5 responses

  1. Jenn Gordon
    August 31, 2013

    You gave hit the nail on the head. Starting a company or marketing yourself as an individual is an extremely confusing path to navigate. Even reaching out to other dance professionals can leave the desire for clarity unfulfilled.

  2. Shannon Dooling
    August 31, 2013

    Roger, I completely agree with both points raised in this article – that both the students and the programs need to reassess what it means to be a 21st century dance artist and the skills needed to survive in the contemporary marketplace. I might also add that advocacy skills and exposure to the broad range of diverse opportunities within the dance field should also be a focus of collegiate dance programs. Too many former dance majors, realizing how difficult it is to have a sustainable career as a performer, leave the field entirely (and often bitterly). However, there are many opportunities in dance education (beyond studio teaching – K-12 schools, charter schools, community programs, etc.), dance therapy, dance writing (as you mentioned), dance science (there is some fascinating research happening now about how dance impacts the brain – check out the “Your Brain On Dance” project), arts management, and arts advocacy (such as with Americans for the Arts or the National Dance Education Organization). Many of these career paths provide a stable income, health benefits, and even time for your own personal practice of choreography and performance. Pursuing a career in one these options, while perhaps seemingly less glamorous than trying to “make it” as a performer, helps grow our field by increasing the public’s exposure to dance as a real, exciting, and accessible activity, not just something really flexible people do on TV. When dance is seen as a vital, integral part of American culture, then perhaps the economic conditions for dance artists will improve. I encourage dance majors to really explore these options, and collegiate programs to give them more than just a cursory nod within their curriculum.

  3. Roger Lee
    August 31, 2013

    Hi Jenn and Shannon,

    Thank you for your insight! I agree, dance majors desire and deserve clarity. It is hard to come by! Also, I agree that it is important to explore ALL options of the dance field before leaving it completely! Like you said, there are so many avenues within the field that make it financially possible to still practice the actual art form.

  4. Amy Smith
    September 21, 2013

    Hi Roger, Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue — it is one very dear to my heart. For the past several years Headlong co-founder Andrew Simonet and I have been teaching artists how to build balanced, sustainable lives for themselves as artists — Andrew through his program Artists U and myself through the “Life of the Artist” class I teach at the Headlong Performance Institute and now at UArts. I also lead Financial Literacy for Artists workshops through the Creative Capital Professional Development Program. I agree that too many college dance programs prepare their students to be good dancers or dance-makers but don’t give them enough (or any) preparation for how to build a life as a dance artist. We should all (artists, educators, and students) be advocating for more and better education of this type, both institutional and grass-roots/peer-to-peer.

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