I recently sat across from a nurse while eating dinner with friends.
“So,” she began, swishing her wine around in her glass. “How exactly do you live?”
This was her response to my telling her I am a dance teacher. I smiled, laughed to myself.
“I didn’t mean that in any way other than: How did you turn something you love to do into an income?”
Thus, I explained my double life.
Yes. There are dancers who go on to join ballet companies or spend a few months on contract with a Broadway show here and there. There are dancers who get hired in universities, dancers who rock out the Video Music Awards, and dancers who contract a quick 3-minute appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.” You can find dancers on tours (national or International), on cruise ships and in amusement parks.
But you can also find dancers booking workshops at studios across the country, waiting tables, and – in some cases – sliding down poles (I had to include this because well, it’s sometimes true).
Since dance is not quite as defined as a desk job things such as 401k, medical benefits, PTO are not always discussed. (Side note: Unions do exist for dancers, in which benefits are discussed. Dancers in major opera ballet, classical ballet, and modern dance corps belong to the American Guild of Musical Artists, Inc. of the AFL-CIO; those who appear on live or videotaped television programs belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; those who perform in films and on television belong to the Screen Actors Guild; and those in musical theater are members of the Actors’ Equity Association. For more information: Bureau of Labor Statistics).
But beginning dancers take opportunities because they feel it will lead to another potential opportunity, and that sometimes puts dancers in financially compromising situations.
I was 18 years old when I had the inevitable dancer wrestle: “Do I move to New York / Los Angeles and try to ‘make it’ or do I go to college and try to make it?”
I chose college. I chose making it.
But I also chose to continue dancing at least 20 hours a week to maintain my technique, flexibility and contacts in the dance world.
This began my blend of two worlds, while adding more skills to who I am as a person and what I have to offer.
I refocused the application and logistics of my dream.
I did some math: 24 hours in one day could break down to –> 8 AM to 5 PM job + 5 PM to 9 PM dance = Health insurance, 401k, medical benefits, solid income, dancing, paying off car/college education and saving for my future studio.
Throughout the process I’ve learned that businessmen and ballerinas are actually more similar than one may think. We all hustle. We all have a marketable service. And we all end up dancing in one way or another– whether it be literally or figuratively.
I work 8 AM to 9 PM (and sometimes later) every day. I come home mentally, physically, emotionally exhausted. But I sleep like a baby at night knowing this: Every day, every dollar I am closer to my dream.
“So this,” I explained, “is how I live my life.”