What’s interesting is that in writing to me, you don’t often say, “I want to be a professional dancer” or “I want a career in dance.” Those that ask, *ahem* dance around it. My guess is that either putting the intention into serious sounding words makes it more real and more scary, or there’s just a lot of confusion about working in the dance field.
Everyone has a slightly different story, and I’m not one to say never (particularly since many dancers have started at 15 to 25 years old – considered late in dance) but still my answer is always the same – see above, if you’ve forgotten.
Inevitably, there are those who respond with a, “Thanks, but…
“…when I said pro, I didn’t mean that I’d actually earn a living,”
“…I wasn’t talking about a career, I’d like to do a few jobs here and there.”
or “…I just want to audition and see where things take me.”
Semi-professional (you have advanced training but live by other means) opportunities for dancers ARE available but it’s unlikely you’ll be paid much, if at all. The truth is, even professional dancers with companies (full or part-time) aren’t guaranteed a salary that will pay all the bills. They work shifts, teach, do arts management/administrative jobs, or (frankly) have spouses to fill in the gaps.
So, please understand that your hours as a semi-pro performer are essentially for fun.
Sometimes, you may actually be putting in more time or money than you are getting in return, but that’s what volunteering (versus being a paid professional) is all about. It’s rare for work like this to lead directly to bigger and better opportunities, just other semi-professional ones.
If your goal is unpaid performing, there are ways to do this at absolutely every level of talent and experience if you look around.
So honestly, it’s never too late, if that’s what you’re worried about.
Now, if you are an amateur or semi-professional wanting to get paid like a professional for something, you must compete with professionals who also want to get paid.
Whether it is just a few jobs, a TV spot, or a music video, you will still be competing with dancers who are pursuing dance with all of their energy. If you are not throwing your body and mind into dance with concentrated effort, what are your chances against the people who are? The field of dance is highly competitive.
It does not matter what kind of dance you are pursuing, either. Ballet may hold some of the more stringent expectations of dancers but in every situation (from hip-hop to Broadway) those hiring are looking for people at the top of their game. They want versatility, superior training and skills, and experience. Most importantly, they want people fully committed to dance!
Sorry, but no one can answer that but you. We all make choices in life and successful people often make choices that others have deemed too risky or downright stupid.
On the other hand, risky or stupid decisions are sometimes just that.
I cannot possibly advise if you’ll “make it” as a professional dancer. Even your teachers may not be able to advise you (in fact, naysayers are a frequent catalyst and have launched many a career in dance).
Only YOU can make the decision and YOU are the only person that can be held accountable for the outcome.
I can’t become a doctor just by dreaming of it, or by taking a few biology classes, or because I played doctor as a child. It doesn’t matter how good I might be at it or how much “natural” talent I have. I can’t expect to walk into a hospital, operate every once in a while and hope they’ll be so impressed they’ll offer me a permanent position. It just doesn’t work that way.
No matter how often your television tries to fool you into believing that part-time effort can pay off with instantaneous triumph, those that enjoy even just two minutes of fame or success have spent a great deal of time and energy positioning themselves to be “suddenly discovered”.
There are most definitely people who can take on rocket science and dance at the same time. These high-level achievers wouldn’t bother to ask if it’s possible, they’d already be eating and breathing it because they are compelled to.
Is this supposed to be encouragement?
Every teacher knows that sometimes tough love is required to motivate and educate. The skinny on becoming a professional dancer has been covered in feel-good, but no less
On the other hand, it may be what you need to hear to realize that rocket science really is your thing and that you are happy to enjoy dancing for the love of it… and for the rest of your life if possible.
Nothing in this post is meant to discourage you from asking questions about how to achieve specific goals. It’s meant to point out that the question, “What are my chances?” is irrelevant. Here’s the real question:
This is what I MOST want you to get out of this article if you’ve EVER contemplated dance as a professional pursuit. Frankly, even if you haven’t. And, it comes from a source completely unrelated to dance.
“‘Just do it’ can be excellent advice. If you wonder whether you could write a book or run a marathon, don’t waste a minute calculating your chances. Instead, spend an hour a day on your dream. It’s how I suddenly found myself on a bridge in London, cameras rolling, wondering what took me so long.”
And there it is.