I just happened to be on FB this morning reading the posts of my many talented friends in the business; many that have had long, long careers doing what they love to do and making a good living at it. Today, in particular however, I stumbled across a post of a friend who is between shows. This is someone who has pretty much worked consistently in the Broadway community for the past 25 years. This one line resonated with me so much it made me stop and think whether we truly prepare our students enough for what is ahead of them. The post read, “Isn’t this biz amazing how you can live your lifelong dream dancing with Chita Rivera one week and then back to the audition grind the next?”
So, the question I pose to you this week is, are we honest with our students about what the real life of a dancer fully entails? Because the truth of the matter is, this quote is really not that uncommon. Many, many dancers can spend 6 months on tour dancing for someone famous or have a residency with a company and then with the blink of an eye find themselves back at their waitressing or bartending job trying to pay the rent. The odds of the “in-between gigs job” is pretty much going to be a given…. unless they are one of the very few that has the talent and luck to bypass it.
We prepare our students for everything. We train them and teach them their technique, performance skills, choreography, studio and theater etiquette, how to dress appropriately for class, what to bring to an audition, how to audition, the list goes on and on. So shouldn’t survival skills in the real world be our responsibility too? Getting them to at least consider and think about the interim of landing a successful audition is essential. They need to be fully aware that for most, they will be auditioning more than they will be performing. That’s the reality. They will have to take that “in-between gigs job” and they will experience the highs of being on tour and possibly getting a taste of the glamorous life, traveling, signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, going to parties, etc… etc… and then in the next breath could be serving a burger and fries or cleaning toilets while waiting for the 5th call back….and that could also go on for 6 months or longer. That’s the truth. And aren’t we supposed to be truthful with our dancers?
Now, the key is not to scare them but make them aware and provide them with the same training preparation and tools we do in their dance classes. We want to always set our dancers up for success. Honesty about the “real world” accompanied with readiness and a game plan will give your dancers a strategic leg up on what they might experience going forward. It will also help them recognize how fortunate they are when they do land a gig and how precious those professional experiences are in a sometimes short but beloved career.
Finally, remind your dancers that while yes, they may one minute be dancing professionally and the next back to auditioning…..the same is true vice-versa. It takes just the turn of a corner, one audition and the difference of a day to be back on that stage. Never give up. Keep going and persevere. At some point lightening will strike for them and they’ll know we’re rooting them on every step of the way!
See you in the studio…
* For further info on Jessica Rizzo or to contact her, go to the “teacher profile” section or go to www.jrizzo.net