Summer slow-down

Summer in Tel Aviv
The dance world functions kind of like our nation's school systems. Classes and seasons tend to start around Labor day. Seasons end and schools close around the beginning of June. For those that are looking for added enrichment or are a little behind, summer school is in order. In the ballet world, summer programs are great ways to get exposure and test out a company's school. Since these intensives bring in larger masses of students than the school year, most companies don't rehearse or perform during the summer months. And who wants to sit inside a dark, cool theatre when the sun is out and you could be away on vacation? For these reason, it can be very difficult to find dance work during the summer.

There is the occasional performance opportunity during the summer, but they are rare and usually comprise of companies going to festivals or international shows. For that reason, many freelance dancers look for other work during the summertime. This can be a positive thing, as it gives the body a rest and it gives dancers a chance to enrich other parts of themselves, dance related or not. So, what job should a freelancer search for when they are off for the summer, but still need to make a living?

The first job that comes to mind is one that will help build experience in a field that many dancers choose to enter once they retire. Teaching dance is a great outlet for dancers when they aren't dancing full-time. You get to give back to your students and you can even learn a lot about yourself as a dancer. The tricky part about teaching at summer intensives is that these programs often start hiring their roster of teachers back in January and February. So, you have to be willing to commit to not dancing before you may know if you have a possible dance job lined up. For instance, I was expecting to be dancing this summer, but my plans changed dramatically in April. So, when I started seeking summer work,  most summer programs had already booked their faculty. I sent out many emails, but am having to search in other places to make ends meet at the moment. But if you are able to obtain one of these summer teaching jobs, it may help keep you going for a month or two or maybe even help you take a vacation.

Another option for the earlier part of the summer is to apply to judge at national competitions or teach at their conventions. Most of these competitions continue through mid-July, so there won't be many options beyond that time frame. I have not judged for any competitions, but I do have friends that have sat on these panels. The days can be long and tedious and the talent can cover a wide range. But competitions pay well and the chance to spot young talent before it gets noticed on a larger scale can be a great reward. As for teaching, you need to have the ability to remain fluid and open to things. Most convention classes are not your typical 10-30 student classes. They are often held in hotel ballrooms with well over 100 students trying to learn a combination. As long as you keep an open mind and are comfortable teaching on a grand scale, this could be a very valuable option.

Many of my friends make ends meet by getting a part-time job in a non-dance related field. There are a few ways to make good money, like waiting tables or bartending. But I would suggest staying away from these options if you are planning on dancing and remaining physically active at the same time. Of course, you do what you have to do. But my suggestion is to find a job that doesn't require you to be on your feet for hours on end or that keeps you up into the early hours of the morning. Try to find something you are passionate about while still making enough to survive. A friend of mine was very passionate about baking and was able to get a job at a pastry shop. If you want to stay in the dance community, look into working at the local dance shop. Not only will you get paid, but you might be able to grow a relationship beyond your time working there and get discounts on your dance clothes and shoes in the future. Maybe even consider getting a job at your local gym. You can make money and, at the same time, save money that would typically be spent on your membership. In the end, try to be open-minded and don't talk yourself out of applying for a job that you are really interested in doing. My former colleague, Kari Brunson, took a summer lay-off to explore her passion and eventually became a full-time chef and started her own Juicing Business.

Photo by Brian Mengini
Now that you've taken time to consider money-making ventures, consider doing other things that you have been putting off while you were dancing full-time. I had been speaking with Brian Mengini, Philadelphia area dance photographer, for nearly a year trying to set up a photo shoot. Brian is having an event, Barre Boys Turns 2, where he will be displaying nearly 30 photos that he has taken of male ballet dancers from New York City Ballet, to San Francisco Ballet, to the Mariinsky. Last week, I was finally able to work out a shoot with Brian where we ended up with this fantastic shot for the event. I will also be speaking on a panel about being a male dancer at the event. I have also been able to use some of my free time to assist my partner with his new business. Spaces Transformed is a professional organizing business. Dan goes into people's homes and offices to assist with organizing and helps develop systems to maintain that organization. Although my partner has done a great job starting his company, he is not as proficient at social media and internet marketing as I am. So, to help out, I have taken over some of the social media and website marketing work. Not only am I helping out somebody that I love, but I am getting some great experience that I may be able to use when I have finished my dance career.

When temperatures get hotter outside and people are running to the beaches, freelance dancers have to raise the heat in areas beyond their performing careers. There are many possibilities for work, from career building opportunities to life enrichment beyond dance. Performance work slows down during the summertime, but that doesn't mean that you have to go broke. Be smart, put yourself out there, and take advantage of the break from performing.

No comments:

Post a Comment