A dance career is not ‘a bed of roses’
New Column by Geovana Peres da Costa
“It is beautiful; it is magical; the perfection is so unreal.“ You hear a lot of feedback like this after a performance, especially from a layman audience. But do they know what it’s like behind the stage? What is the process to become a dancer? Would people know about how challenging a dancing career can be? The only truth I can already say is: a dance career is not a bed of roses. It can look like this from the outside, but it is not. I could write about just the beautiful part of being a dancer, which is valid as well, but I want to share the other side… The side that probably people don’t know and don’t see.
Personally, having a dance career is a constant surrender and a combination of unpredictability, nomad life and dedication. You might also learn from a very early age to say and hear a lot of ‘no’ for a lot of situations in life. Since we have a short career, we have to start thinking about our path earlier than usual if you compare it with others professions.
I am talking about unpredictability because you never know where you are as a dancer, maybe in your mother country, perhaps on the other side of the world. Another truth is: how much you are going to get paid from a job that will change, depend on a lot of things. There can be cases that a dancer might have to start working another job to support themselves, but it’s not always manageable to do both. It can also be about how long your career goes for, in some cases a dancer can dance until they’re over 40, but sometimes they don’t make it to 30 years old, especially if there are any serious injuries. The unpredictability means you might learn to say ‘bye’ many times especially to your family. So if you are reading this article and want to become a dancer, this is something you should think about. Not everyone has any idea about this before starting, particularly when you are very young.
Having a nomad life is a reality – moving a lot of times and getting used to living within a different culture, making new friends, starting to learn a new language, starting over your life in a completely different context. Sometimes throughout your dance career you can find your place and stay there, but sometimes you move around as if it’s a change of clothes. It depends on where you are and what you want from your profession as a dancer. This can definitely change everything, even more if you choose a freelance career.
And of course you’ll have to put in a lot of effort, dedication and focus on what you want as a career, because we don’t dance forever and your body needs to be healthy to keep dancing. Most people think it is important to take care of your body but instead, you should also think what should come first: your mind, your brain! To be willing to be 100% focused on your career definitely requests a lot of mental effort. I would have loved having this tip when I was younger: take care of your mental health, doesn’t matter your age, your mental health matters!
As a dancer, working in a professional dance company, I have to say it is so much about loving what you do and facing the process in which we are always in a constant state of learning and exchanging. It is about knowing how to lead with your emotions, your fears, with yourself in front of the challenges, that the dance world will bring to you. Sometimes a colleague suddenly gets injured and you have to jump in one day before the performance. That is it! You don’t really have any time to even think about it. So, that is not just the beautiful and graceful result on the stage. It is about the entire and complete package, backstage too because there is a lot going on there. If you have a pretty clear idea in your mind the topics that I have highlighted, it is a good start to think about your career in dance or even rethink about all that transpires. A dance career is not a ‘bed of roses’ but can be lighter than you think, it is just depends on you and the way that you take it.
to be continued