Transitioning Careers After Dance
Dancing is not something you do forever. I dread the day that I will say goodbye to dance as a career, but also anticipate it–like an uncomfortable lunch date you want to get out of the way. I tell friends and family about “the transition” in an effort to remind myself that the end is near.
It’s a safety net I’ve carefully woven. Not for when I decide to transition away from dance, but for when dance decides to transition away from me.
I’ve danced and performed for thousands of people by now–on cruise ships, at theme parks, at hotels, in small regional theaters. And I am comforted by the fact that I know how to be a dancer.
- I know how to dress for an audition
- I know how to negotiate a contract.
- I know the people of entertainment as my coworkers.
- I know my office to be stage, the greenroom, and the rehearsal studio.
Being an expert at something brings me great joy. I fear the wealth of things I do not know, so leaving my realm of comfort is terrifying.
Steps to take as your dance career is coming to a close:
Sit down and ask yourself what inspires you. The answer may obviously be dance, but think about what brought you to dance and why? Is there another creative outlet that may piggy-back off your passion for dance?
Here’s an example: I was drawn to dance because it was empowering to create. I loved being my own boss and derived great satisfaction from pushing my body and my mind. So as I transition careers, I’m looking for some of those same feelings–a job that will push my creativity and thrive off my independence.
Alternative careers for dancers:
- Write about dance (see: this blog)
- Mix music for dancers
- Draw and Sketch dancers. Make Art!
- Photograph or film dancers
- Manage dancers (start a company)
- Teach dancers
- Market for dancers
Make a Plan
Create a 1, 3, and 5-year plan. Be as specific as possible if you can. Research whether you need to go back to school. Study other people who have done something similar. You can find stories of dancers going through career transitions at Pivot for Dancers, a site helping dancers at all stages of their career carve out future paths. Create goals and a realistic timeline.
Think Long Term
My entire adult career has been freelance, contract to contract. I never knew where I would be beyond 6 months. When you transition out of the fast-paced entertainment world, it’s time to flip the switch on your mentality. Changing careers requires planning and a long-term goal, unlike dance gigs which are all about being able to drop what you’re doing at a moment’s notice to fly to Tokyo or board a ship.
Take Small Steps
Goals are achieved by taking thousands of small steps, a few each day that add up over time. Don’t get discouraged. Record your little wins.
Don’t Be Afraid of Big Steps
Before you know it, you may have taken so many small, daily steps that you find yourself facing a major decision. Don’t be afraid! Change is good and it is what you are working for! Take the leap (pun intended). You’ll be even more empowered and motivated to reach your goal when you start to see how far you’ve come.
Don’t forget to feed your soul with inspiration and motivation. Follow your idols on Instagram. Search your career on Pinterest. Find community in other dancers pivoting careers. Keep your motivation up as you make the difficult move to a new career. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy. Starting something new is never easy.
Any dancers out there making the switch? Learn more about pivoting careers at Pivot for Dancers, an organization helping dancers transition off the stage.