Take advantage of opportunities

Performing Mercutio w/ James Moore in Maillot's Romeo et Juliette (Photo: Angela Sterling)
There are people that sit on the sidelines because they have been put there and there are people that purposely place themselves there. The main reason I started freelancing was because I felt that I had spent enough time sitting on the benches at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Yes, I had some great opportunities dancing roles like Puck in Balanchine's A Midsummer's Night's Dream and Mercutio in Maillot's Romeo et Juliette. But out of the 7 programs (including Nutcracker) the company danced each season, I often spent about half of them dancing in the corps while other less experienced dancers were given the opportunity to prove themselves in roles that I had already proven I could handle. Personal story aside, I decided that I was tired of sitting on the sidelines. I have never been the type of person to sit back and watch opportunities pass and that is why I feel that freelancing is a great path for me.

I've been so busy dancing, teaching, taking an extended workshop in Safety Release technique, and having an active Alaskan social life that I can barely find any time for my regular life activities. One reason I've taken a short hiatus from posting on here is because I have been taking advantage of an array of opportunities that freelancing in Alaska has brought me. Yes, at times, I feel way too busy. But it is more important for me to build relationships, find new ways to develop my trade, and to see the world. For this reason, I haven't had a moment to sit on the couch and catch my breath.

Alaska Dance Theatre studios
I have found that freelancing gigs typically offer me more than just an opportunity to dance and make a living. Having already established a relationship with Alaska Dance Theatre while dancing with the company during their last season and following the impression that my blog has made on the leadership of the school, I was approached with the prospect of creating a workshop that focuses on career building for dancers for the students of the Alaska Dance Theatre School. Aside from feeling flattered, I was actually quite reluctant to follow through with this daunting task. Dancing 9:30 AM to 4 PM with the company and teaching four to six classes in the school each week were already eating up a majority of my time. I could have easily told the school that my schedule was too full and that I didn't have time to develop four hours worth of material to share with aspiring students. But an opportunity to develop my career in a new direction was presented and I knew that I had to take advantage of it. For the two weeks leading up to the workshop, I devoted many evenings and the whole of my weekends to put together this lecture. Not only did the students respond incredibly well to my workshop, but the push given to create it has given me an invaluable tool that I can bring elsewhere. Now that the groundwork for this workshop has been created, I can offer it to students around the country. I get to share my passion, I get to pass the flag, and I get to add another pathway to enhance my income. If I had chosen to sit in my hotel room and rest watching television, who knows when this opportunity would have presented itself again?

Another thing that shouldn't be taken for granted are social events. Often, after finishing a hard week of work, groups of dancers will get together for dinner and drinks. At other times, a donor may throw an event at their house. No matter the situation, one should do their best to attend a reasonable number of these get-togethers and events. Sometimes exhaustion gets the best of you or you don't have money to burn.  Keeping these things in mind, I have found that a majority of the dancers who don't attend these event just weren't in the mood to be social. This happens to me at times, but I do my best to fight the urge to hang back at my host family's house and sit on my computer. Having an active social life offers a handful of benefits. I find that I am always happier and less homesick when I am surrounded by other people. Many times, I have heard dancers mention that they don't want to hang out with other dancers for reasons ranging from needing work/personal-life separation to discussions that are always centered around work. What one must remember, though, is that the connections made with others in their field can benefit your career more than any other relationships you create while away from home. Lastly, if you take a chance to get to know the support system and community that created the arts organization you are working for, you can make invaluable friendships, connections, and support centers down the road.

Driving down the Seward Highway in Alaska
One thing that boggles my mind is when freelancers are given a chance to travel somewhere they have never been and they sit in their hotel room/host family's house for the entirety of the time that they are not at work. When I tell people that I travel the world dancing for a living, they always respond with envy. They say how they wish their work would take them to the places I have been brought. If you are going to be paid to travel, you might as well get as much out of that opportunity as you can. One example of this would be this past weekend. My partner is visiting me for nearly a month of my three months in Alaska. We decided to take a trip down the beautiful Seward highway (which has often been called the most beautiful drive in the world) to the town of Seward, where the highway originates. We had a two-day weekend and we had just finished an exhausting run of a show, so most people probably preferred to sleep late and hang low while resting their bodies. For me, this was something that just had to be done. We invited all of the dancers to join us, but ended up taking the 2 1/2 hour drive alone. It was definitely an opportunity missed, as it may be one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. When I danced with Festival Ballet Providence, I took advantage of the city's close proximity to Boston nearly every weekend that I was there. While with Rochester City Ballet, I visited Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. I have gone out of my way to visit cities, sights, and other great landmarks in every place that I have freelanced. Freelancing careers are sometimes short-lived. One might as well take advantage of visiting a new place, especially if your work is footing the bill of bringing you there. Who knows when you will have that opportunity ever again.
Panoramic of Seward, Alaska

Dancing is an exhausting career, both physically and mentally. Many dancers take their time off to rest and recover. Leaving time for recovery is very important, but it is not uncommon for dancers to get stuck in a pattern where they think that they always need to be in recovery mode. These dancers miss out on a great many opportunities because they turn down chances to push themselves as artists, make new connections, and to see the world. Be smart with your time off, but also push yourself to take advantage of as many opportunities that present themselves to you.

At the start of the Iditarod in Willow, AK

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