Dancing on the High Seas

My family has been enrolled in dance lessons for several years now at a leading dance studio in our area. One of our former teachers, Ivan Owens, recently auditioned and was accepted as Royal Caribbean production show dancer. All of us back at the studio were delighted to hear that he received a contract and was dancing it up on the high seas aboard the Grandeur of the Seas. He recently had a short break between contracts and came back to the studio to help some of our competition students with their solo routines. When I shared with him my love of cruising, he was gracious enough to talk to Cruise Talk about his experiences with Royal Caribbean and his new contract on Voyager of the Seas sailing the Mediterranean.

Ivan tells me that he first heard about the Royal Caribbean auditions through the grapevine from a friend who was a costume designer for the company. Unlike smaller cruise lines who contract with a production company, Royal Caribbean has an in house production company, Royal Caribbean Productions, that casts and produces their shows. The audition process with Royal Caribbean consisted of about 4 hours of dancing to see how quickly the dancers could pick up choreography in different styles of dance. Then the producers placed a camera in front of the dancers for them to display our special tricks, turns, and extremely high leaps. The company looks for strong dancers who have focused on their technical training. When I asked Ivan what were the most important things for which Royal Caribbean looks in their dancers he replied with three: “Technique, Technique, Technique.” For all of you would be Royal Caribbean dancers that means lots of ballet and other classes that focus on the fundamentals of dance like line, carriage, control, and extension.

Though Ivan had 9 years of formal dance training before starting with Royal Caribbean, he says that not having early training in the “Fosse” style really challenges him. He has to focus to stay in that style rather than to slip into his own style. As a production dancer he spends about one to two months in rehearsal depending on how many shows he has to learn. For his first contract he performed the shows Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme, My Romance, and All Access. On board the Voyager of the Seas, he will be performing in Music and Motion and Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme.

Many Cruise Talk readers probably wondered what the work schedule was like for dancers on board a Royal Caribbean ship. Ivan says that the work schedule is not overly demanding. They perform several production show two times a night, plus a welcome aboard show, farewell and a 70’s party/show. So he estimates that he works about a “grand total of 10 hours” doing his main job. He also said that they do fill in for activities staff members when they are sick or injured, but other than helping with the lifeboat drill the dancers generally don’t perform any other duties than their main job as entertainers.

Since many Cruise Talk readers have a love for travel and cruising, I asked Ivan how he enjoyed his accommodations, the shipboard life in general, and travel. As for his accommodations, he said that it could be a little stressful sharing his cabin with the same roommate for so long. He did say that the dancers could eat with guests in the evenings. They also followed the dress codes set by the cruise line for each night, including formal nights. I also asked Ivan about his destinations. “In the beginning I enjoyed our destinations. But, towards the end of the contract it became boring. Seeing the same place over and over, over and over, I was ready to get off the ship. The spirit between the dancers and singers was great, However, as we neared the end, everybody is just ready to get off the ship and go home.” After a chance to go home and visit with family and friends Ivan is looking forward to his new contract which will take him to Spain, France, Italy and Portugal among other destinations.

What’s next for this multi-talented young man? Ivan who already speaks several languages fluently, wants to pursue a career as a translator.