A while back as a colleague and I were talking about a company we work for, the topic of conversation moved from our usual dance-related musings to our availability for some upcoming gigs. Our boss is a generous and understanding man who cut his teeth in the corporate world and then transitioned to the artistic one, but he doesn’t often understand the life of artists and people in non-corporate fields. A week or so before, I sent my schedule of availability to the corporate office which included all dates I could accept gigs as well as dates that I couldn’t. It just so happened that this year I was unavailable for a gig that I usually make myself available for and my boss was highly disappointed. He took it upon himself to go ask my colleague, “Why is Bryan not available for this event? He usually works it. He’s not doing anything new and he doesn’t have a real job, so I don’t understand why he’s not available!”
I’ll admit, when I heard this, I was low-key offended. “A real job?!”, I thought to myself – “what on Earth am I out here doing everyday and night?! Playing?!” After I settled my nerves about the shade of it all, it got me thinking, “Is a dance career a “REAL” career?” Why wouldn’t it be? For those of us in this career path, there’s no other answer but YES. We throw our bodies around rehearsing and performing, tax our minds planning and codifying lessons, shrink our wallets training and keeping up with what’s next…sounds like a career to me! Although that’s my reality, I wanted to get the consensus from the other side, from people who aren’t dancers or in the arts industry. Flip the page to see what I found…
Given that it’s the largest network or people who I know (dancers and non-dancers alike), I took to my Facebook page to ask this question:
TO MY DANCER & NON-DANCER FRIENDS: I need your opinion! DO you think being a professional dancer is a respectable career path? Or should the potential for a short performance life give way to the presumed longevity of a “real” job?
I got a myriad of responses from friends saying: “DANCE UNTIL YOU CAN’T ANYMORE!” “WHO CARES WHAT OTHERS THINK/SAY!!!!!!”, “SCREW THE REAL JOB” “[THERE’S] NO SUCH THING AS A REAL JOB!” All of them very valid points. Here are a few of my favorites.
“A career is what you make it regardless of what it is, the most important thing is that you are doing what you love. A lot of ppl live their life not doing what they love, but doing what they have to do. So if u have the chance to do what you LOVE…..go for it!! Never let someone’s opinion sway you from doing what you want to do in LIFE. At the end of the day regardless of what someone thinks, that final decision is your and yours only.”
– Tory S.
I wholeheartedly agree with Tory’s point of view. As someone who has a career outside of the arts & entertainment industry, it’s refreshing to see that he has the “go for what you love, rather than what you have to do” mindset. I’ve been of that same mind often as I feel that if you do what you love, the rest will fall into place. I chose to pursue a career in the professional dance industry not only because it was my dream, because I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but this. Before stepping into this world I weighed every option from financial to physical (and still do to this day) and although the struggle is real sometimes, I’m fully committed to making this line of work work.
“There are many people in American society that view dance as frivolous – as a career that is not based in “reality”. Never mind the practical balance between family and a professional career – extremely difficult.”
– Gina M.B.
“always have a backup plan. be a pro but have some sort of other thing you can do for when that time comes.”
Here we have the other side of the coin – points that bring up not only the practicality of this career, but add in an extra issue – family. It’s here where the case proves my point – dance cannot be diminished as a valid career as it holds so many parallels to other “stable” industries. Both statements are concerns seen both inside and outside the industry. Dancers want to pursue marriage and families, but find difficulty reconciling the two with their professional abilities. Corporate cogs get burned out, leave behind their office roots and open restaurants and bakeries. My boss is a prime example of this. Why not consider it a valid line of work when it holds some of the same topics as any other trade?
“I think people who make a living doing what they [love] to do are the most actualized people on Earth. That being said, I make a living as an artist myself. And I cannot tell you the number of people who think what I do is a hobby and that I am not actually running a business and making a living doing it. It’s like they cannot even fathom that what I do has worth, that I love to do it and that I get paid great money for doing it….Their reaction always lets me in on who the small minded ones are right away ;0)
– Jenna R.
This one hit home for me as it’s pretty much the exact reason I chose to write on this topic. My boss’ thought that what I do isn’t more than just something to pass the time is so silly to me. As I look back on the question posed at the top of the post, my personal answer is still yes. Dance is so multi-faceted and has the ability to conform to what you want it to be so that you can create opportunities instead of taking them. Dancers have successfully transitioned from performance to teaching, choreography, directing, designing, producing, and many other occupations that keep them not only involved in the industry, but still moving, which the prospect of ceasing movement is many dancers’ greatest fear. Besides all this, there was one response I received from a fellow dancer turned businesswoman that just broke all this down to the essence.
“One chooses to dance because they love it. One choose a ‘real’ job because they need it. If we truly only live once, shouldn’t we choose what we love, if we are talented enough to do so?
– Diana M.
And that friends, is the truth.
Tell me what you think down below. Is dance a viable vehicle to having an accomplished career? Or is the instability of our profession to fickle to be considered much past a hobby? I’d love to hear your thoughts!