After a few beers with some friends, three weeks into my London adventure, my mind starts to wander. I’ve just enjoyed the company of two very talented dancers who have given everything they have to this industry. One has had to deal with an irreversible injury to both her knees (after a successful dance career, she is now a MT Agent’s Assistant) and the other is still performing regularly. Both are very happy, single and determined to be successful. I admire them both.
The job we’ve chosen is not an easy one, that’s for sure. It’s not like we knew what we were getting ourselves into. When you are young you just choose the thing you’re good at, right? If you are good at something, you must be able to turn it into a career. Somehow. You don’t tend to weigh up the pros and cons when you are young because the thought of not doing what you love scares you beyond belief.
So off we went, full steam ahead, training for our dream job (whatever that means). Pushing ourselves every day, comparing ourselves against others, refusing to fail; throwing ourselves 100% into every aspect. Then came the actual hard part. Auditioning.
Oh, so this is where you learn resilience. Not from school, not from mock auditions in class, not from auditioning for your dance school’s in-house production of West Side Story. This is reality. Unfortunately, reality says “NO” 90% of the time. How am I ever supposed to get hired? Why aren’t they picking me? What don’t I have that the others have?
It’s a harsh, harsh industry that has zero empathy and a strict one chance policy. If you stuff up once, you don’t usually get another shot. It’s pretty tough, especially when you know you didn’t perform at your best and they won’t let you have a second chance. In fact - you NEVER get a second chance.
In saying this, most dancers are aware of the slim chances and encourage each other to not give up. It’s completely normal to be rejected and that is absolutely part of the job. It can come down to your hair colour, your height and in most cases - your body type. It’s not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. A very thick skin is probably the best asset a dancer can have.
So the ones who succeed are the ones who realise this, deal with it and don’t compete with fellow dancers. A bit of competition can be healthy but a lot can be detrimental. I strongly believe in supporting fellow artists and congratulating them on their success, as opposed to putting them down and talking about them behind their back. Some people like to compare and say things like “they didn’t deserve the job.” Jobs are based on more than just talent and there is always someone who could dance it better, look better and handle it better. This is why it’s so hard to even GET a job. Don’t put others down for achieving success when we are all striving for the same thing. We all want it, we all worked hard for it, we all deserve it. Let’s be happy for each other because it’s a bloody ordeal to even get hired.
Being a dancer, I’ve come to realise the absolute hardest part is learning to focus. If you are a dancer reading this right now and you are struggling with your thoughts (we all contemplate giving up now and again) - this is what I have to say:
Do you have short-term and long-term goals? Make them. Focus on them. Don’t let your mind go astray and tell you you aren’t good enough. Don’t lose your passion. Stay focussed on what matters to you and go out there and make it happen. Get your butt to class, go to the auditions, take a risk.
I get that some of us have been doing this for a long time and are perhaps considering a different career. This is a question all of us have contemplated. Moving on from the stage is pretty much inevitable for the majority. However, it doesn’t mean it has to happen drastically all at once. We tend to dramatise most things in life! Just chill out for a second and think about what else is going to make you happy. You still need to set goals, focus on them and believe in your abilities, no matter what career you are in. It doesn’t mean you can’t still go to class and maintain your dance passion. I mean, that’s where it all started in the first place, isn’t it?
So, whether you are still performing, are thinking about retiring or are forced to take a different path due to injury/circumstance, remember this:
Success comes from within. The only person who has the ability to make you happy or unhappy, is you.
Don’t like something? Change it. Feeling lost? Go searching. Scared? Good. No-one became a success by playing it safe.
Stay focused, friends! You've got this.