|Introducting myself at Alaska Dance Theatre's 2013 gala event|
DO be open to trying new things (locations, styles of dance, non-dance activities, etc).
DON'T keep quiet about the big things that make you comfortable or uncomfortable. For the most part, everybody wants to work in a comfortable environment. Most employers work very hard to make a freelancer feel at home and a part of the company.
|Driving along Cook Inlet towards Girdwood, AK (Photo: Beth Maslinoff)|
DON'T show up to a gig completely out of shape!
DO remember to pace yourself. If you show up to a gig too exhausted from previous work, overzealous, or over-prepared, you may burn out or become injured. If you come into a new rehearsal setting and constantly dance at 150%, you may injure yourself. Remember that you are in a new atmosphere with different floors, walls, and mirrors. There are new dancers, new styles, new approaches to dancing. If you become injured, not only are you jeopardizing your potential to work there again, you are also putting the company in a difficult place.
DON'T lie about your current physical state. If you have an injury, be up front and honest about it. If you are recovering from an injury, you don't necessarily have to tell them you had that injury, but if it flares up be sure to say something. Any good and moral employer understands that injuries do happen in the dance world and are usually more than willing to work with you and help you out.
DO find ways to develop yourself beyond dancing. I was lucky enough to get my Associate of the Arts degree from Seattle Central Community College while dancing with PNB. Also, as I stated above, I gave one part of a 2-part lecture series on Career Development for dance students this past weekend. Being given this opportunity by the wonderful staff of Alaska Dance Theatre to develop this workshop gives me a tool to make added income throughout the year. I can offer this workshop to students across the country.
DON'T try to dance for 52 weeks every year. Your body needs a rest. I believe that no person should dance more than 2-3 months without a week or two off. I believe this is one reason my career has successfully lasted 10 years to this point.
DO be gracious towards your employers. They chose to hire you over many other dancers. Whether it be an honest verbal thank you, a short note, or a follow-up email, let your employer know that you are appreciative and what you will take away/remember from your time working with the company.
|Dan, Joerg, and myself - Hanging out w/a great friend I met at PNB events|
DON'T be anti-social. If you are dancing with a company, try to get to know the dancers around you. If you are invited to an event, don't sit in the corner sipping on a glass of wine. Freelancers are often exciting and intriguing people, especially to patrons and potential donors. Make dance connections and make non-dance connections. It will benefit you emotionally and could even lead to friendship/support/sponsorship down the line.
DO reevaluate whether freelancing is right for you often. Freelancing is too hard to just go through the motions. You are constantly adjusting to new environments, leaving home, and putting yourself on the line. It is easy to lose sight of your goals and get into a bad routine. If you are no longer enjoying the spontaneity that is a requirement of the job, it may be time to reevaluate your goals.
DON'T change everything about your dancing to conform to a new company. Fit in and don't be disrespectful, but stay true to yourself. You got hired because there was something interesting about your dancing that drew the director to hire you
DO ask a company to help you with things you will need once you arrive. I require wireless internet when I travel. I will be miserable without it at my residence. I also need transportation if Im not staying in a highly urban area. If there is no gym at the studios, I ask if they can get me a gym membership nearby (or at least a discount). Ever since I worked as an AGMA delegate with PNB, I have been a major advocate of asking directly for the things you need (emotionally and physically).
DON'T drink too much at events, while staying with a host family, or on a work day. While freelancing, you only have a short period of time to make a lasting impression. From a few days to a few weeks, the people you work with will only remember you for what you did during that short period of time.
DO smile and laugh. This may seem super shallow, but employers are drawn to dancers that are happy. The more you smile and laugh, the more likely an employer will enjoy your presence. Try to do this genuinely.
DON'T take work without a clearly defined contract. If you start working without a contract, you are not protected from anything that happens. If you are not paid or paid a different amount than you agreed to, you have no proof that you were ever supposed to receive that payment. If your duties on a gig change (e.g you are given an added role to replace an injured dancer), make sure you are compensated for the added duties. Don't rely on the word of an employer as an agreement for additional pay.
DO take class regularly. Your body and technique are your product. Since you are only seen during your time at a gig, you are only as good as you currently are. If you let your technique slide for a moment, your employer doesn't know that you are a better dancer than you appear.
DON'T lose contact with your loved ones, family, and friends back at your home base. When you are finished your gig, you still have relationships waiting for you when you return home. If you don't maintain them while you are away, they may not be there when you get back.
DO have a voice. Most employers want to take advantage of your outside knowledge. You can help them as much as they can help you. Just be aware of the right times to speak up and the wrong time. Being a freelancer, you have more say in the work you do than a company dancer.
DON'T cross certain boundaries with students/underage dancers. There are obvious reasons for this. It is in your best interest to remain friendly but keep your distance. When you are freelancing with a school, perhaps dancing with a top student, you do have to develop a comfortable camaraderie with your partner. This is where it should end. I am always sending messages to students at schools on Facebook stating, "It was so nice to meet you during the Nutcracker. Thank you for requesting my friendship, but unfortunately I do not accept friend requests from anybody under the age of 18. If you would like any dance advice, feel free to email me at my email address. Good luck!"
DO find ways to keep pushing yourself as a dancer. At times, freelancing means that you are doing something that you have done before or with a school that only has students in their production. I sometimes feel like I am only hired to bring the level of an organization up, especially when dancing in a school production. Afterwards, I often feel hungry for an opportunity to perform work that is bringing my dancing to a new level through challenging work or dancing alongside high-level professionals that inspire me. I am always trying to find new ways to challenge myself, even when I'm dancing with a student in the 5th show of a production that is easier than work I've done in the past.