, “Backstage Pass” with behind-the-scenes video by Tom Ramont gave readers an inside look at The Dance Project’s “Cascade Christmas,” from auditions to performance.”Off Stage” is a chance to meet the cast and crew of the Dance Project without the costumes, choreography or stage makeup. Each profile  offers a  peek inside their lives, a glimpse of what inspires them to perform and an appreciation for making a living in the arts in the North State.

The Dance Project’s dancers and singers are the public face of the company, but the productions would be impossible without those behind the curtain and in the wings.  Melanie Catanio is The Dance Project’s Stage Manager. She ensures that each show runs as smoothly as possible, that dancers and stage crew are where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there, and that the stage is in its best condition for the performers.

So, give me an insider tidbit on what it’s really like to work for James Santos.

I am as passionate about the quality of these shows as James is and I think that’s why we work so well together. I love sitting in the theatre, watching James’ face light up as things begin to come together and run smoothly, knowing I helped make the show happen. There are times that we laugh until we are sore, but everyone knows when it’s time to get back into focus. There is never a dull moment working alongside James.

How did you fall into the Stage Manager role?

I began working as part of the backstage crew four years ago. I have done everything from sweeping and mopping the stage to working the ropes (pulling curtains and drops) to helping dancers change costumes. I have loved every part of it! However, as much as I loved being backstage, I always wanted to be stage manager. When James asked me to manage “A Cascade Christmas” I was quick to say “yes.”

Is the theater something you want to pursue beyond the Dance Project?

I am enjoying every opportunity I have to work with The Dance Project before I go back to school to complete my degree in geology.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding thing for me is watching an audience of nearly 1,000 people stand and thank our cast and crew for a smooth, professional performance.

How is the dynamic different between you and cast members than between cast members?

I started backstage as family [Melanie’s brother is dancer Brian Catanio], worked backstage and now manage, so I have been able to build relationships with cast and other Dance Project members on all different levels. I am sure there is a different dynamic between performers but I have pretty close relationships with everyone involved in the show.

What is your funniest behind-the-scenes moment?

The funniest moment for me backstage was a couple of years ago when I was working the ropes. I went to bring in a drop and the rope got caught, way up, in the top of the theatre. I was pulling in such a way that all the dancers backstage were laughing uncontrollably at me (and I was laughing at me). They still joke with me about it. There are so many funny moments backstage, but it would probably turn some faces red. So as they say, “What happens in Vegas…”

See the fruits of Melanie’s labor in the new show, Steppin’ Out, March 19-27 at the Cascade Theater. For more information, visit thedanceprojectredding.com. For tickets, call the Cascade Theater Box Office at (530) 243-8877 or visit cascadetheater.org.

Read “Off Stage” parts 1 and 2 with Tiffany Hurley and Louis Licon.

Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your North State events to adamm.anewscafe@gmail.com.