In the in-between…how to survive between dance contracts

by Lauren O’Sullivan

We’ve all been there, those times when you’ve finished an awesome dance contract; you’re enjoying the rest and looking forward to jumping right back into the next one. Except the next one is taking a bit longer to come along than you would like. With each negative audition outcome comes a reassuring voice in our head, ‘too tall’, ‘not the right build’, ‘they wanted more classical dancers’ etc. But after a while we start to run out of excuses…or perhaps not even get an audition in the first place. You knew this was how the industry works but that doesn’t mean it’s not disheartening. So how do we deal with the dry spells?

Firstly, you must realise that YOU are in charge of YOUR own business as a dancer. If it feels like you are getting nowhere it is probably because you are constantly waiting on other people for opportunities. You feel powerless because you willingly give the power over to someone else, anyone else. Stop. So many graduates feel as though opportunities and auditions will simply present themselves and they have to wait for people to give these to them. Yes, you must slog away at the auditions and listings that go out but in today’s competitiveness it is not enough. Go out and find yourself opportunities.

One of the best ways to meet new people and make connections is to help people out. Collaborate. Meet people from all corners of the industry: photographers, film makers, directors, make-up artists, writers – CREATIVES. We’re all in the same boat, everyone is looking for ways to develop and expand their craft, so let’s work together and benefit from each other’s skills. Most collaborations like this are done for free; in place of payment you get something to enrich your career. Obviously this is not something to sustain your finances in the in-between, but instead it will sustain your spirit and keep the joy of dance shining bright.

So, we must talk about the dreaded ‘other job’. All this pro-active collaboration searching is great (and necessary!) but at the end of the day we’ve got to pay the bills. It is frustrating because we often can’t commit to regular hours in a regular job in case we are whisked away for an audition or another contract. Many dancers work in Front of House or as Bar Staff at theatres but it is surprising just how uncompromising London theatres can be in allowing time off for auditions. An alternative is finding yourself a zero hours contract as a receptionist or in similar office work. This is great for short-notice auditions because you can often cancel work the day before and you have no obligation to take any work. The flip side of this is that they also have no obligation to give you work! Check how many people they already have on their books and try and gauge how much work they actually have available to offer. Lastly, and I almost don’t want to mention it, there is always ‘good old promo’. Some people thrive at promotion and enjoy engaging with people but there is a lot of rejection involved – not ideal if you are on the receiving end of constant rejection from the dance industry on top of that!

What about teaching? Part-time teaching can be a great job for the in-between but again it’s especially hard to commit to regular classes and get a sense of progress of the children. Freelance teaching is a great alternative if you can get yourself established and build up a reputation for coming in and delivering free classes. This is also very enjoyable for you! Just ensure that you have the right legal requirements in check: DBS, Public Liability Insurance, and Teaching Qualification (of some kind – always helps!). If you are new to teaching it can be hard to gain trust as a freelancer. If you have contacts with your (or friends’) old local dance schools, see if they are looking for any cover teachers or experienced professional dancers to deliver free classes or workshops. Summer schools are always a good place to start!

Now that you have your career and spirit enrichment sorted and you’ve got a job to pay the bills, it is time to focus on your well-being. This is not a case of last is least important. Your well-being and health is the most important thing to maintain. After all, our business is our body. We must look after it. I’m not going to go into injuries or nutrition, for now I just want you to think about balance. Perhaps the idea of balance has never really crossed your mind. Have you ever taken a step back for a moment and considered how balanced you feel? Not in terms of if you might be about to fall over (happens to us all), but whether all the components of your life, however big or small each one may be, balance in a way that is conducive to your happiness.

As dancers our lives require a lot of balancing; we don’t have the comfort of the 9-5. And this is a POSITIVE thing, we are in charge! For all the negatives, find the positive counterbalance. This article is a prime example of me finding a counteraction to the feeling of monotony I experience at being behind a reception desk (my ‘other job’). I simply decided to do something about it: namely write about it. Share my contemplations and interests with like-minded people. And that makes me feel good. So thank you if you have taken the time to read my articles – you have contributed to my balance.

I will leave you with this: As long as you are pro-active in what is essentially YOUR business it won’t go unnoticed. Commercial business owners would never just sit back and wait for people to become interested in their products, so neither can you. Make people interested in you. Invest whatever you can back into your business. Go to workshops, go to classes, meet people, ask questions, BE INTERESTING. If you are willing to work hard for what you love and you approach every opportunity (no matter how small) with intensity and vitality then you are automatically interesting. People want to work with people that are ENGAGED. So go out there and ENGAGE! Move forward.

 

Lauren O'Sullivan
Follow me

Lauren O'Sullivan

A young dancer in London, keen to write about and share experiences of the dance world. Trained at Bird College, graduating with a 1st class degree in 2015.
Lauren O'Sullivan
Follow me

Lauren O'Sullivan

A young dancer in London, keen to write about and share experiences of the dance world. Trained at Bird College, graduating with a 1st class degree in 2015.

One thought on “In the in-between…how to survive between dance contracts

  • June 20, 2017 at 22:02
    Permalink

    Another great article Lauren, wise words, and relevant to many other professionals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.