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Articles: Advice to the unemployed dancer

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ripresa

Wow. Some cynical comments in response sections there...

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Momof3darlings

The article referenced in the middle of that article is very eyeopening. A direct link to that article is here:

 

Sudden Finale: Who and how they feel

 

Thank you for posting this trythis. It is very important reading for every dancer desiring to dance professionally and every dancer who is dancing professionally. Plus the parents that go along with them.

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Pointe1432

Some of those comments are unbelievable and completely uncalled for!

 

One of the most common struggles I see in dancers transitioning, whether it is from not finding a job at a young age, layoffs, or retirement, is finding a new career that they are even half as passionate about.

 

Because we are passionate about our work as dancers (and generally have felt this way from a very young age), we start to think that we should feel the same about our next job. But as my family and non-dancer friends often point out, the truth is that very few people actually LOVE what they do.

 

I hope these dancers don't read those comments, or at least read the encouraging ones too. :unsure:

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Momof3darlings

You'll just get angry if you read comments after most articles. Many people take pride in just making junk comments for fun. Sad really, but it is part of the internet age. Not all comments were bad, just the one's who make them counter for fun would have no sympathy no matter what the issue.

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trythis

I meant to link to the full article, so thank you Mom of 3. My father sent it to me to have DD read. I think DD is a little young to understand most of the issues in that article but it was a good read for me. I imagine the feelings these dancers are going through would be the same for any dancer suddenly sidelined by injury and then they have to consider life after dance much sooner than they thought.

 

Out of curiosity I just went back and read the comments. Some were rediculous and I didn't have the patience to read all of them. But one person very sympathetically said dancers 'learn to speak with their bodies in ways that leave them feeling partially mute if the dance is no longer there. They learn to feel that their inner beauty is expressed through dance, and its appreciation heard through applause, and when that is gone or diminished, they must rediscover and reinvent themselves in profound ways." I just though that was a very profound way to explain what they must be feeling.

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davidg

I'm not sure which comments described above were uncalled for, because the author did not give specifics. I think it helps to remember the perspective that other people come from.

 

Millions of people (including myself) have lost their jobs this year, and here 10 people losing their jobs get a long article written about them. As one commenter pointed out, many of today's unemployed have held the JOBS that they just lost for longer than the dancers in the article have been alive. And they are struggling with a terrific loss of identity. The average Joe will be comparing this article to other articles, for example, about how entire communities in Detroit have lost their job, lost their home, lost their place in the middle class, as the auto industry sheds jobs like dandruff. And these people losing their jobs are in their 50's, they cannot just start over again, they can't even sell their homes these days. According to a recent article, job retraining programs in Michigan have been a failure as well. In this sense, the movie "Billy Elliot" is interesting, since it is a move about a loss of identity through the collapse of an industry, as well as about dance.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/us/24unemploy.html?hp

 

Other commenters pointed out a fundamental truth of dance --- maybe not in the nicest way --- that the average dance career is over by the age of 27, which leaves about another 40+ YEARS to do something else in life before the usual retirement age. I believe that any responsible adult counseling young dancers these days would make that fact abundantly clear. Ideally, young dancers should have an inkling of a career transition plan before they get their first dance job. In one sense, a dance career is just plain improbable, and that improbability bubble is bound to end sooner or later. In this case, it ended sooner --- but maybe not that much sooner for some. Either way, it doesn't change the fundamental reality of a long life after the dance career is over. And there are just too many post-professional dancers for the number of non-dancing dance-related jobs, many will have to find jobs in other fields.

 

I though the comment that trythis cited was particularly insightful.

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Garyecht

I come from the sports world, not the ballet world. The sports world I come from is not that of the million dollar athlete, but rather that of the obscure Olympic sport. The very best athletes in these sports are professional in that they are paid by sponsors or employed by companies without doing any serious work. They train hard and love what they do. If they could they would continue in their sport forever. They are just as passionate about what they do as any dancer I assure you.

 

But my experience is that people in these sports deep inside know they are on a ride that will end. Most are out of their sport by age 30. That’s just life. They don’t regret their choice to pursue their passion and move on with life.

 

In that sense I see no difference between my sports world and the ballet world. Perhaps because sport is competitive and one’s performance is more objectively evaluated than in ballet, there is much less to-do about moving on. Perhaps because sports people are more likely to have graduated from college than ballet people they are more prepared both intellectually and psychologically to move on, I don’t know. I doubt that sports people are any more career oriented than ballet people. For most people, careers are something of a random walk through life. The good thing is that young people adapt quickly.

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Doubleturn

That was a very acute observation about Billy Elliot, davidq. I haven't seen the stage show yet, but the general response to the original film often undervalues the role of the father. Here is a man whose whole world is changing - should he support the mining community and his fellow workers, or should he abandon them to support his son's cherished ambitions? As dancers we are very privileged to be able to follow our dream, but yes it is heart-breaking when we no longer can.

 

'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all - From Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam:27, 1850

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Pointe1432

I went back to the comments section to remind myself of some of the things said, and actually the cruelest had been removed. The worst comment remaining was somebody saying "join the real world". I was also annoyed by someone's comment to find a spouse to support their dancing, now that's true love.

 

Though I don't sympathize any less with the millions of people losing their jobs this year, my uncle at 62 is included in that statistic, what is more disturbing to me is the feeling of dishonesty behind these dismissals. It is one thing to be told that cutbacks are necessary, or in my uncle's situation that your position is being eliminated. But then months later you find out that they are hiring new people into your position.

 

Yes, they are young enough to start over. In fact I think currently the average American changes careers 4 times in their life. But I would never think to tell anyone, at any age, to "join the real world" or any number of the other comments originally posted.

 

On the other hand, I am a firm believer that no one else should be the person to tell you when to stop dancing (aside from occurrences like injuries etc. . .) You may have to be open-minded about the how and the where, but if you want to dance, then dance.

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mirabray

The article was aim at those in the arts, to give advice.

 

"There are, of course, many veterans in the performing arts who have faced and struggled with unemployment. If you are among them — or are among those who may be hiring them — what advice would you offer these young dancers?"

 

It was not about how their job lost was greater then others. Should I feel sorry for all the americans losing jobs when there are starving people in other countries? Yes I feel for both. There were a lot of sour comments.

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davidg

I think it's important to always keep in mind the difference between DANCING and DANCING AS CAREER. Anyone can dance, any time, any where. It doesn't take much. The great thing about dancing as career is you get to spend 24/7 at it for a number of years. That's not an experience that can be had any other way, but once you've done it, it changes you forever.

 

I found leaving the career behind was easier with that difference firmly in my mind. There are actually many benefits to leaving behind dancing as a career: more time to do other stuff (and there's plenty of interesting stuff to do in this world), less regimented lifestlye, less stress on your body, more money, more stability. Also, there's more opportunity to have a real impact on the art itself --- not to mention the communities surroundin the art --- when one is off stage. Ballet is run by artistic directors, managing directors, choreographers and boards; dancers have comparatively little input into the finished work. Realizing all this, leaving it behind became easier and easier.

 

The most memorable scene for me in Billy Eliot was the riots throughout the neighborhood that his big brother was involved in. I believe there's some historical accuracy to that scene as well. I saw Billy's father as knowing his son needed to enter a different world from his own, just not knowing how or what. So he was supportive, but also fearful of what he did not know.

 

"Kid from the wrong side of the tracks grows up and joins the elite world of ballet" is the class mobility story that seems to be deeply ingrained in our ballet psyche --- all the way back to the Imperial ballet schools that would scour the countryside for children they though they could train well. But I remain deeply suspicious of the applicability of that mythology in the real world --- due to the low pay, short careers and low employment numbers inherent in the field.

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Pointe1432

I do understand the difference between dancing and dancing as a career. My point is that dancers of this caliber (already professionals for varying lengths of time at a company this prestigious) should not let that company end their career. If they want to dance, they can dance.

 

I have seen so many young dancers not dance because company "____" laid them off, or did not hire them. While I think it is wonderful to have goals, it just may not be the time or place for you to dance at that specific company.

 

I know dance jobs were limited this year, but jobs were still offered. Maybe time or resources did not allow them all to find jobs this year, but maybe next year.

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vicarious

The second article posted here was more helpful. Although it didn't give step by step instructions it did give actual examples of how to cope with this. I think my DD, who's just entering this crazy profession, realized even as a student the words in a popular song "Don't go think'n your irreplacable... I could have another you in minute."

 

It sounds like Mr. Martins was "getting rid of dead wood." I realize these dancers aren't dead wood. One thing my husband and I have seen is that the people who (1) seem the least bit unreliable, (2) don't blend well with the group or (3) are at the top of the pay scale, are the first ones eliminated. Not because their position isn't neccessary but because the company wants to make room for cheaper workers. Bosses won't come right out and say I'm laying you off so I can hire someone at half your pay. It's something that happens everywhere though.

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davidg
I have seen so many young dancers not dance because company "____" laid them off, or did not hire them.

 

Yes, I've heard of that attitude. I've been told that the Joffrey School actually had a higher placement rate than SAB. The kids at SAB, it seems, were more likely to dance only for company X, or else not at all. Whereas the kids at Joffrey were willing to dance for anyone who would hire them.

 

Which is the more "right" attitude? I don't know. I suppose it depends on one's goals. Being a professional dancer has a high opportunity cost.

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