Today I had a small revelation. No, it did not involve any invisible people in the sky or larger than life event, just a simple beginning of the week personal discovery. Wanna hear it? I really like what I do. No…that’s it, that’s all. I think I have found some sort of inner peace which is quite miraculous in and of itself given where I live. Allow me to explain…
As you all pretty much know, I have been dancing for the last 21 years: training for 10, higher education for 2.5, dancing professionally full time for 1, and as a part time/freelancer for 7. I have always referred to myself as a dancer and considered it my “career” no matter how many other random things I happened to also be pursuing at the time. In my mind I have never stopped and have no intention of doing so any time soon as long as I am physically capable. However something strange and interesting has happened since I moved to Israel two years ago. I guess I would just call it life. I moved here with every intention of pushing my dance career to new limits while growing culturally and personally. Well, the latter definitely happened fast but the former….let’s just say I’m not holding my breath. The reality is within one year of living in Israel I received more teaching opportunities than dance opportunities. I got into a serious relationship. Sometimes I had to choose between dance classes and groceries because everything is so damn expensive. Life started getting in the way. But it didn’t matter because in my heart and in my head I was still a “professional dancer looking for work right now”. Just like I’d been for the last 7 years.
Why does it matter? Why does the title matter you say? Ha ha. This is something that perhaps only artists and performers can really understand. It matters. The “title” matters. Because we essentially devote our lives to our craft. That is…until we don’t anymore…really. Example: if I was a CPA or a Nurse or some Corporate something or other and I really loved golf, had a PASSION for golf and golfers and sticks and balls and dumb shorts and someone referred to it as my “hobby”, that would be fine. More than fine! It is a very nice hobby!! But to talk to someone who happens to teach dance, or Pilates, or yoga, or wait tables, or babysit or make lattes more hours a day than they spend on their beloved chosen craft and then tell them that said craft is a hobby?!! Blasphemy at it’s highest degree!! The “H” word can be fight inducing, soul crushing and relationship ending when it comes to artists and here’s why: IT’S NOT OUR FUCKING HOBBY!!!! It’s our way of life!!! Artists sacrifice so much more for their “careers” than most people ever really will realize. So I shall realize for you. As artists we sacrifice (ok I am generalizing a bit here but still):
1. A respectable income, with health insurance and benefits
2. um, hello our BODIES or voices or some physical aspect of our being
3. Job security with upward mobility
4. The freedom to choose our whereabouts, which includes bouts of extensive touring causing us to occasionally drop off the map completely for months at a time
5. The ability to sustain long term relationships and normal social lives because of our gypsy-ness (moving around all the time)
Again, I am generalizing as I know not ALL artists make every one of these sacrifices, but I know you all understand. We do all this because we love what we do THAT much. And it is soooo worth it….until it isn’t anymore. Until one day we wake up and decide we need a college degree (or two). Till we decide to pick a city and just stay there for a while. Until we meet the person of our dreams and start thinking about stainless steel appliances, vacations and children. Till we start realizing we need to put a FINANCIAL PLAN together for the future. These are real-life game changers that start to make our artistic visions pale a little bit by comparison and leave us seemingly faced with a choice: Dance or do “this”. Sing or do “that”. Act or make money. And then ya know what happens sometimes? Under the pressure we fly the coop completely, and a bit too soon. I have seen it so many times in my life and it makes me want to cry. Artists who had one bad audition season chock it up to “not being for them” even if performing is all they ever wanted and decide that going in the complete opposite direction from their art is the only way to go. Later they end up becoming embittered and depressed and it is painful for for them to even go to a museum or a ballet because they are so NOT at peace with the decision they made to check out in the first place.
I am going to come right out and say that this has been my biggest fear and source of anxiety up until just recently. You see I have somehow sorrrrt of managed a dual career up until now, being both heavily involved in both dance and fitness. There have been times when I was dancing more and my bank account was lower, and when I have been teaching more and I was more relaxed and secure but my soul was crying a little. As much as I love teaching and learning new things about health, fitness and the human body I never used to get the same satisfaction from it that dancing gave me. It wasn’t as validating (although I am starting to sense that I may be a better teacher/trainer than dancer!) And the thought of admitting I was “just a Pilates teacher” or “just a dance teacher” felt like I was giving up on my talent and passion. The thought of leaving the dance world too early and ending up depressed, regretful and bitter was just too overwhelming to bear. Then, the other day one of my Pilates clients asked me how long I had been dancing and then said “Oh, so at what age did you end your career?”
That definitely got the wheels turning a little bit.
That, and this article: http://shawnlent.com/?p=1478
And then I realized it was not a hard question to answer because thankfully I am at peace with who I am regardless of the dancer/choreographer/Pilates teacher/trainer/wife title.
So my point, as it has not been very clear until now, is this: For one, I definitely do not feel like my “career” in dance is over. I still have quite a few moves to bust out before I totally destroy all of my ligaments and joints. Also, I am excitedly starting to embrace the non-dancey things coming to me in life…making more money, being married, honeymoon to Italy in a month, owning a business one day perhaps, babies…(ahh!) As I am getting older and more mature I am realizing that “career” and “hobby” are two stupid, loaded words that should not be in my vocabulary and I would rather just leave it at “I do what I love.”
Or as a wise man once said “I DO WHAT I WANT!!”