“Nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind that has been the past four years of my life.”
“Just Dance.” This is the “ice breaker” phrase that accompanies my name on my Atlantic Coast Athletic Club team member nametag. True to purpose, this phrase usually triggers the following: “ ‘Just dance’…are you a dancer?” My reply, “Yes. Yes I am.” (proud smile and flawless posture included) From there the conversation usually takes us to a place where the inquirer becomes surprised and intrigued by my many responsibilities. They ask, “How do you do it?” My answer? A shrug, another smile, and a response – “I just do.”
As I stated on day one of this blog, ballet is not lucrative. You better have passion and that J.O.D. in your corner or you are going to get very discouraged and very bitter, very fast. A large percentage of dancers today work a second job (also sometimes accompanied by a third, fourth, and fifth job too). Although ballet still draws a crowd of young hopefuls, attending cattle calls and traveling city to city, hot on the job hunt, the arts are still not where they should be. They may never be fully appreciated and supported (don’t the words ‘starving’ and ‘artist’ go hand in hand anyway though…?). Appreciation and awareness has grown and continues to do so, and there will always be die-hard donors and fans, but funding is still lacking.
“To be a dancer takes a certain type of perseverance and drive…”
If you’re going to make the ballet lifestyle work you need two things-caffeine and a winning attitude. Among the world’s waiters/waitresses, nannies, sales associates, and baristas are ballerinas and male dancers. Now that I’ve put you on alert for dancers in the real world, how do you distinguish them from the rest? Easy. They’re efficient. They’re alert. They’re physically fit. They’re most likely standing in a turned out position, and they sure don’t tire very easily. Dancers are all around you! (Scary, I know. Don’t stand behind us in an exercise class-we really get those legs up in kickboxing)
I would be fearful if you’re seeking employment and competing against a dancer. To be a dancer takes a certain type of perseverance and drive–a drive that makes us ideal candidates if you’re looking for someone reliable, energetic, productive, punctual, and good at multitasking. The attributes that are required to pursue a career in dance are the same that are required in the average workplace. But there is one small downside to hiring a dancer. You will know where their true passion lies, and, here’s a hint, it does not directly involve monthly sales quotas or saving the world one latte at a time. You can, however, be guaranteed that this individual will be one of your hardest working and most professional employees.
Being a full time professional dancer and working three other jobs is intense (what is free time???). Nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind that has been the past four years of my life. I always knew it was going to be like this though. I knew I wasn’t going to be at the tippity-top of an internationally renowned ballet company, and I knew that if I wanted this lifestyle I was going to have to work for it. It’s been a process for sure. I’ve done it all-babysitter, waitress, phone book deliverer, ballet teacher, phone solicitor, sales associate, dance model, child care worker, gym employee, barre class instructor, house sitter, dog walker…it’s quite the list. But I am proud of what I have done so far, and I don’t have many regrets. From barely being able to make rent four years ago, to being able to buy a healthy load of groceries and pay for my own health insurance, I can’t believe I made it to this point.
I have a support system that told me to follow my dreams while I can. My mom and dad are loving and selfless enough to help me fill in the missing pieces that I cannot provide for myself. They want me to wake up every morning and look forward to going to work. Some seek the simple road-the nine to five grind that only includes one job on one career path. But I’ll take the unconventional route if it means I get exactly what I want. I want to go to the barre at 9:30 A.M. to start my day. I want to move and emote. I want to be a ballerina.