11.12.2012

CONTACT: A networking event connecting freelance dancers

Dancers connecting with dancers

It's Saturday night (I didnt get to edit until Monday) and I'm laying on my king-sized bed in my hotel room at the Courtyard Marriott right outside of Rochester, NY with ice on my muscles while drinking a Yuengling lager. I have been trying to find time all week to write this post, as I started rehearsing Nutcracker with Rochester City Ballet, but I am beginning to learn that my first week dancing any gig is always overly exhausting. This is not only because I am dancing a lot, but meeting new people, learning the culture of a company, and taking in new styles and choreography can be overwhelming. But the midnight hour has passed and I finally feel like I can take a moment to share about the event that I threw in NYC a few weeks back.

When I started freelancing, I had a very small network of friends that had any knowledge about the art of dancing with different companies on a regular basis. Most of the dancers that I knew who freelanced were stars of big ballet companies. They didn't actively seek work, instead they were always sought out for work. It must be nice to have people calling you, asking you to work for them. But in most realities, unless you are a leading dancer with a big name company, you are unlikely to receive random phone calls requesting your service as a performer.

A small network of freelancers
As I have spent more time in this field, I have started to build a base of freelancing friends and what I have found is that there is a great need for resources, mentoring, and connection in our community. Like I wrote in my previous posting, The importance of your freelancing friends, the best way that you can find work and support is through your network of friends that freelance. Dancers typically create this network very slowly, gig by gig. It is also common for dancers to lack interaction with others that perform in different styles and genres of dance. Due to the nature of our work, it can take years to develop a solid, nurturing system of support. I felt this personally and I felt this amongst my friends and decided to do something about it.

Co-hosts Bennyroyce Royon and me
An old friend of mine, Bennyroyce Royon, and I reconnected through our freelancing careers. He was a student at Juilliard, while I was a student at the School of American Ballet. We were two of very few students that crossed the social boundaries of the contemporary college and neo-classical ballet high school dance programs. After we graduated from our respective schools, we mostly lost touch, aside from a handful of chance run-ins. When I was rehearsing in NYC for my gig with Avi Scher & dancers, we reconnected and have stayed in close contact ever since. Aside from our mutual care and friendship, we have also been a great support system for each other as freelancers. Although we were raised dancers of different styles, we have had some crossover during our careers. Nonetheless, we mostly remain within the realm of our backgrounds, Benny dancing mostly contemporary work and myself dancing more in the ballet spectrum. We both exist in the same world and in two completely different worlds. We chatted for awhile when I was visiting New York this past August and decided that we needed to connect our separate communities and create something to bring together those beyond the communities that we know. And with that idea, Contact: A networking event connecting freelance dancers was born!

Our venue in Greenwich Village - Soy and Sake
Just a few weeks ago, on Monday, October 22nd, Benny and I threw our first event for freelance dancers. We were more than pleased with the success of the evening. Not only did we exceed our goal of attendees, but we also exceeded our goal of community support. We already knew that there was a great need for connection in our community. But talking directly to hardworking freelance dancers, we learned that there is even more need than we realized. Dancers don't just need help finding work, but many of the freelancers we talked to are uninsured, have few resources to help market themselves to a broad audience, struggled to find work and proper working conditions once they found it, work multiple jobs, and have nobody to hold their hand along the way. I am hoping, through events like this and beyond, to help create a support network that will make our lifestyle easier, more lucrative, and more sustainable.

Excitement over door prizes
Not only was there great energy coming from the numbers of freelancers at our event, but there was great feedback from the organizations that donated door prizes in support of this event. Benny and I were able to obtain donations from Dance Magazine, the Joyce Theater, Sansha, Broadway Dance Center, Lyquid Talent (website design), and MurphyMade photography, among others. Aside from the generosity from these organizations, those that weren't able to donate within the short time period that we put this event together (2 weeks is a short period of time), expressed their support and hope to donate to future events. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "this is such an important thing for this community and I am glad that you are doing this. Keep us updated." The general excitement for the potential coming from this event was thrilling and touching.

Meeting new friends
I hope that Benny and I can continue to bring our community together and offer friendship and support to this network of talented human beings. We are so grateful for all of the support that we received for this event and for the great amount of generosity that was offered to make this event a success! Enjoy the photos I posted from that evening (captured by the amazing Karsten Staiger) and please stay tuned for future news!

Networking at its finest

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