In every life, we have to make choices. In a dance career, there are always egos, politics, and drama to manage in those choices. This can be an insurmountable challenge for those who do not enjoy playing politics.As a person who lives by my heart rather than societal rules, this is an ongoing challenge.
I have singed the odd bridge in my past. Luckily this has not been to the detriment of being able to return to that connection for current and future work. I have always believed that living authentically would allow for this. Being honest and transparent even if not in the best interest of the other involved party, has always worked for me and allows me to always be true to myself. I believe my moral compass is one that I can depend on.
I have been told I am an admirable person for being able to live free of everyone else’s shoulds. This is a skill that has taken a long time to hone. Honestly, it is not easy to do. When society is screaming in your ear to be something other than you are, it can be difficult to ignore. Learning to block out the screaming takes strength. It takes introspection to identify what I am about. Identification of the core of my soul has helped.
That identification is just a start though. My core is not a static thing by any means. Every experience shapes me to grow and evolve, just like any relationship and this relationship is with myself. When I retrieve a memory of this core, unfortunately, that memory is being influenced by my experiences from that past day forward. This can be good as it allows me to see the situation with new eyes and insight. This can be bad as it allows me to skew the truth of the memory.
This core became glaringly obvious this year. I had to learn about it in greater depth than I could have fathomed. I had to learn to defend it against everyone’s unsolicited advice about my unfortunate experience this past year. I had to accept that even though my choices in life often don’t match up with the majority of my community. That is the essence of me. It has hindered my acceptance to be in the cool group of dancers who know little, but hold power like they aspired to in high school. That hindrance has played on my mind in the past as I have had this quiet urge to be accepted by those groups. However, to be in the cool group would also mean turning against my core and that would be something that would have more long term detriment to my career and self than being on the fringe.
All this seems seems like delayed awakening when I have been in the industry for 15 years, but I am thankful that it came to fruition. I am thankful that everything that happened strengthened me rather than forcing me to mentally become a shell of myself, chasing everyone else’s expectation of my situation. That would have been far worse than the suffering of the past year. My recommendation is to be respectful in the dance world, but to not lose yourself. Becoming a robot leaves you like so many others and does not give you the edge to push beyond your boundaries and foster a unique journey that others will admire.
Being in a career that depends on other people’s backing, connections, bodies, and kindness, makes it a vulnerable position in which to be. A dance career, no matter how established, requires careful management to ensure it stays on track as long as possible. I am posting a series of the questions that have required the greatest and tenderest management skills in my career and the majority of other dancers’ careers as well.
If I want to expand my career, do I stay in the city I am known or do I explore unknown territory?
The answer has to do with your comfort level. If you are inclined to adventure and making new connections, a move is an easy choice. Staying in one centre for too long can exhaust options as the community starts to believe that they know what you are about even if they have not witnessed the breadth of your ability. This is especially true if you are a performer or competitor. Once you have been “figured out”, you can be tossed to the side or not able to seek new opportunities in your existing community. This is because of being pigeon holed into a classification which may not be that representative of what you are capable. Moving opens new options as you arrive as fresh meat and have novelty to the new community.
If you are a homebody, leaving can be a challenge. If you grew up in a dance community, you may have a strong circle of friends and family that have supported your dance pursuits for as long as you can remember. That can be difficult to walk away from. It does not have to be a walking away though. It can be thought of as taking a sabbatical from your current life. Going to another centre to pursue your dreams does not mean that you will not return. Often, it allows you to gain a large body of knowledge in a short period of time. In doing so, you can return to your community with a competitive edge because you will not be a product of just that city which the majority of dancers in your community are. You will be so much more which makes you unique.
Gaining that body of knowledge allows for you to not only be more competitive as a performer, but as a teacher, and facilitator as well. You will return with new connections that others in your community do not have. This allows you to be someone who brings in different coaches than what the community has known. It allows you to impart new and different technique than your parent city as well because you are not just regurgitating the knowledge on which you cut your dance teeth. You can actually enlighten the community to other ways of achieving the same or better results.
Even the kindest hearted dancer has to approach their career from a management perspective. It doesn’t matter how much you give back to your community, there will be those that want to take you down. You have to make decisions based on what is best for you and you alone. If you don’t stand up for your interests, you will be left in the dust. Dance communities are not that altruistic. Rather, it is a dog-eat-dog one and the fittest to manage their career will be the one who survives.
Do I date a dancer or not? This is a question that comes up often in the social and professional dance realms. In the social community, the dating pool can get incestuous because it is a comparatively closed community with little influx of fresh meat, so to speak.
There can be the issue of dating someone that your fellow dance friend has danced. Some worry about this. I do not. When a relationship is done, I no longer have dibs on the person and they no longer have dibs on me. That is only fair. Trying to manage other people’s expectations of what I should be doing is tiring. When I have terminated my relationship with someone, I do not believe that I need to wait a societally prescribed amount of time before I move on. I do not have that expectation of others either. If I happen upon someone who is mutually interested, I am not going to let a chance go by.
There are periods of time when I have been without a significant other. I often have my tail chased in the dance community, but I do find often that it is just my tail that is desired, not my overall being. Trying to find someone who values and respects me and that I feel the same value and respect for is a rarity. When I happen upon it, I will take my chances and give that person my time in hopes of finding someone that I have common ground with beyond just the dance floor or a dance form.
Those involved in dance can be mono-minded about it. If all you have in your life is dance, I am not that interested. It is like having someone that you are dating that all you enjoy is the physicality of the relationship. For it to keep my attention, I need more than just that. I need someone who will expand my mind and is open to my expansion of theirs. Gaining new experiences through their history and mutual experiences makes life worth living.
Do not get me wrong, I want someone who can dances as well. That is a significant part of my life, but my life is not complete with just dance. I need so much more. I have dated many non-dancers when I turned away from the possibility of dating within my closed community. It takes a secure person to be okay with me going out to social events where men will have their hands on me. To a dancer, it is just dancing. To a non-dancer, it can look like more than that.
It is unfortunate, as many high potential relationships with non-dancers have been thwarted by the dance issue. I always figure that I am what I am. You can choose to love me or leave me, but I am going to be true to myself and I expect the same of the person to whom I give my time. I have been pushed to no longer dance by many people even though it is my job. Even teaching lessons in my private home have drawn negative remarks from partners that I am smearing myself against the men that I teach. There is a lack of understanding and wanting to understand and expand their minds that go along with that attitude. When the offer to learn so that they can be part of the dance world with me has been denied, that is usually the beginning of the end. Why would you want me to be anything but what I am?