Madonna was grinding day and night to make something of her dance career. She got some traction, dancing with the Pearl Lang Dance Theater and Martha Graham, a renowned choreographer in New York. Eventually, she got work as a backup dancer for mildly successful artists in the late 70s and early 80s.
For example, she got a gig as a backup dancer for disco artist Patrick Hernandez. It was the chance of a lifetime because she got to live in Paris for three months while touring with Patrick. She also provided backup vocals during the tour. These early performances were the first inklings of what Madonna would become.
An Almost Alum
Madonna had a short stint at the University of Michigan after high school. She attended the college with a full-ride dance scholarship. However, this incredible opportunity wasn’t Madonna’s true path. While in college, she received another scholarship opportunity to study at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.
The scholarship opportunity was only supposed to be for six weeks, but Madonna fell in love with New York. In classic Madonna fashion, she went against the grain and dropped out of the University of Michigan. She wanted to move to New York and pursue her dancing career through different channels other than higher education.
She Was Broke
It’s hard to believe now, but Madonna was broke when she first moved to New York City in 1978. Whenever asked about how she got her start in the city, Madonna often reminisces about how she only had 35 dollars in her pocket when she first arrived. She once said in an interview that it was the bravest thing she'd ever done.
She got an apartment in the East Village and struggled to make ends meet. She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts to make extra cash while performing with various dance troupes around the city. Where she got her start was a far cry from the heights she would eventually reach in her career.
She Tried in Paris
Madonna spent some time in her early 20s living in Paris. She decided to take a backup dancer gig with the musician Patrick Hernandez, which required her to move to the City of Love. While there, Madonna made her first attempt at recording an album. At the time, she was only known as a dancer who did occasional backup vocals.
However, she knew that singing was something she wanted to try her hand at. Even though she wasn’t professionally trained as a vocalist, people were always commenting on her amazing singing voice. Dance music was hot at the time, so Madonna thought, “Why not?” However, Paris didn’t agree with her, and the potential album never came to fruition. Thankfully, time had other plans for her.
The Breakfast Club
Madonna was an original member of “The Breakfast Club.” No, not the movie. She was a founding member of a New Wave band called the Breakfast Club in the late 70s. She started the band with her then-boyfriend, Dan Gilroy. Ever the Renaissance woman, Madonna played drums and occasionally provided vocals and backup on the guitar.
Madonna would eventually leave the Breakfast Club to form another band. However, that wasn’t the end of the Breakfast Club. They went on to have a Top 10 song and many other band members. Interestingly, Randy Jackson of “American Idol” fame was also a member of the band, but in the late 80s.