For many young people around the world, working as a freelance dancer is a dream come true. But it isn't always easy, especially when you're just starting your career. Whether you're making the transition from a professional training program into an apprenticeship, a traineeship, or even your first paid job, the whole process can be really stressful.
In this post, we're going to give you twelve tips to calm that process and help you build more confidence when you're beginning that all important new gig.
1. Remember why you got the job in the first place
Pushing yourself through a series of auditions can be a long, arduous process, but you've come out of that process with a job.
Not every dancer can say that. Some seasons will be better than others, depending on your situation, but right now you are in a place where you're starting something new. And that's because they chose you. There are tons of dancers out there looking for jobs, and a lot of dance companies tend to have their choice of people. They can pretty much pick anyone they like, but they chose you. They saw something in you that made you stand out from the rest. Hold onto that fact, and yes, be proud of it too.
2. Give yourself time to fully develop
If you landed a gig at an entry-level position, or you're starting as a trainee or an apprentice, no one expects you to arrive on-stage fully formed. You will probably be seen as a work in progress and someone who can be developed. Of course, you have to show up every day and try your hardest to do your best work. That's what dancing is all about. But no one is expecting you to become the prima ballerina, principal dancer just yet. Take comfort that your new employers clearly want to be a part of your growth process. And that's just awesome, isn't it?
3. Reach out to other newbie dancers
Every year there are lots of dancers starting in new entry-level kind of positions, so it's a good idea to reach out and try to find some other dancers who are in a similar spot as you. Reach out to dancers who might be starting out with a company for the first time, or just starting their first real dancing gig. Making connections and finding people who can relate to your situation is really going to support you. One of the easiest ways to do this is to find an email penpal. Email is a great, hassle-free way to connect with someone, especially if you're feeling particularly stressed out or you just had a rough day. It's highly likely they are probably going through something very similar.
4. Strengthen your connections with established dancers
If you know already know people who are in the company you've just joined, or who have been in your new company for a couple of years, you should definitely make sure to strengthen those connections. It can be helpful to have somebody who knows the ropes, so to speak, and who can perhaps offer some constructive feedback to help you fit in.
5. Rely on your training
Nobody becomes a freelance dancer overnight. Remember that you have been training for this job for years. You might have started a professional training program when you were young, or even if you've just been training at a high level from an early age, you've probably been working towards your new gig for years and years. Even if in the past you have been focussed on a different type of dance, all that time you spent working so hard is never going to be wasted. Every so often, you should remind yourself that the skills you have already learned are going to come in very handy in your new situation, and always remain confident in your talent.
6. Build up to your best
Showing up with your A-game each and every day can be enormously difficult at first. It can also lead to a load of stress. A lot of freelance dancers feel they need to prove they have what it takes. They might be able to pick up choreography quickly, but to dance at the same high level as the more experienced dancers in the company takes time. You should trust the fact that the dance director has faith in your skills. Of course, you need to put in the work and devote the time, but if you are truly dedicated to giving your best, everyone will know it.
7. Be open to other roles
If you can, show up at times when you can learn other roles besides the one you've been hired for. Showing artistic staff that you are keen to learn and develop your skills in any role, even the ones you're not called upon to learn, can be a huge benefit later on in your career, and could even open new doors along the way.
8. Make sure you eat right
Eating healthily is obviously something you need to think about because it speaks to body image, and as a freelance dancer, you want to create confidence in your body and yourself. The way you eat and the way you approach food really does have an impact on the impression you make in the studio.
9. Cultivate the right relationships
This means both inside and outside the studio. Make sure that you're doing your best to have a positive situation in your relationships. It is often the case that when you start a new gig you won't have the support you need from within the company from day one, so you need to stay in close contact with partners, family and friends. Having someone around who is willing to support you in your dreams and goals, and who can lift you up when you've had one of those bad days can add a real boost to your conviction and dedication to become a truly great performer.
10. Exercise your communication skills
It's crucial you develop the ability to communicate verbally with artistic staff and other people in the company. You want to be sure to properly express both your desire to be there and be open to asking questions about how they would like to see you progress and improve. A lot of times dancers can just sitback and don't ask the right questions. You might have a once or twice per year meeting with artistic staff but if you take the initiative and communicate openly before that meeting you could improve your chances of getting and extension on your contract, or even a permanent position.
11. Build your brand on social media
These days, having a social media presence is as much a part of freelance dancing as going to auditions and chosing the right outfit for the role. Twitter, Facebook and Co. are excellent platforms to showcase your talent and to get your message out there. Don't overdo it though. It's better to target the right audience with a few select posts and videos on a regular basis, rather than to splash yourself across multiple platforms at once.
12. Stay focused and be happy
Starting a new job is a great opportunity to develop your skills and to progress along your career path. But there will be times when the stress can seem overwhelming. The trick is to stay focused and to find happiness within that job, at least as much as you can. Many young dancers at the start of their professional dancing career forget to take an occasional step back to enjoy their own performances. Whenever possible, you should take time out to relect on the fact that you have reached a place where you want to be, and that you are actually doing something you love. Not everyone can say that about their work.