From East Los Angeles to a small Mormon town in Utah to the tango stages of New York City through the solitary trails of El Camino, Shauna Hankoff, EGCR’s Senior Account Executive, is a fascinating woman who has certainly danced the dance, walked the walk, and talked the talk.
In a recent interview, before temporarily relocating to Paris, we talked about the lost art of seduction, her career transitions, and the unconventional, often challenging, path she has taken to ultimately reclaim her freedom.
Shauna started her formal dance training in junior high and went on to study ballet at the University of Utah, the only school west of the Mississippi that offered a ballet major. Because her technique was not considered strong enough, she moved to New York to study classical Spanish dance at the encouragement of her teacher, the dance director for the Vienna Opera Ballet. One step led to another, and soon she was studying and dancing Flamenco with Sol y Sombra, The American Spanish Dance Company of Andrea del Conte, and Jose Molina in various clubs and private parties through out New York.
Having always had a knack for sewing, Shauna started repairing costumes for dancers, including her teacher Mariquita Flores, a talent that led to her making costumes for the Ballet de Monte Carlo de Troquedero, Flamenco Vivo Carloto Santana, and the American Spanish Dance Company. Her costumes sold for $250 and skirts for $125 a piece; no small feat in the 1970s.
Divorced with 2 kids at the time, she knew she could not sustain her career and support her family. Up to her ears in ruffles one day, her then-boyfriend suggested she interview at a friend’s court reporting agency. She put on the only suit she had, got the job, and the rest was history. “It was all or nothing,” she said. She stopped dancing and began selling court reporting. That was 25 years ago.
Though not the most obvious career transition, Shauna brought her grace and tact as a dancer to her position in sales. “Sales is a form of dance as well. It’s about building trust, developing relationships, and knowing which steps to take. That’s why I felt sales was the perfect next move in my career.”
Two years ago, while at Ellen Grauer Court Reporting, she attended a show in the East village where an old friend of hers was performing. Serendipitously, a singer and a musician friend she had known from her past were there as well. After the show, they went out for a drink to catch up. “We’re your family, you’re coming home,” they told her. So began her re-entry into dancing flamenco, and then tango.
“I’m a person who requires a lot of physical activity, so tango is nice because I can find a “milonga” and go dancing any night of the week. You just show up and dance with whoever is there.” Milongas are Argentine tango parties known to start late and go all night, often until 5am.
The route of Santiago de Compostela, where Shauna has returned twice in the past two years, is the site of Le Puy, the classic starting point in France that ends in the northwest corner of Spain. El Camino, as the walk is known, was a pilgrimage in the Middle Ages that served as a spiritual journey for absolution from sins, punishment for crimes committed, crimes for state, and a route by which news traveled. Known for its harsh conditions, there was no guarantee of survival. Wealthy people followed the trail on horseback, others traversed on foot. Today, the trail is walked by travelers looking to reconnect with the spiritual resonance of the land. Though a series of synchronistic encounters, her last pilgrimage marked a turning point when she decided to start planning her move to Paris.
“I knew that someday I would move there. I had this sort of fantasy that I would dance tango on the Seine. Dancing is a commonality that crosses barriers. It’s not about the venue, it’s about the art.”
Shauna relocated to Paris at the end of May, where she continues working as an Account Executive and cultural correspondent for Ellen Grauer Court Reporting.
“I don’t have anyone to please. I am who I am, and that enables me to walk into a “milonga” and know that somebody’s going to ask me to dance, and I don’t care who it is,” she says. “The old me would have been fearful. My life is my own now. It’s a revelation.”
Shauna Hankoff, EGCR’s Senior Account Executive and Cultural Correspondent