A dancer’s career path is never typical, especially when you begin to account for how varied it is among dance genres. There are a few commonalities, however. First, the average age of retirement from performing is 29. Secondly, it often occurs due to injury, age and available employment. Thirdly, and perhaps not as easily quantifiable, is transition because of life choices and interests.
A lot has changed in the dance industry and the general workforce since the organization I work for, Career Transition For Dancers was founded in 1985. Back then (from what I’m told), dancers mostly skipped obtaining a formal education prior to their professional dance career, rarely developed parallel career, and generally possessed few discernible skills for the wider non-dance workforce. Many dancers did not know how to use a computer, develop a non-performance resume or even apply for a job that did not include an audition. Although some of these situations remain the same and others are not as common for today’s dancer, the reality is that current performance artists are much more adept at technology and are constantly adapting their career trajectories. Since we serve dancers still performing, preparing to transition and already retired, it is interesting to develop programming for an organization that has to address dancers of so many genres and at so many different phases of their development. Here is a sampling of some of our typical dancer-clients:
Dancer A: A modern dancer who is involved in two or three pick-up projects that only pay for performances. He wants to continue dancing, but needs to find a way to supplement his performing with more income-producing work that fits with rehearsal schedule, does not drain him of vital energy he needs to dance and is something that might go towards a future career.
Dancer B: “Retired” about ten years ago and is in a job that she does not particularly care for. Her wish list: First, she wants to find something that she is as passionate about as she is dancing. Secondly, she needs to get her online profile up-to-date and learn how to search for positions in a digital age. Thirdly, she wants the career to be flexible to accommodate her life as a working mother.
Dancer C: Although she is well past the typical retirement age, he is still dancing and never wants to stop. However, the availability of work has changed and so has his body. He wants to stay in entertainment but needs to update his skills so he can have more steady employment. In addition, he needs to learn how dancers are searching for work online. He also has a side business and needs to learn how to market it online.
Dancer D: She has continuously danced on Broadway and musical theater productions for 18 years. Her body is not responding the way it used to and she is starting to think she needs to begin preparing for a transition. She is not sure what she wants to do or how she would find the time to figure it out while she is dancing. Yet, she is scared about leaving dance and not having a career lined up before she moves on. Will she miss it too much?
Dancer E: You. Someone who wants to start their own business. Go back to school. Get a certification to supplement your income or begin a new career. Travel. Settle down. Start their own nonprofit. Buy a house. Increase your teaching schedule. The list is diverse and long, but you want it all and we can help.
Disclaimer: None of the above dancers are based on a particular dancer-client (all of our programs are free of charge and completely confidential). All of our dancer-clients are completely unique as is our advice. There is no easy solution. We do not give our dancer-clients a standard prescription for career transition. Instead, we work with dancers individually, whatever situation they are in, and help them with whatever their careers needs are now and for the future. We get dancers. It’s a joy to work for an organization that helps my friends. It’s also a challenge to continually evolve to meet their needs, but we do it because we love it.