Dance Blog April: Professional Dance


Image and copyright Rambert Contemporary dance company.

I have over 25 years of experience in the theatre arts industry and my purpose is to share knowledge and opportunity.

Working in the professional entertainment industry is hard for anyone, especially dancers. I have a few frustrations I would like to share before discussing our FABULOUS UK dance industry.

Did you know that most dancers begin their training as young as 5yrs. Children are taught ballet, tap & modern at a young age then introduced to, commercial, contemporary, street dance, ballroom, national… the list is endless. If they want to work in theatre arts they need to be a triple threat which includes subjects of drama, singing, acrobatics, circus skills, aerial work etc…. I haven't started with the specialist training... A specialist dancer begins just as young and as hard as an athlete with approximately 4 hours a day… everyday... For an average of 10 years! They get introduced to complimentary genres when their technique is secure and go on to work in companies... if they're lucky. My point being that dancers train long hard hours before they are at a professional training stage; before they are ready for professional work. Because of this intensive physical training a dancers career is short lived compared to any other artiste. Do dancers get higher pay due to it being a short-lived career?NO. Are wages defined by length of training in a particular field? NO.

Lets take a look at the nations most common form of training to prepare dancers for performance e.g West End productions, cruise ships, commercial work, theatre arts, TV etc. Due to this form of training being multiple genres it ‘averages’ their standard and quality of work. A dancer may be good at one genre than another but this doesn’t mean they specialise in it.

Do chorus dancers get equal pay to other cast members? …Sorry, a sweeping statement here… It is understood that payments depend on the company size, duration and the dancer skill level etc. but in most cases... NO. Why? They are classed as the lowest in the pyramid of stage presence, a group of people that ‘fill’ scenes; although they have more talent than most cast members... Rant over… But I wish these questions could be addressed amongst others I have.

Frustrations over, I do love the entertainment industry I've always felt that being a triple threat is the best option for dancers as it opens up more opportunities for work - To dance, act, sing… I would add ‘play a musical instrument’ too making it a quadruple threat :) This is due to my upbringing. My mum always stated when I was a student "make the most of yourself" and "don't talk about what you want to do just DO IT"... So I did... I trained evenings with the Everyman & Playhouse, attended an evening session at a music school learning drums, took singing lessons (My singing is still terrible lol) when I left training I joined a small touring theatre company before getting the bigger contracts. My CV was ridiculous but I never specialised in one subject... was I at an advantage or disadvantage?

My career path found so many routes especially in producing theatre and events then teaching dance & drama. My downfall now is it has made me a nightmare to take to the theatre! I critique the most inspiring work as i can't help but look at the detail... Story threads, characters, flow of musical score, cast relationships on stage, set changes, costume & makeup authenticity and this is before any acting, singing and dancing ... I wonder why I don't get the invites to my friends performances...

Professional Dance

For professional dancers One Dance UK should be your first touch base company as they help you with career advise, funding, training, CPD workshops or at least point you in the right direction. Their services are extensive so please check it out.

Although my frustrations were offloaded at the beginning of this blog, I am grateful to acknowledge the boom for dancers being recognized and celebrated compared to 10 years ago – yeah! This is exciting and while the dance vibe is good, dancers and choreographers should jump on the band wagon. We need more creative, inventive people to make our industry ‘outstanding’ in choreography, productions and new pathways of development. Dance is unlimited in dimension, composition, form & creativity so get YOUR talent out there and let it be YOU that wins awards, changes perceptions and delivers excellence.

I came across National Dance Awards this month and read about their 18th year nominations. The winners got presented on Monday 19th February 2018. The awards were chosen by the Dance section of The Critics’ Circle. Website link

Winners:

Lez Brotherston – de Valois award for outstanding achievement

Liam Riddick – Dancing Times award for best male dancer

Zenaida Yanowsky – Grishko award for best female dancer

42nd Street – Stef Stefanou award for outstanding company

Headspace Dance – Dansez award for best independent company

Akram Khan – best classical choreography for Akram Khan’s Giselle

Michael Keegan Dolan – best modern choreography for Swan Lake/Loch na hEala

Harry Alexander – emerging artist award

Alina Cojocaru – outstanding female performance (classical) for Giselle in Akram Khan’s Giselle with English National Ballet

Marcelino Sambé – Dance Europe award for outstanding male performance (classical) for Colas in La Fille mal gardée with The Royal Ballet

Ashley Shaw – outstanding female performance (modern) for Vicky Page in The Red Shoes with New Adventures

Robert Fairchild – outstanding male performance (modern) for Jerry Mulligan in An American in Paris

Mary Brennan – Jane Attenborough One Dance UK Industry Award

A huge congratulations to all and to all those nominated... To be submitted, voted for and short listed is a massive success. I praise you! xx

...my small gripe with these awards is they don't define our dance industry. E.g disability, community, street, invention, dance development, dance on screen, dance art etc etc... You see, I'm a nightmare for criticising lol ...but FAB NEWS... This year and from this month (April) till 31st July 2018, One Dance UK is holding it’s own awards.

They have chosen 23 Award Categories, which span all the vital work that is taking place to shape the dance sector today… I LOVE this!

Primary schools, secondary schools, screen, writing, innovation… I’m excited for you lot! Check out the website, vote, submit, do whatever you have to do to achieve. What are you waiting for! Having awards to your name proves you are famous for your TALENT. (This comment will make more sense when you read the last section)

One Dance UK website link

List of awards:

  • Leeds Dance Partnership Award

  • Outstanding Dance Programming Award

  • Innovation in Dance Award

  • Dance Writing Award

  • Dance on Screen – Impact Award

  • Best use of Dance by a Brand Award

  • Outstanding Primary Dance Teaching Award

  • Outstanding Secondary Dance Teaching Award

  • Inspirational Community Dance Practitioner Award

  • Inspirational Work in Education (for organisations)

  • Inspirational Lecturer at College, University or Conservatoire

  • Most Supportive Senior Leader or Governor

  • Rising Star Award (Dance Teaching)

  • Dance Healthcare Practitioner Award

  • Dance Science Award

  • Dance Healthcare Team Award

  • Research in Dance – Impact Award

  • Dance Advocacy Award

  • People’s Choice Award

  • Dance Personality of the Year Award

  • Dance of the African Diaspora Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Lifetime Achievement in Dance Education/Learning Award

  • Jane Attenborough Award – Outstanding Contribution to Dance

Don't make excuses, get out there and make a difference! When you have an opportunity arise or when you want something to happen but don't know how to go about it, you have to take a step forward everyday to find out and keep going until you know what to do about it then do it. Take action, build your platform, make YOU your business, find your audience, get your message across, build your reputation and make money from doing something you love. I created a booklet (A4 PDF download) called Create The Best YOU . It's a free download of 12 pages to focus your goal inspirations, business development & self development. Download it here

Have you visited the website Dance Inspire UK yet? this is a new platform to inspire, connect, ask questions and get information. Private and public groups are on Facebook, there is an instagram account for those fabulous dance images, events, productions (tag @danceinspireuk) This website is also the beginnings of my research page for a new TV dance series Aspects of Dance, currently being pitched to sponsors by the company I work for FreeStand Films

Famous? - Which one has respect?

Image of Kim Kardashian & Ariana Grande

I put this up as children are obsessed with social media and what is posted. I asked my 13yr old 'who do you see as famous and why?' Her answer "Kim because she posts shocking things... did you see her post on..." and "I like Ariana as she is an amazing singer, she does good stuff...what she did for Manchester ...etc"

Our world today is split with ‘famous no talent’ people and ‘famous for their talent’ people. I am interested in the famous for their talent people as it is those that prove role models, hold their worth in their field and can master their skill to pass on. They are not a trend; they are the foundation for future professions.

Become famous for your talent...

Image - Sir Matthew Bourne receives 2016 Rosebowl for distinguished service to the arts.

Picture copyright of Elliot Franks

Thanks for reading :)

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(You can always invite me to the theatre ...)

Gill x

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