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If I Can Make It In The Big Apple, I’ll Make It Anywhere

By Shannon Atkins

Finding ANY job let alone your dream job in a city like New York City can be quite the challenge. It is a known fact that the cream of the crop arrive in New York hoping and praying that they have a shot of making it. As the famous Sinatra song clearly reminds us every year after the ball drops in Times Square “If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere.” This rings very true for people working in the performing arts industry.

During the first few weeks of my life in the Big Apple, I would sit behind a laptop in my Harlem apartment and send out email after email, CV after CV…crossing my fingers and toes (when I could feel them given it was January). I certainly felt like the little fish in the big pond and was well aware that dance instructors and choreographers are a dime a dozen in the tristate area with Broadway just a hop, skip and a jump down the road. Very daunting. Not to mention the fact that I had never even attended a “proper” job interview in my life and had no connections to my field in the USA. I had been lucky enough in my little bubble down under to receive most of my jobs through word of mouth or relationships I had built in the dance community. Finding a job was also new territory given I was a business owner in Australia and subsequently it was me doing the hiring. I began to picture a bleak future where just like Carrie in Sex in The City I would be choosing between food and the latest Cosmo magazine.

Even though it would be an understatement to say I started at the very bottom, about 400 emails later my luck began to change.

I was hired by a company titled “Fit for Life NYC” which was a major victory at the time-  little did I know what I was getting myself into. Informed that I would be teaching dance in schools you could imagine my shock to discover this was not the case. My new job involved trekking down into the depths of Brooklyn to teach “animal dancing” and physical education (really not my forte) to very disruptive, undisciplined children. Luckily a studio in Westchester “New York Performing Arts Center” needed a tap and jazz teacher urgently. They saved me! This was a very uncommon occurrence and stroke of luck given that the schools over here were halfway through their year. We both joke that it was fate and meant to be – I have definitely found a family in NYPAC. From this point on things fell into place as the saying goes, proving that my move to New York was meant to be.

I have landed many positions as a Dance Judge and convention teacher, not only due to my experience and talent but also by being in the right place at the right time which is half the battle, I have come to find.

These positions have taken me all over the United States (I can tick off 30 States now), Mexico and Canada and next month I’ll be off to Poland with The USA Dance Company. All of these opportunities are experiences of a lifetime that I am eternally grateful to have had as part of my journey. I have also been lucky enough to create a “family” through dance and have met people that have greatly impacted me and  I know will be in my life forever.

Most recently this year I have commenced teaching at Broadway Dance Center – in my eyes the ULTIMATE dance training facility. I used to make an annual trip to this amazing place to draw inspiration for my Australian students- never in my craziest vision board dreams did I think I would be on the faculty here but it has happened. So even though I haven’t choreographed a Broadway Show yet and my first official job over here was less than glamorous; from humble beginnings, I certainly feel that this Aussie has made a mark in the city of dreams. This really is the land of opportunity if you dare to put yourself out there.

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