ARTICLE IN THE COLUMBIA MISSOURI TRIBUNE
Niche: A Weekly Peek at an Area Artist
Hometown: Lake Ariel, Pa.
In Columbia since: 2013
Medium: Dance, acting
By AMY WILDER October 19, 2014 at 12:00 am
Recent Work: Played Rosa Vifien in Talking Horse Productions’ “Paper Daddy,” in September; performed as part of a flash mob for Fashion Night Out at the American Folk Art Museum in New York; choreographed and sang as part of Pied Piper Productions at a 2009 Super Bowl red-carpet event in Tampa, Fl.
Virginia “Ginger” Intelisano (maiden name) started dancing at a young age and hasn’t stopped, though the tides of her life have shifted her in many directions.
Intelisano moved several times before arriving in Columbia just more than a year ago, and she also has sailed professionally on a circuitous route, steering around the whirlpools and rocks that can threaten an artistic career.
Intelisano began dancing as a little girl, at age 3, “but I had a bad experience in ballet class; for some reason, it was part of the routine in class for one of the girls to sit on my stomach,” she said. It was a common practice, though she doesn’t recall why it was done, “and she really hurt me because I was super tiny. That kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, so I told my mom I didn’t want to go back to ballet class. But I started again when I was 8 years old.”
This was the beginning of an ebb and flow in which dance has been the common thread connecting all aspects of Intelisano’s life. Her return, initially, was to ballet, but she quickly moved into tap class and jazz, and “before you knew it, I was dancing three nights a week — probably six classes a week,” she said, “and I did that for many years,” even though it was a 30-minute drive back and forth to class at the Cristina Sohns-Williams Studio of Dance in northeast Pennsylvania.
In college, she remained dedicated to a dance practice. “In fact, I wanted it to be my primary career,” she said, “but it was my parents’ influence that kind of detoured me.”
She needed to think in practical terms and work toward a primary source of income. She signed up at the University of West Chester, where she studied for a few years, then added dance, with the idea of making it a second major or a minor.
Intelisano continued to dance every day, both in courses and in a workshop and dance team, which performed halftime shows at basketball games. Her commitment to her art form was and remains a constant in her life, and she has struggled at times with doubt about pursuing psychology as a career, instead.
“There hasn’t been a day in my whole life where I haven’t thought to myself, ‘I should have just focused on dance,’ ” she said. “That would be my advice to anyone who has a passion in life — do whatever it takes to make it work, and do whatever it takes to work in your passion.”
Restless in Pennsylvania and in her studies, Intelisano took a break from her college career and moved to Florida, where her brother also had moved. But instead of going Tampa, where he lived, she moved to Miami. “I thought that the culture was amazing, so I wanted to take a chance and see what that was all about,” she said, “and I’m so glad that I did because that’s why I actually got engaged with Hot Jam Entertainment Company.”
She performed and choreographed for corporate parties for companies such as Pepsi and AT&T, for programs on ESPN and MTV and music release parties. She loved this time and was able to make a living wage doing the work, but she felt the need to return to school and finish her degree.
“It’s really funny that I went into psychology because I later learned that it has to do with the meta messages that you grow up learning from people who are close to you,” she said. You carry the influence of your family well into adulthood, and it often affects your own decisions — even if it means going against your inner self.
After finishing her degree in Florida, she also went on to earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling at the University of South Florida. Psychology is not far removed from dance, which can be the physical expression of emotion, thought and interpersonal drama. Intelisano has put a lot of thought into returning to dance and perhaps starting a company and maybe incorporating her psychology background into a form of dance therapy.
“In fact, I’ve thought about a lot here” — she moved to town to support her husband’s career — “and I don’t know why I’m not doing it yet,” she said. “I thought about maybe getting involved, first, with some of the dance schools that are already established — where I can incorporate dance with my counseling.”
To that end, she is thinking about reuniting, for a workshop, with her former boss in Florida, who has since started a project that incorporates health and wellness with the practice of dance.
And Intelisano has a concept for an organization — even a name. Project Hypothalamus is a dream of hers and a well-considered idea for a company that creates emotional and mental wellness with health and fitness through dance. She envisions working with local organizations, from dance schools to more unorthodox venues such as the public library, to make this dream a reality.