UT alumna, former Rockette prospers after opening Austin fitness studio


After a hip injury, UT alumna Jennifer McCamish refocused her career from a professional dancer to a fitness instructor as well as a successful entrepreneur with the startup of her very own studio here in Austin. A former Radio City Rockette, McCamish teaches a unique fitness technique that she made up, which involves a combination of ballet, Pilates, and yoga.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

With a rather uninspiring job market giving many students second thoughts about which career path they should follow, Jennifer McCamish offers a sort of bright light at the end of the tunnel for students with big dreams.

McCamish, the owner of Dancers Shape fitness studio on Burnet Road will celebrate one year as a business owner this October. After earning a bachelor’s degree in dance from UT in 1996 and dancing professionally in New York City with the Radio City Rockettes, owning a business has been one of the most rewarding accomplishments of her career.

“We just couldn’t be happier with how things are trending and how it’s grown so much within this past year,” McCamish said. “It’s been a lot of work. There are very long days, but when you enjoy it, when you love it, it doesn’t feel like work.”

Dancers Shape is based on the barre fitness technique, which combines aspects of ballet with Pilates and yoga. McCamish has used her training as a professional dancer, a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer to make her classes as safe and intensive as possible.

“She is sincere and clear that it takes hard work to change the shape of your body, but it can be done in way that is fun and efficient,” said Toussaint Biondi, one of the instructors at Dancers Shape.

While there were roadblocks and headaches when building Dancers Shape, McCamish has used what Biondi called her “magnetic” personality to draw people in and make them feel welcome at the studio.

“She has a passion for fitness and movement,” said family friend and business advisor Scott Thompson. “And it shows in her business.”

Before her studio, McCamish spent 13 years in fast-paced New York City, waking early and packing for a day that could consist of two to three jobs, an audition, dance class and voice lessons. After four years of doing various musical theatre performances and promotional work for films like “Moulin Rouge,” the right moment presented itself for a Radio City audition.

“New York is where I saw all these different things that were possibilities. I saw modern shows, I saw ballet, I saw musical theatre, I saw Radio City. And that was the first time I had seen the Rockettes live,” McCamish said. “I had a ticket and I sat in the very back row of the third mezzanine and I said, ‘This is the show I want to do, I’m going to be in this show one day.’”

She danced with the Rockettes for four and a half years, but was forced to slow down after a hip injury and took a job as a makeup artist with Radio City for her last five years in New York. This also gave her time to explore other forms of fitness such as pilates, yoga, barre and circuit training at the gym, which later influenced her decision to open a fitness studio instead of a dance centered one.

“Really, the concept for this studio hit me when I was doing my rehab after my surgery,” McCamish said. “I loved all these different things, but I was on crutches and it was difficult to get around New York City, so I wanted everything in one place.”

Owning her own business was always something McCamish considered doing, especially if performing did not work out. But during college she “had her sights set on the stage.” As she got older and after the hip injury, McCamish felt the freelance career of a dancer was not something that satisfied her anymore.

“It’s challenging when you’ve spent your entire life wanting this and then getting to do it and then knowing that it’s not going to be forever,” McCamish said about performing. “You know most people get to take a career and they do it until they are 65 and they get to retire whenever. You have to be okay with changing your identity. Because your identity was a performer.”

Dancers Shape has been everything McCamish wanted and at times, she feels it might be more fulfilling than her time on the stage with the Rockettes.

“I can’t figure out if it’s just because the timing in my life or if I just feel like I have even more confidence and more control over what I’m doing,” McCamish said. “Either way I feel very lucky because a lot people don’t get the chance to do what they love or find what they love.”

Printed on September 27, 2011 as: Entrepreneur gives hope to job market