This is a continuation of “Big Questions 1”. Here is another question that required the greatest and tenderest management skills in my career.
If I want to change things up, do I move to a competitive company and end up destroying my relationship with the director of the company who raised me as a dancer?
Loyalty is a good thing, remember that. The truth is, most people are most loyal to themselves. There is little altruism that remains in our world. In a dog-eat-dog career like dancing, loyalty is a coveted virtue and can give you an edge. You still have to remain loyal to yourself though. Considering how leaving a company could affect a person who invested in you is a choice that will have long-term ramifications. As with coaches, there can be possessiveness by the director for company dancers and rightly so. Like an employer, the director has invested a lot of time, money, and effort into moulding you into what you are. They likely have imparted the best of what they know into you, especially if you are one of their rising stars. Yes, you did contribute by being a willing participant, sharing your talent, and reciprocating with your time. However, without their care and guidance, you likely would not be where you are today.
Making the decision to change companies boils down to this: Do you want to be where you are forever? If you are a core dancer or puppet in the company, you may no longer be growing. If you had an opportunity to take on more challenges within a company, would you? If your answer is yes, it is time to speak to the powers that be and feel out if that is possible. This does take some management of your ego and theirs. You do not want to walk in appearing to have an ultimatum of give me what I want or I am walking. This may be exactly your point of view, but a threatening approach like that could get you turfed out of the company and the news of your ego spread to potential companies you were considering approaching.
Go into the meeting having practiced citing that you are feeling that you need more out of your dancing. You have so much enjoyed being in the position and having the opportunities that you have in this company. At this point, you want more and you want to give the director first right of refusal to help you with this, but you are not sure if that opportunity exists in the company as of this moment. If the director wants you to stay and wants you to keep developing, he or she will find a way. This could be moving your into a more leadership role for the company. It could be giving you more spotlight roles on the stage. You never know what the opportunity could be that they have in mind, but it is always smart to feel out what they have. Before approaching them, they may not have even known you were discontented.
There may also be no further room for your development within the company. Maybe the company is as complex as the director wants it to be. Maybe the director does not see any further growth potential in you and is not interested to further you in the company. If by approaching the director, this becomes obvious, it is time to move on. The director will understand as he or she was in your shoes at some point in their career as well. They would not have achieved what they did by not seeking growth opportunities. Always leave the door open for future connection. You never know if they might need you and you might need them. There will be some hurt feelings, but hurt is less damaging than resentment.
Again, it boils down to survival of the fittest. If you allow yourself to plateau, it will not be long before you are a “has been”. It is easy to become this especially if you have been in a company for a long time. By taking the opportunity to get yourself into a new company or new role, your dancing will be perceived differently, allowing you to be elevated to a new level.