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5 Reminders From Your Dance Mom: Starting Your Dance Career

By Jill Wolins

I am probably about to sound like an annoying Dance Mom, but there are just too many mishaps that can easily be prevented in a dancer’s life. A professional dancer’s life is unfortunately not quite as long as the typical office or corporation job that may involve earning a company car or the quintessential vested/tenured position with the Rolex watch. It’s a labor of love, that includes moments of gratitude for every job landed, and every minute on the stage and in the rehearsal room.

In order to save yourself time, money and frustration on the road to success as a professional, open your ears and listen up to your annoying Dance Mom here. No one person is bigger than or exempt from this list. Your mother promises.

1) Getting experience counts.

Jobs like theme park or cruise ship shows offer a repetitive repertoire regimen that is hugely beneficial, especially to beginner professionals. When starting in the biz, most people don’t see this sort of repetition as a necessity or road to professionalism. Putting in the hours and doing what feels like a thousand shows give a dancer a seasoning that can only come with time. A dancer sees exactly how he or she fits into the bigger picture and learns truly what it is to be a professional. It is like marriage: in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, you will perform your choreography.

2) Warm up.

That doesn’t mean a cup of coffee sitting in a center split. Why? Because all it takes is one moment of a wrong ankle twist, knee torque, prop drop or head whip to end it all and stop the paychecks from rolling in. Many or most dancers end up learning the most about their bodies in specific through physical therapy. Use your education, stay in shape and warm up. Get into the fact that the rest of your life as a dancer will include a foam roller and yoga mat.

3) Don’t be a busybody.

It’s a small world. Who even says busybody anymore? Well, it applies here. Don’t be “that person.” That person who always has to voice an opinion about everything. Connections count. Sometimes the people in the cast or crew that may not be your flavor end up in very high positions in the future. You don’t want to stop yourself from getting a gig in the future because a person you were talking or gossiping about knows a person in the position of power. Also, don’t expect to “fool around” with “other people’s property” without consequences. Chances are these kinds of actions will all come back to haunt you. No, I am not preaching, I am warning. You will see all of the above happen again and again. Drama is a sure-fire way to ensure you don’t get hired the next time around. There are too many talented people out there waiting in the wings. Everyone is replaceable, and why lose a gig because you couldn’t wait to complain until you got to your room or apartment.

4) Go to every audition.

You don’t always land the gigs for which you believe you are right. You often land jobs that you had no idea that you were even being considered for. Since we already know that the most talented people do not always get the job, we need to leave room for possibilities that are beyond our control or expectation. Commit to the business and art, don’t only commit to the idea you have in your head of how you think your future will look. If the audition is a gig you see as artistically “beneath you” yet well paying, don’t judge. Make your money to support your dance and art form you love most. As your career unfolds, you will begin to see many of your experiences add up, and build on each other.

5) Save your money!

You can spend your checks on getting the latest iPhone, or designer clothes, but there may come a time when many of your friends from high school and college are homeowners, and saving for the future. It is a loose life structure, one of a performer. Especially if you are freelancing, it is necessary to create the structure of life, and that includes financial structure. If you are not a union performer or don’t work for a company that offers a retirement or 401k plan, come up with a plan. Time flies. You don’t want to come out of a contract broke as a joke because you decided to party your coins away.

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