Stow Woman Skates into Dream Job
By Ellen Oliver
Stow resident Jennifer Danowitz thought her career path as a teacher was set. That is until her students turned the tables on her motivational speeches and encouraged her to pursue her dream as a skater for Disney on Ice.
After Danowitz graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2010 where she was on the ice hockey team, she wanted to resume figure skating, thanks to a pair of skates as a graduation present. But her plans changed when her mother Linda died just weeks after graduation. “She was a big part of my life skating. She was always at the rink with me, watching practices,” said Danowitz.
Danowitz shelved thoughts of figure skating and focused on her job with Teach for America in Lawrence, MA, where she began motivating her students, about half of whom came from underprivileged homes, to pursue their dreams. “We talked about realistic dreams and how to use education to accomplish what you wanted to do,” she explained. “They used to ask me about my goals and I would say, joking, that I wanted to try out for Disney on Ice.”
Eventually Danowitz’s students began encouraging her to pursue her own dream. “They really pushed me. I thought I was a hypocrite if I didn’t try,” she said. Back on the ice for several hours a week, Danowitz found returning to figure skating had an unexpected result. “It became healing for me,” she said. “I felt connected to my mom through skating.”
Last year, Danowitz made an audition video, including her students, and sent it to Disney for consideration. She didn’t give herself much hope of earning a spot with the touring show. “I was off figure skates for six years,” she said. “No one expected me to do it.”
In March 2012 Danowitz got a call to do a live audition for Disney at the DCU Center in Worcester. A few months later when a spot opened up, she was on a plane to Florida to begin preparing for the Disney on Ice show Worlds of Fantasy.
“I email my students every week, sometimes every day,” she said. “They’re excited their teacher is following her dream. Just because I’m a teacher, I’m not stuck in just one thing. It gives them hope,” she said. Even though she is on hiatus from Teach for America, she’s still teaching. “When I write to them, I tell them ‘I’m in Indiana’ and they find it on a map,” she said. “More importantly, I showed I could follow my dream.”
In the Worlds of Fantasy show, Danowitz plays several characters, with Fairy Mary being her most prominent role. “Fairy Mary is the bullwhip of the fairies,” explained Danowitz. “She makes sure the work is getting done.”
Danowitz said the fast pace of the show and quick costumes changes keep things lively, but the group of about 70 cast and crew has time between shows to explore the city in which they are performing. “I enjoy seeing other parts of the country. We do a lot of little side trips. I just took a trip to New Orleans,” said Danowitz. Next year, she hopes to see more of the world as Disney on Ice’s Worlds of Fantasy is scheduled to tour Europe. “I love it. It’s an amazing job as long as you are having fun. There are thousands of people watching me skate. I make them laugh and cry. It’s a great feeling,” she said.
Traveling is fun, but Danowitz also said it will be good to be back home when the Worlds of Fantasy tour stops in Worcester next month. “I’m excited to be back in Massachusetts,” she said, adding that she hopes her students, friends, and family will come to see her skate. “I’d like to say thank you to all the people in Stow for their support in getting this far. There are a lot of people who helped me.”
Danowitz, who graduated from Nashoba in 2006, what can be done with inspiration and support. “If you work hard enough, dreams really do come true,” she said, sincerely echoing her role as a Disney fairy. “Doing this I’ve been touched by my students and in touch with my mother in a different way.”
Jennifer Danowitz and the rest of the cast of Disney on Ice’s Worlds of Fantasy will be performing in Worcester at the DCU Center April 25-28th.