So, Your Professional Dance Career Didn’t Work Out – Now What?

So, Your Professional Dance Career Didn’t Work Out – Now What

By Susie Boyland, contributor

After all the years of training you put in, becoming a professional dancer didn’t work out, and now you have no idea what to do. Living in a cardboard box doesn’t sound like an attractive option…nor does living with your parents for 10 more years…Perhaps injury ended your career prematurely, you just couldn’t find a job, or you realized that as much as you love ballet, you really can’t stand repeating the same 10 seconds of a ballet over and over throughout hours of rehearsal every day.  However, if you had your sights set on becoming a ballet dancer, coming to the realizing that your dream career isn’t going to work out can be devastating.  So what now? There are many career paths that will allow you to remain in the dance world and use your dance experience without being a dancer in a professional company.

Dancers are disciplined, intelligent, driven, and know how to make a commitment.  Plus, being able to smile and look happy while dancing in pointe shoes with toes covered in blisters has its benefits in the outside world: your boss will never know how much you really hate writing those TPS reports (though after you’ve smiled through your fair share of grunt work, be sure to fight for that promotion you deserve!).  You also know how to work on a team: after all the hours of going into excruciating detail during corps work in Swan Lake while your teacher screams at you, working on a team project is a piece of cake!  And speaking of cake, you now can also have that extra slice without worrying so much about how you’d look in that hideous unitard you might otherwise be wearing in your next performance.

Nevertheless, ballet is a big part of your life and you’re not ready to let it go completely.  Good news is you don’t have to!  Most of these alternate career options will require a degree (or two…or three) or perhaps some specialized training, but fear not; the time and dedication you put into your ballet training is proof that you have what it takes to succeed in just about any career.  Here are five (and a bonus list) of the multitudes of other career options you might consider:

1. Physical Therapist
Let’s be real – all dancers end up in physical therapy at some point or another.  Having a physical therapist who does not know a plié from a tendu is about as fun as trying to explain to your non-dancer friends that no, you really cannot miss rehearsal “just this one time” to go to the beach.  Dancers will flock to a physical therapist with a dance background as they are hard to come by.  Helping other dancers to recover from their injuries could be very satisfying, and the training you will receive in physical therapy school will also help you to deal with your own injuries whenever they arise.  Plus, you will ace your anatomy classes, even if you’ve never taken one before.  How many other types of people can tell you where the psoas is before hearing about it in an anatomy class?  From my experience, not a whole lot.

For those who aren’t opposed to completing many more years of schooling, perhaps a career as an orthopedic surgeon is an option.  Every dancer’s worst fear when it comes to surgery is that he or she won’t be able to dance again.  Naturally this field is highly specialized and probably isn’t for most, but former dancers who do become surgeons could become highly regarded in this field.

2. Pilates Teacher
Now that we’re done discussing the scary stuff (surgery = yikes!), let’s get back to something we’re more familiar with.  Love it or hate it, cross training is essential for injury prevention.  Ballet dancers already have an acute sense of awareness when it comes to their bodies, and a pilates teacher who already has this awareness will be able to better meet the needs of his or her students.  Chances are you’ve already taken 203942038 pilates classes or thereabouts in your lifetime, so getting your certification shouldn’t be too frightening of a prospect.  Yoga is another option too.

3. Nutritionist
While you may now be allowed to have that extra piece of cake, most professional dancers have to be much more wary of what they eat.  As you no doubt know, in order to keep your body healthy and functioning at peak physical condition, nutrition is key.  For those who already like to eat as healthily as they can, this may seem like an attractive career option.  For those who wanted to hide in the back during nutrition class at summer programs, perhaps this idea sounds about as fun as repeating a long adage in the center.  In that case, let’s just move on to the next idea…

4. Lighting, Costume, or Set Designer
Jobs that help dancers lead injury-free and healthy lives are great and all, but what you really may be looking for is a way to still be involved in the performance aspect of ballet.  Lighting, costumes, and sets are what help to bring a ballet to life.  Creating a magical stage environment would simply not be possible without the work of these creative individuals.  You already know what does and doesn’t look good on the stage, so you’d be a natural at this!

5. Choreographer or Dance Teacher
These are the most obvious choices for a dancer who has to leave the stage but is not ready to leave the studio.  As dancers we have a vast amount of experience with choreographers and teachers, and likely know what we do and don’t like from each.  Many dancers choose one or both of these options after retiring from performing, but there’s no reason why these jobs should be reserved only for retired professional dancers.  These jobs may not be able to provide full-time work though, so perhaps these options could be a part-time supplement to another full-time job.

Lastly, a bonus list (which by no means includes the rest of your options):

  • Dance Photographer
  • Dance Journalist/Reviewer
  • Actor/Actress
  • Massage Therapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Dancewear or shoe designer
  • Business management or marketing work for your favorite company

If none of these sound good to you, then another option is to choose a career which is unrelated to the dance world but will provide you with the financial means and free time to enjoy as much dance as you want!  In my case, I got an engineering degree (undergrad only) and was able to get a job at a large aerospace corporation in a city with ample dance opportunities.  Engineering sounds terrifying, but I’ll let you in on a secret: Ballet is WAY more difficult!  My engineering job allows me to have the financial stability and time to take as many classes as I want (whenever injuries don’t prevent me from doing so) and attend professional ballet performances on a regular basis.  I know several other pre-professionally trained dancers who did the same thing and are also happy with their decision.  Not everyone is math and science oriented, but if you are then perhaps engineering could be a good option for you too.  Most engineers are left-brained and logical, but as a dancer you also have an artistic and creative element which can make you stand out.  Plus, who knows – maybe you could be the one to come up with a new and revolutionary long-lasting pointe shoe!  (One that doesn’t look like a Gaynor…#justsayin)

Each person is different and has his or her own skills and interests, but there is still a bright future for everyone whose dancing dreams didn’t come true in the way they’d hoped.  It will take time and effort, but when you think about all the hard work you’ve put in while training as a ballet dancer, it’s tough to think of something that could be more difficult than what you’ve already accomplished.  The end of your professional dancing days, even if they never begun, is not really an end, but rather the start of a new dream.

—-

www.facebook.com/aballeteducation
DONATE to a Ballet Education
IG: @aballeteducation
Twitter: @balleteducation
E-mail: aballeteducation@gmail.com

Advertisements

Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

Sugar Plums: 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker

(The list of 5 Reasons why the Nutcracker won’t ever go away can be found by clicking here.)

Sugared plums are probably one of the nastiest tasting confections known to mankind, but the reality is they are beautiful. They possess a kind of quality fit for a ballet. And just like the ballet, Nutcracker is probably one of the nastiest, politically incorrect ballets. But, we still take our kids year after year anyways… I don’t know if Balanchine purposefully tried to avoid the racism by renaming the variations, but somehow racism it still made made its way into the choreography of the ballet. As a strong believer that dance/ballet is a reflection of humanity, it scares me that we have not evolved passed racial stereotypes. So, in honor of all of the Nutcracker stuff that is going around… 5 Awful Realities of the Nutcracker.

  1. Behold the glory of second act… Or the racism that is the second act. As progressive as dancers are, we still allow racist movements within the ballets. Chinese is ridiculous, and Arabian is hyper sexualized when in modern day reality, women are oppressed. Does anyone even know why Spanish is called hot chocolate? Hot chocolate was “invented” by the Aztecs and Mayans. Yup, there is a lot of racism. Not to mention the male glory of Russian, and the exuding of machismo testosterone.
  2. The entirety of Nutcracker is basically based on a psychological complex: projecting fantasies on to doll, Drosselmeier is just creepy in general and her parents don’t play a role in her life.
  3. Am I the only one who is concerned that flowers is not a confection? In the second act, a lot of versions have tried avoiding the race card by renaming the variations after confections, except waltz…
  4. Nutcracker really does not make sense. Yeah, I said it. The two act ballet really could be summed up into one act, but the fantasy of act 2 gets the best of us. Sometimes I feel like we should actually just cut the entire first act except snow, and turn act 1 into a shorter abridged prologue… Dads would be happier if act 1 was shorter.
  5. Finally, it always astounds me that the casting of Nutcracker. Nutcracker has to be the most politically incorrect ballet when it comes to casting. I guess for all white companies, it really doesn’t matter, but for those who are asian will probably always get cast as chinese, and for those who are ethnic, spanish… It is sad. I remember one time we were doing Balanchine’s version of Nutcracker and one of my best friends and I were in the same cast… (he is black) and the two of us were pointed out that we dance spanish corps the best and I quote, “They aren’t even European. He is oriental.” As she pointed at me. That day was the day I decided that I truly would have to dance ten times harder to even be noticed for my dancing.

As Nutcracker rehearsals are around the corner, I wonder what other racist things will be said to impressionable children?

Stay tuned for the 5 best Nutcracker productions.

The Craziness that is Giselle

Most ballets can be summed up in one word.

Swan Lake: Dramatic

Corsaire: Pirates

La Bayadere: Sexy

Nutcracker: Whimsical

and then there is Giselle: Tragedy.

Giselle is the ultimate tragedy. It is the ballet of a love scorn woman and the fiery that comes to haunt cheating men. The story of Giselle is summed up in two short sweet acts that showcase a ballerina in all her glory. In Act 1 Giselle comes out as a wide eyed, beautiful and naive girl. By the end of Act 1 she is going crazy, which in this scene, it will make or break the performance. Yes, we all care about the ballerina’s hops on pointe in her first act variation, and we live for her extensions in the second act, but we really just care about her mad scene. Then in second act, she is revealed as a willie, and is now just an afterthought. As second act progresses, it is more womanly, and in control. The ballerina dancing must now be spirit like, floating across the stage, mournful in the beginning, angered by Alberecht’s visit, and then sorrowful to his downfall. Yup, a whole lot going on for such a short performance. It is crazy to think of how we have compacted it, but if Giselle was any longer it would be boring.

So, here are 5 things that make a good Giselle:

  1. Don’t over do it. That painful face is painful to watch.
  2. Please have good feet, and high extensions, because if you don’t… second act isn’t really that great.
  3. When going mad, make sure your hair looks good down. Sometimes, it looks like it is still wet from hair spray, or it doesn’t come undone well. Please practice. If your hair is thin, use extensions. Hair should not be dead.
  4. Make sure your bourres are seamless in the second act entrance. There is nothing more exhausting to watch than bad bourres.
  5. Don’t look constipated in second act.

In retrospect, Giselle is really easy to mess up.

Alessandra Ferri, this ballet just might truly belong to you….

A Ballet Education… It’s just not tutus and tiaras… Seriously

So, I told myself no more blogs. You have enough already, and they are already difficult to manage.(Yellow Like Asian) Then, I reminded myself I don’t have a free blog, and I don’t have a wordpress. This was enough to convince me to go for it. This blog is to educate aspiring dancers, audience go-ers, parents and other dancers on what is, and what is happening in the ballet world… AKA it is me ranting and raving about ballet. 

As any first blog post, I should introduce myself. My name is David (personal site), and I LOVE BALLET. No, I am not some crazed fan, or gay man with some over the top extravagant lifestyle. In fact, I do have some legitimacy here. I grew up dancing ballet, and not just at a some dolly dinkle studio in podunk America. I actually went through the entire ballet process, and become a professional ballet dancer. In addition, I have taught ballet, and other genres of dance on many different levels across the United States. Finally, my entire curriculum for teaching is based off Cassa Pancho’s All Things Black and Beautiful and the Balanchine Aesthetic. Finally, I am embarking on starting my own ballet company, Redlands Dance Theatre, click here for more info.

I’m not sure where this blog is going to go, but I can tell you what it isn’t going to be:

1. It isn’t going to be me bitching and complaining companies I dislike in general. (Trust and believe there are a lot I dislike)

2. It is definitely not going to be advice to get into a company. (A Guide… maybe)

3. It probably won’t be a blog slamming eating disorders, cocaine and drinking. (Not that I condone those things.)

4. It is not going to be me sitting on a high horse and just saying things for the sake of saying things… That is why we have artistic directors, haha that was a joke. I will give explanations and so forth. 

5. I will not be associated with youtub-ing, posting on IG, or even tweeting… I already have too many to manage.

Now, I can tell you what I want the blog to be:

INFORMATIVE, an education.

INSPIRATIONAL, a future.

INSIGHTFUL, a perspective.

INTRIGUING, a personality.

(If you can’t tell, I totally do PR and Marketing.)