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|
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|
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|
|Doing business w/one of our cats helping|
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|