For someone who didn’t start dancing until early high school, France (Mayotte) Hunter has certainly experienced her share of success. The Wisconsin native fell in love with dance as a teenager after watching the film The Red Shoes about a woman so obsessed with the role she is preparing that she dances herself to death. “There was something so romantic about it,” Hunter says. Once she started, she never stopped and since then has danced her way through life as an actress, model, teacher and movement and executive coach.
ON HER NAME: “I’m kind of the odd one in my family. All of my other siblings were blond and blue-eyed. They thought they’d give me an odd name, I guess.”
HER BIG BREAK: After completing her M.F.A. in Los Angeles, Hunter packed up for New York en route to an open audition for dancers for a movie. It was 1979, and the legendary Twyla Tharp was choreographing the film adaptation of the musical Hair. “It was just myself and a few thousand dancers in the city,” Hunter says with a laugh. “I was newly in New York, so I didn’t know what to expect or even to be nervous because I just needed a job.” She landed it and went on to dance with Tharp’s touring troupe for three years.
BROADWAY BABY: Following the birth of her first son, Hunter landed the role of Consuelo in the Broadway revival of West Side Story – every dancer’s dream, she says – and later reprised her role in the Paris production.
ON DANCERS: “Dancers are extraordinary people. They have to be very disciplined, and they really have to be looking at themselves all the time. It’s a personal journey of self-discovery. There’s no downtime in that.”
KEEPING THE ARTS RELEVANT: Hunter, who spends her spare moments teaching mind/ body integration to executives at corporations like People magazine and the Home Shopping Network, calls herself a crusader for the arts: “It’s crucial because they’re in great jeopardy of becoming extinct. I think we have to keep working really hard at keeping the arts vital. Everybody’s engaged in the creative process in some way or another – we’re all creative.”