Working as a professional dancer is by no means an easy task. A dream to begin with might even be a novelty at first until the reality of surviving on a dancers income sets in. With the increasing demands of living in city like London most of your money earned tends to go out a lot faster than it comes in. It becomes increasingly difficult to save money, keep up payments on bills, eat healthily and most importantly continue to enjoy dancing.
When push comes to shove, working as a dancer begins to lose its lustre and the focus is more on making ends meet than doing it for the love. So is there a way to earn a living as a dancer? Is it possible to be full-time dancing your craft and even do grown-up things like saving money or buying a house? Or is there only hope for the very few and very best of dancers who have a shot of actually living the dream?
In my experience I have come across a number of highly established dancers from various worlds. Yes there are many worlds in dance each with their own vantage point to becoming successful and the trend is the same; only a very few and very famous dancers last the test of time and live comfortably doing what they love.
However all is not lost for us lesser established folk. The ones that struggle audition by audition, anxious waits for that return casting call via email or text message that you know would be rent money for the next two months, the grafters in competitions and battles pushing harder to be number one, to be the overall victor and the teachers that pray that the next class will bring more than just the over zealous dancers who's just watched You Got Served.
There are ways to work towards financial comfort (this by no means making it big and rich like Ashley Banjo but....at least close.) and hopefully getting back to working your dance not dancing to work.
Below are just a few of a multitude of points however these are just my top 7 of what I found to be the most productive way of making dance work for you.
You can't get around it, you have to network it is a must and golden rule for all dancers. If people don't know you how can you exist in the industry. How can they suggest work, refer you to potential clients and gigs. Your networking list is your client list. People you can always go back to when looking for work. If they like you they are more than likely to continue helping you find them jobs. So go to events, take part in workshops, competitions, showcases, talks be an integral part of the scene and it will reward you.
Yes I'm sorry you're going to have to spend here a bit but that's just part of the game, it's an investment. Travel to events outside of the country but not as a spectator but as a participant. Make it a goal to take part more than watch others dazzle the crowd. You don't have to be top dog, what really counts is can you make an impression on the people around you. Show them how much you love the dance,bring something different, new to the table and they will forever remember you and so will potential clients watching.
3. BUILD A STRONG PROFILE
This includes making videos of your dance, recording yourself performing, battling, teaching, it is vital in this new world of social media frenzy that just keeps growing rapidly. Visual aids of your work is a powerful too in people getting a quick idea of what you are capable of doing.
Create a profile page or website of yourself and work. Its easy and efficient to navigate clients via email, txt or word of mouth to a place they can marvel, learn and engage with all that you are. Treat your profile like a product, build it, maintain it and sell the hell out of it!
This goes without saying but the level of attitude is very different across the dance world. Ballet dancers put in thousands of hours to perfect their craft whereas many street dancers hardly train weekly. You ARE the product as much as treating your body as a commodity it IS. The industry is entertainment/dance so what you deliver cannot be your dirty laundry, it has to be a strong finished product. As with everything nothing is perfect but perfection lies in the struggle to become. A dancers journey never ends but before you step onto the world stage be prepared to say "THIS IS ME, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT." love your craft wholeheartedly and train like there is no tomorrow. These sacrifices and investments now will lead you to a very strong but most importantly consistently successful career.
This is the single most efficient and consistent way to make money. All the above should be completed to a high degree including obtaining qualifications to teach where applicable. By creating regular classes you can pull in regular income. It will not always be the same amount every class but through strong development of the above points, you can earn enough to meet your living needs.
This should go without saying but it is easy to forget the importance of maintain the very thing that brings us work. Our bodies requires constant upgrading, repair and maintenance just like a sports car. If we don't look after it, eventually it will breakdown, fail even be written off. Proper nutrition and physical care is vital for the longevity of our bodies. We put our bodies through so much tension, stress and impact that it would be ludicrous to not take care of it. Yoga, Pilates, stretching especially PNF techniques and massage therapy should all be administered at some point on a regular during our dancing career. Good health also means a good mental state, attitude towards work and people, reduction in procrastination and a positive mentality towards all that surrounds our dance will inevitably keep us dance happy for much longer.
This I believe is the single most important factor for living as a dancer. Management I believe is not well taught in dance schools and colleges and you are often left living class lessons day by day than taken the class lessons at college. A lot of the education is focused around the dance primarily and not a lot of emphasis on things like, planning, time management, book keeping, clientele building, marketing, video editing/production, financial investments, strategy, risk assessment, tax and so on.
I believe it is important to do what you need to do to earn the money that can fuel your dance journey. This may mean simply getting a part-time job, or full-time job that allows you the flexibility to work on your dance.
Managing your bookings, working out your finances for the month, budgeting your spending and watching your tax. All of these are very business orientated wisdom but that's what many of us forget or have lack of ...we ARE essentially business men and women. We are entrepreneurs of our craft so we do everything associated with the success of our product albeit the physicality, the admin or the finance.
Now I am not saying that I am one of those big time successful dancers, I struggle just as much as the next person but I have learnt a great deal observing and imitating others strategy that has helped me to at least pay my way.
The above points are by no means the holy grail for being a top dancer living the high life, but they are great tools and ways of thinking that I have come across on my journey and seen on other peoples journey's that has led them to great success in their career.
I believe everyone can make it work but not everyone can make it big. That's just life and you are in control of your own destiny. Focus on yourself, work and spend money within your means and you can most definitely live a life enjoying your dance not resenting it.
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