The fear for parents, which is rightfully so, is that if college doesn’t happen right after high school it may never happen. Well now, the only guarantee is that if you go to college and you don’t receive a full scholarship, there is a huge chance you will be paying for this until the end of time. Now I am not knocking college, nor am I encouraging dancers not to go to college. I studied dance in undergraduate school, travelled, performed, lived overseas and finally returned to complete a graduate degree in dance. The thing is I knew that this was what I wanted to do without a doubt. I also knew that I wanted to see the world and learn the beauty of humanity through art making. This doesn't mean that I didn’t make mistakes, it just means that I had a calling, a drive and the gut feeling that my life wouldn’t be complete without taking this journey. When everything's said and done it all comes down to the same question. How will I be able to support myself and live a fulfilled life?
Many parents just can’t fathom the idea of their kid going to school to major in dance. How do you handle this situation when you know your heart is in it but your parents may not approve. First, it is important for me to stress that a career in dance means, you are always looking for employment, you are always waiting around, life is unpredictable, you are always being criticized, judged, type casted, you name it, and you are always fighting to find funding for your next project. If you can’t deliver a sound pitch to your parents, who are your most supportive donors, it will be certainly difficult for you to convince strangers to give you a chance.
When discussing the possibilities of dance as a career choice, you must come prepared. Here are a few tips to consider:
PORTFOLIO: Create an online portfolio, using wix: Include photos, videos, a résumé of your experience (everything counts, school performances, community engagements), include a blog or vlog, and social media content related to your dance. This demonstrates the willingness to put yourself out there.
PROS vs. CONS: Write down the pros and cons to choosing this career path. For the cons, find solutions that can support what will be the downs to the ups of such a career. For example: There are times that work will be scarce...have another source of income, like working in hospitality, babysitting, dog walking, etc. Jobs that have flexibilityare a must to allow time for unexpected callbacks and rehearsals. This shows your parents that you are approaching this from a realistic place.
NEGOTIATE A GAP YEAR: Suggest a time frame of one year to prove your dedication and discipline to such a career. If it doesn’t pan out you both can move on to new endeavors.
Dance Certificate- Find a year-long certificate program that will allow you to train, get to know working choreographers and perform in a new environment.
Community College- Find a community college that offers dance in which you can do your associate's degree while taking elective classes in dance. State schools are an affordable option for broadening your dance while compromising with your parents.
Dance Gap Year- Sign up for a gap year program that emphasizes dance training and related activities. This will give you a sense of living far away from your comfort zone while testing your tolerance for different fields of dance (teaching, choreography, arts administration, etc).
BUDGET: Take the time to look at each path and how it will financially affect you or your parents. Each path will cost money, it is a matter of how much you are willing to invest. So whichever path you choose to pitch make sure you come with the numbers.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Have a friend, counselor or dance teacher, question you about your plans. Practice your pitch with them. This will help you find the areas where you may have overlooked while conducting your research. The goal is for you to show your parents that you have responsibly and thoroughly thought out your plans.
Dominique Robinson is the CEO of Pizarts an entrepreneurial thinking hub designed to help dancers (a) produce artistic projects and (b) enhance their business skills. Robinson is the Co-founder of Dance Gap Year, a program that gives dancers an opportunity to explore movement, growth and community in a culturally diverse setting. An American dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and educator, Robinson graduated from New York University with an M.A in dance education and American Ballet Theatre - National Training Certification levels 1-5. She strives to provide supportive and resourceful material to dance artists in order to advance their artistic and entrepreneurial success.