Megan Whittemore, deputy press secretary for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, indulges in her passion for dance by participating in modern dance companies in the D.C. area and attending yoga. She began her ballet training at age 5 and double-majored in political communications and dance at George Washington University.
Meanwhile, she attended night classes at GW, working toward a master’s degree in political management. She scaled back her dance commitments, but she still managed to take classes and perform in small shows during her free hours.
Her hard work paid off: In the spring of 2010, just months before earning her master’s, Whittemore received an offer from Cantor’s office. She had managed to land her dream job without abandoning her art.
Once a ‘Rina,’ Always a ‘Rina’ Serious ballet dancers have to be driven to survive in an intense and often competitive environment. While few make full-time careers gracing center stage, that self-discipline can be applied to successful professional lives in others fields.
Whittemore fits that mold, tapping the perseverance that helped her endure dancing on her toes and applying it to her work representing the House Republicans’ No. 2 leader.
Beating the clock is another skill that Whittemore perfected with dance.
“If dance is in your life, [time management] almost enforces itself in you,” she said. “There are 24 hours in a day, and it’s never enough. But you must make time for the things you love to do.”
As her career takes off, dance is never far away. She continues to indulge in her artsy side, rehearsing with modern dance companies and practicing yoga. During August recess, she performed at the Chicago Fringe Festival.
She still giddily swoons over American Ballet Theatre’s Sascha Radetsky, who appeared in the movie “Center Stage” and who once performed alongside her.
“There are a lot of people in Washington focused on politics and just politics, so I enjoy being more of a cultural mind in a political city,” she said.
The art affects even some of the most practical decisions in the deputy press secretary’s life. She chose her Foggy Bottom apartment, for example, because the foyer’s closet doors are lined from bottom to top with mirrors — similar to a dance studio and “the selling point for me,” she joked.
And the small reminders of her past, she knows, will probably never fade.
Grandma and Grandpa will likely always hound her about the good old days of ballet. “We miss seeing you in ‘The Nutcracker’ every year,” they often say.
And there’s no avoiding those curious passers-by who crinkle their brows and ask, “What are you doing with your feet?”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.