Being the Significant Other of a Freelance Dancer

I've been excitedly waiting for this post for some time. While most of my readers get to see my side of what it is like to be a freelance dancer, there is a very important part of my career and life equation that has been left out of my writing. While I dance on stages across the world, I still have a life and home in Philadelphia. My life partner, Dan Loya, is just as integral a part of my career as my dancing. Without the support and assistance I get from him, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. I asked him a while back to write about what it was like to be with a professional dancer that is often away from home. He very thoughtfully and eloquently wrote about his experience living with, living without, and supporting me from a distance. Read below to hear his unique perspective and role:

My name is Dan Loya and I am the Significant Other of a Freelance Dancer
Many of you have been following Barry's life as a freelance dancer, but none of his posts reveal what it’s like living with a performing artist who is constantly traveling. While everybody here gets to read about Barry's experiences and adventures, those that don't know us personally never get a feel for what's happening behind the scenes. The old adage goes, "behind every good man is a good woman." I consider myself the "good husband" behind the good man. When I look at the pros and cons of being partnered with a freelance dancer, there is a delicate balance that has to be maintained.

Some details of being the significant other of a dancer may be a given. Yes, I don't pay to attend any of the shows he performs in. And I have had the advantage of seeing world-class performances; ranging from the highest caliber companies to avant-garde productions that perform underground shows. Often, I am also surrounded by dancers of all ranks. But the times I get to feel like I’m part of the elite ballet and contemporary dance worlds are sometimes overshadowed by the downsides of my role.

Visiting Portage Bay in Alaska
The roughest part of being in a relationship with someone who travels constantly for work is the time apart. We have learned over the past few years that, indeed, distance does make the heart grow fonder. After Barry's first year of freelancing, I made a comment that we have a “part-time long distance” relationship. That didn’t sit well with him at first. We have managed to make it work, and I travel to visit him in any place he dances for more than 3-4 weeks. So far in the past few years, I have stayed with him in Providence, Rochester, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even as far as Anchorage. Fortunately, since I own my own business as a professional organizer, I often arrange to work with clients in many of the cities where he performs. 

Communication is key to us staying connected. We talk on the phone once a day, if we can. During our conversations, we update each other on events from that day, plan and strategize, encourage each other, sometimes discuss how stressed we are about one thing or another, and, most importantly, listen to each other. Toward the end of each call, I always have some business to discuss and ask for his feedback. One thing I have realized is that when Barry has challenges with a gig (and at times he questions whether or not he should continue freelancing), it has a negative impact on me.

Often I function as his business manager, helping him to decide which jobs to take, coaching him on negotiations, reminding him to contact specific people, and encouraging him to make important contacts and to maintain relationships with them. When I am dealing with home stresses without him,
it can make it more difficult for me to fulfill the manager role. We also spend many holidays and anniversaries apart, so we sometimes celebrate them early…or even months later (like Thanksgiving in March).

Celebrating Halloween moments after Barry stepped off a plane
One of the most difficult aspects of remaining connected through phone conversations is noise and distractions on his side. We aren't always in the same time zone. So while I may be getting ready to sleep, Barry may be out eating dinner. Sometimes, I struggle to hear him due to noise; like in a restaurant he’s eating at late night after a show, dogs barking in his host’s home, etc. When he is at the studio or out with other dancers, he will answer their questions or give them updates during our conversation. We Skype whenever we can (this method of conversing is preferred), but the internet connection on his side isn’t always great and the time difference can be barrier.

Doing business w/one of our cats helping
You may be wondering how we maintain all of the tasks that are normally managed by a couple when he’s gone. When Barry is home, we coordinate our schedules by using a Google Calendar and by writing reminders on a dry-erase board. Since he dances, teaches, and choreographs, I have to be incredibly flexible to accommodate his schedule at times. During weeks that he's away and I have to hold down the fort, I usually email him details from certain bills, make deposits for him at the bank,
send out checks on his behalf, clean our apartment, take care of our 2 cats (one that gets sick quite often), run our errands, and wash the piles of dirty dance clothes he doesn’t have time to wash (dance belts included!). This is all in addition to working 40-50 hours a week on my own business. So it can be very stressful at times.

Barry has (jokingly) referred to himself as an “alien” because he travels so much and is away from home so often. We joke that acquaintances and friends I make in Philadelphia don’t believe he really exists until they meet him. When he’s gone, I also maintain social connections on his behalf. Since my partner is a professional dancer, most of our mutual friends (and people who still haven’t met him yet) are often inquisitive about his background, his profession, and where he has traveled to recently.

For those readers out there who are partners or spouses of freelance dancers (or other professions that require frequent travel), I would like to leave you with some suggestions to help you cope with the distance and time apart:

1. Be flexible. Work with your partner as a team to make things work.
2. Check in with each other on a daily basis. Don't underestimate the power of a text. Skype or use FaceTime when possible.
3. Keep yourself occupied by doing things you enjoy when you miss your other half.
4. Approach the relationship as an adventure. It will never be predictable and mundane.
5. Stay connected with your partner’s family when he’s gone. Part of the reason we chose to move to Philly was the proximity to Barry’s family in the suburbs here.

As the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, revealed, “You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” Barry and I have endured our rough patches. Our relationship started as a long distance romance the first year, and we have been a team ever since we became a couple. What the future holds, I cannot say. But this I know… As long as he chooses to be a freelance dancer, I will be there.

Barry and me at the top of Lombard Street in San Francisco last weekend
What's the longest you've ever spent away from your significant other? How did you cope with the time apart?

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