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  • Dani Mattar

Dancin' on Waves

Updated: Oct 22

I lived out one of my dreams of performing on a cruise ship!


My 4 contracts with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line...


1. Enchantment of the Seas (May 2017 - Feb 2018)


This 1st contract was game changing... Ship life became everything I thought it would be & more! I felt so lucky to be traveling the world for free, doing what I loved every day, & putting money away. Some things took adjusting, like the closet-sized rooms, home-sickness, & dancing on a moving platform (difficult especially in heels), but I eventually got used to it!


We performed 2 main shows throughout this contract. One was called "Stage to Screen," showcasing popular musicals ("West Side Story," "Hairspray," "Chicago," etc.) that made their way from Broadway to the Hollywood big screen!


This was my harder show, and my track in these numbers were KILLER! I performed in extremely upbeat, fast-paced routines that were one after the other.


**My fitness and physique was the best it's ever been this contract, and it was definitely because of this show**





The other show was called "Can't Stop the Rock," highlighting popular rock & roll music (feat Elvis, Whitney Houston, Prince, etc.) from films; old & new.


This was my "easier" show I guess (less dancing in heels, too), but I was still huffing & puffing & praying to get through it! It was also my favorite show of the two. I felt badass; feeling like a queeeeen in "Queen of the Night" & fighting off men in the Charlie's Angels / Matrix section.


"Stop the rock... can't stop the rock... Stop the rock... can't stop th- NO YOU CAN'T STOP!"



2. Jewel of the Seas (July 2018 - April 2019)


This next ship was even better in so many ways! Firstly, I went into this contract knowing how it all worked, which helped me enjoy certain moments more than I did the previous year. Also, this vessel was a whole class up from our last one (Vision Class -> Radiance Class), so our ship was bigger with more room & features (though my cabin got smaller somehow). Lastly, we traveled to over 35 ports (previous contract had only 4 ports) where I had my first experience in Europe, Central/South America, & Mexico!

We had 3 main production shows on Jewel. "West End to Broadway" features numbers from musicals famous in NYC and London (Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Queen, etc.). This was my harder show as it requires the most stamina, most costumes/accessories/props, and INSANELY fast quick-changes for my track. The "Copacabana" costume is shown left. This was our finale for the show, and that head piece was very difficult to dance in!


"City of Dreams" is a love story that takes place throughout different cities around the world (Atlantis, India, Venice, etc.). My favorite section was Bombay! It was the coolest two-piece costume, and I loved the choreo & music. NO PHOTOS, SADLY...



Our 3rd production show was "Tango Buenos Aires." This was our easier show, and yet challenging with 5 unnecessary tights changes (black fishnets -> tan fish nets -> black fish nets again -> black solid tights -> black fish nets again). UNECESSARY!


But I loved this show. This was my first experience performing this rhythmic, sensual dance style on stage. It requires a lot of partnering work, which was challenging for me at first because I'm used to dancing by myself for the most part. I had to quickly adjust & become a two-person dancer on that stage!

"ESSO!"



Like our last contract, we had a "Welcome Aboard" show (Day 1), a "Farewell" show (last day), and a 70s "Disco Inferno" show sometime in the middle of the cruise. However, this contract also had a murder mystery dinner theater called "Bada-bing, Bada-boom!"


This was one of my favorite experiences, though it took a solid 4 hours of the day! I was nervous at first because I've never had to act & speak out in front of an audience (adding the New Yorker accent intensified the nerves for sure). However, I put myself out of my comfort zone and improved so much by the end!



I played Wendy Workhard. This was by far the character that I wanted to play the most! She was nothing like me, which made it so much fun. She is a flirty, stubborn, nosey waitress with an attitude, and I had a blast playing her for 6 months.


This show was divided into 4 acts and 2 different venues. The first act took place in a lounge where beverages and apps were served and where characters were introduced. The kill happened at the very end of this act, and then the audience was guided into our ship's Italian restaurant, Giovanni's, where a 3-course meal was served and the rest of the show was performed!



3. Anthem of the Seas - Two70 (September 2019 - March 2020)


Now, this contract was the most "exciting" of them all... for many reasons; good & bad. Ever since the first day I saw a Two70 cast perform their show run, I was OBSESSED. I needed to book one of those contracts before I completed my cruise career. I just had to! I finally got the email at 10pm on a Saturday in July of 2019 stating that I booked my dream Quantum class ship, Anthem, as a Two70 dancer!!! I didn't sleep that night. I was so friggin excited. This was my first contract without my twin sister, Katie, which devistated me. However, she was living out her musical theater dream on Liberty of the Seas as dance captain, so it worked out for both of us!

Our main show was Spectra's Cabaret, which we performed at least 7 times a cruise. It contains rhythmic music & dancing, as well as etherial aerial work taking place in this multi-million dollar high-tech venue with moving platforms, ceiling hatches, & singing robots!

This show is very innovative & engaging, all hosted by an androgynous and extremely charismatic character, Spectra, who takes us through different dimensions of rhythm & music...


I was aware that there were aerial sequences in some of the shows prior to beginning this contract, but was told not everyone had to "fly." I had no experience in the air, a pretty weak upper half, & was terrified of heights. So, I knew I had nothing to worry about...


...or so I thought.


I somehow got casted into 2 main aerial tracks. BUT HOW?! I couldn't do a pull-up and had constant breakdowns from hanging in the air by just my wrist! I was so confused. Confused and pretty upset, to be honest. Not only did I have to fear for my life every show, but I was missing out on the bomb hip hop numbers that took place safely on the ground below me! My dream contract was turning into a nightmare.


I technically had a choice. I could've said that I didn't feel comfortable in the air and bailed on this opportunity, but that's never been something I've done. Any obstacle that came my way, I've always toughened up and figured it out. Always. I couldn't run now, so I didn't!


I worked extremely hard every day. Through the blood, sweat, and tears, and I eventually a) overcame my fear of heights, b) got to put aerial on my resume, and c) the scariest number for me actually became my favorite in the whole show! ("Void" PICTURED LEFT)



Once shoreside (land) and installation (tech on ship) rehearsals were finally over in Dec 2019, I was on a high living out my dream as a Two70 dancer and now aerialist! HOW COOL. I enjoyed the holidays with my cast and started off 2020 feeling like the luckiest person in the world... but I knew it was too good to be true.


We were down 2 dancers, one of them being our dance captain, in early February. I was promoted to DC to takeover, which was exciting and another dream of mine, but the timing couldn't have been worse! I hadn't been in this position before and was starting mid-contract, so my knowledge of the show and my duties wasn't great. I had to catch up with a lot of paperwork, teach 2 new dancers their tracks, deal with COVID, and rush "exit duties" and paperwork all in the 6 weeks we had left. I was grateful for the job, but it was difficult!


We were first told that we wouldn't have guests for a month, beginning March 15th and ending April 15th. Then we were told a couple days later that we were going home that next week when our contract was supposed to go until July. Then our end date got extended to March 30th, and then to April 5th with every crew member being put in isolation in a guest suite for a week. Others were stuck on the ship until much later that spring...


Though my "dream contract" had quite a few bumps in the road, I am still extremely grateful for getting that opportunity. I learned so much in those 6 months, was surrounded by an amazing group of people in our cast and around the ship, and had an absolute blast.


4. Spectrum of the Seas - Two70 (September 2021 - June 2022)



My first contract back to cruise ship life since the pandemic hit was on Spectrum of the Seas to be apart of the Two70 "comeback cast!" This contract was one I was very much looking forward to because I had been unemployed for over a year by the time I got the offer, my sister and her boyfriend were coming to the ship with me (Leland was going to be in the theater cast at the front of the ship), it was another Two70 venue opportunity, Spectrum was one of the newest ships in the Quantum class, and the ship was going all around Asia. I was so excited for this contract! COVID was still going strong around the world, and boosters were new at the time I got the offer, but this contract couldn't be as chaotic as my last one when the pandemic first hit...


....could it?????


Katie and I received the offer in May of 2021 to begin rehearsals that next month in June, so we scrambled to rearrange our schedules, update our medicals, and pack pack pack! Then our start date got delayed to July, then August, and then September due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. We FINALLY began our travels on September 2nd, 2021 to stop number one... Cyprus!


Because the United States was known as a "red state" at the time, we had to quarantine in Cyprus for 3 weeks before we could enter Hong Kong (where our ship was docked). After a looonnnngggg travel day from Florida ✈️ Georgia ✈️ Greece ✈️ Cyprus, we finally landed in paradise. Us Americans took advantage of the resort and it's amenities by using the gym facility daily, laying by the pool, and eating free, fresh, delicious Greek food!





Katie and I got to spend our 31st birthday in this beautiful country. We had to celebrate our past couple of birthdays apart, so this one was special! It was a fabulous day filled with Capp freddos, stray cats, lots of hummus, good music and company, and a breathtaking European sunset 🌅



We then flew to Hong Kong (which took an unnecessary 40 hours) to quarantine in a hotel room for 2 weeks before FINALLY boarding the ship in October! Half of the Americans were stuck back in Cyprus and had many more delays than we did, and they didn't get to the ship until a whole month after we us... sheesh.... But we all made it eventually and successfully opened up our shows (Cruises were actually cancelled for a month, right before we opened). Our cast was only able to do half of the show, "The Silk Road," because the first half required riggers and rigger assistants, who we apparently didn't and wouldn't have. I was alright with this since the second half of the show had my favorite sections!

"Set in the ancient past, The Silk Road™ takes viewers on a journey along the legendary Silk Road, stopping in places like Rome, Persia, India and China." ~ royalcaribbean.com


Though we didn't get the privilege of doing the whole show, I had so much fun dancing the ending two sections; Invasion and Bollywood. In Invasion, us female dancers got to be powerful seductresses in this commercial dance section to a fire Beyoncé mashup. In Bollywood, we got to wear these gorgeous, colorful costumes while busting our butts in a cardio-heavy number full of level-changing, fast-paced, intricate choreo!



Even after opening our show, many more challenges came our way. A few cast members left due to injuries and mental health, we didn't have shore leave for 5 months, cruises were cancelled for 3 months after the strike of the new year, all crew members were thrown into a guest cabin for a 16-day quarantine, there were many reblocks from performers dropping like flies from the virus, I caught COVID and had to quarantine for 9 days, masks had to be worn EVERYWHERE for the entire 9 months, and our contract got extended a week and half! Updates were happening minute by minute on that ship, so it definitely taught me to be on my toes on the daily.


It was a very tough contract, but I am grateful for a lot of it! I had a job and an income and Katie by my side and the ability to explore Hong Kong & Singapore and met my boyfriend, João 🤍 I learned a lot from this wild ride and appreciate the challenge... That being said, I'm craving a normal contract before settling into NYC! I want to book a contract where we start with shore side rehearsals in Miami like we used to, where we perform a whole show for the whole contract for a whole audience, where we get shore leave to spend all our money in the ports, where phrases like "mask mandate" and "social distancing" and "quarantine" and "PCR test" aren't the lead characters of my life, and where I can see my fellow crew members' faces when I pass them on the I-95 instead of the ugly KN95 masks. I'm ready for another ship with a SHIP LIFE like the old days, and I am hoping to book one soon!


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CHECK OUT SOME YOUTUBE VIDEOS FROM MY CRUISE CONTRACTS BELOW:




SPECTRUM:


VLOG | Sign-On Day! (Spectrum of the Seas)





SPECTRUM:


VLOG | Come with us to China! (Hong Kong Quarantine)




SPECTRUM:


VLOG | Our Last Room Quarantine in Cyprus! (Royal Caribbean Dancers)






SPECTRUM:


VLOG | Our 'Soft Quarantine' in Cyprus! (Royal Caribbean Dancers)




ANTHEM:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Turnaround Day! (Anthem of the Seas)"





ANTHEM:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | I'm finally a Two70 Dancer! (Royal Caribbean Shoreside Rehearsals)"




JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | "City of Dreams" show day! (Jewel of the Seas + Cartagena, Colombia)"





JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Sea Day, "West End to Broadway," + more! (Jewel of the Seas)





JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Last Day of a Cruise! (Jewel of the Seas + Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas)"






JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Turnaround Day! (Jewel of the Seas + Rome, Italy)"




JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | "Tango Buenos Aires" show day! (Jewel of the Seas + Santorini)






JEWEL:


"Q&A | Dancing on a Ship..."





JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Installation Rehearsals (Jewel of the Seas)"






JEWEL:


"WEEK IN MY LIFE | My Last 7 Days on Land! (Royal Caribbean)"




JEWEL:


"How I Keep Healthy as a Cruise Ship Dancer... (Shoreside Rehearsals)"






JEWEL:


"DAY IN MY LIFE | Shoreside Rehearsals! (Royal Caribbean)"

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