In hindsight, moving to New York from California straight out of undergrad was an act of insanity. I had no job, no apartment, very little money, and a very vague plan. All I knew was that I wanted to dance, and New York was the place to do it. Turns out, five and a half years later, that’s all the plan that I needed. Life in New York is littered with so many unknowns, and so many variables, that it really does take that bit of insanity to make the leap. And a whole lot of passion. And enthusiasm. And wild optimism.
It took me a while to understand how the dance community works, and there’s one thing I wish I had been told before immersing myself in the culture: Talk to everyone. Meet EVERYONE. Dancing here is about who you know, and what they know about you. Find artists you like and stalk them. Make connections and maintain them. Be a presence. It sounds simple, but it is essential.
Another thing to remember, self-doubt and self-pity is self-destructive! If you doubt yourself, others will doubt you, too. When you don’t get a job that you’re after, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad dancer. It means that who you are in energy, ability, demeanor and persona is not exactly who that company is looking to hire. They are often hiring to replace someone, and looking for that person to be comparable in size, appearance, energy and quality of movement. It doesn’t mean that sometime in the future, they won’t be looking for someone exactly like you. Work continuously to be a better performer, technician, artist, and collaborator so that you can be the best version of the artist that you already are.
One other thing that really worked for me was re-evaluation. After my first two years of flying blind in this community, I was feeling frustrated, exhausted and confused. I had been given some wonderful opportunities and danced with some amazing people (who are still friends and collaborators today), but felt like my momentum had stopped. I was making it to the end in auditions, but never getting the job. I knew it was time to either make a change, or leave the city. Since I knew I couldn’t yet leave New York and feel satisfied with my time spent here, I weighed my options. I needed to find a different route, and I found that through returning to school and getting my Masters in Dance at Tisch. After graduating, I am in a totally different place artistically and mentally than I was previously, and feeling better equipped than ever before. I co-founded a new dance company (Summation Dance) with a good friend I met in the program, and after a whirlwind year and some wonderful blessings, we are already self-producing our first evening length production at Baryshnikov Arts Center. No way I would have ever envisioned that path for myself three years ago. And that’s just my particular story. Everyone’s will be different, but re-evaluation and re-defining your goals is key in moving forward.
And one last thing that has proved to be the ONLY reason I am still standing…..a good support system. I am lucky enough to have a family that is wholly supportive and encouraging, and they have kept me going through the hard times. And friends!! Friends are so important!! Find comfort in your friends and other dancers, because we are all in this together. Find a community of people that you feel safe with and cultivate those relationships. Class will be more fun and auditions less terrifying. Friends will keep you sane.
Remember that this is fun! We gave up a life of stability to do something we truly love, so we may as well have fun doing it! Over and out.
‘Letters from the Artist’ is a series on our blog that hopes to start a dialogue in the dance community about our experiences. What problems are out there? What would you like to see more of? What can you learn from the experiences of others? Etc. Feel free to join in on the discussion.