Thursday, September 3, 2015

A WEEKEND IN THE LIFE OF A TRAVELING DANCER

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  So many people- friends, family members, aspiring dancers and even  random strangers sitting next to me on airplanes- are always very curious about what it's like being a traveling professional dancer. My standard answer is usually something along the lines of :

"It's a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work!"

 But that doesn't really begin to scratch the surface.

 There are indescribable highs, like getting paid to travel the world doing something you adore, seeing fabulous sights and meeting wonderful new people. There are extreme lows, too, like working when you're absolutely exhausted and riddled with jet lag or working while injured. Both of these are constants, no matter how young, flexible or healthy you are, no matter how well you eat or how much you try to take care of yourself. Often, your injuries don't have time to heal because a) you need to work constantly and b) you never get enough sleep-ever! Homesickness can be an issue too. Even if  you love to travel, when you're doing it all the time,  you miss your loved ones.

 Unless you've "been there", you really can't imagine what being on the road is really like. But here's a blow-by-blow approximation of one of my typical weekend trips,which I do two to four weekends a month-unless I'm on an actual tour...enjoy!

FRIDAY
7:00- 7:15 AM
 Wake up, hit snooze on the alarm, prepare strong coffee and a green smoothie. Drink both while rinsing off  your face,  popping in contact lenses, feeding and petting the kitties. Get dressed in sweats and sneakers.

7:15-8:20 AM
 Swift 20 minute walk. Shower, apply body lotion and moisturizer. Put on the clothes you’ll wear to the airport and apply just enough make up- eyebrow power, mascara, lip gloss and a touch of blush- so that the general public won’t scream and run when they catch sight of your sleep-deprived, puffy face.

8:20-9:00 AM
Cut up some veggies to take on the plane while scarfing down an apple mixed with Greek yoghurt and cinnamon...which you use liberally because of it's anti-inflammatory properties. Drink another cup of coffee while paying for your checked bag online and printing out your boarding pass. Stuff your Tempur-Pedic pillow into the bag of teaching clothes and merch you’re checking through to your final destination. Go through your cosmetic bag to make sure all liquids and gels have been removed and placed in the TSA Approved quart-size plastic bag that will live in your purse. Do a “dummy check”, making double sure you have every piece of the two costumes that are already sitting in your carry-on bag.

9:00 AM-10: 30 AM
 Open the Uber app,  request a car and bring both suitcases outside. Say goodbye to your boyfriend and the cats. Load your bags into the car when it arrives, ride through gridlock Los Angeles rush hour traffic to LAX.

10:30-11:15 AM
 Arrive at the airport, check your bag curbside. Get in line to go through Airport Security, trying not to become disgusted with the idiots who haven’t obeyed the “3-1-1’ quart baggie rule and are holding up the line. Find your departure gate. Purchase a hideously overpriced liter of water. Discover (yet again) that the notoriously bad Free Wi-Fi at LAX isn’t working well enough for you to log onto Facebook. Buy a tabloid and read it until your flight starts boarding.

11:50 AM
Your flight finishes boarding and takes off. Go through the notes for the workshops you’re teaching, even though you’ve taught them many times. Glance at the schedule for the weekend;  happily you don’t have to judge a competition, only  teach and perform. Finish the tabloid and donate it to the flight attendants. Eat your veggies, trying not to cave in to the salted peanuts being passed out, because if you eat them, you'll arrive looking like The Elephant Man. Idly browse though the airline magazine tucked in the pocket of the seat in front of you while trying to ignore the loudly whining child whose repeatedly kicking  the back of your seat.

4:40- 6:45 PM CST
 You’re now on Central Standard Time, laying over at ORD, aka Chicago O’Hare Airport. Take the shuttle between terminals to your next departure gate.  Text your sponsor to let her know your plane seems to be taking off on time. Rejoice in the fact that the ORD free Wi-Fi actually has a strong signal. Do some administrative work during remaining hour before your next flight, returning emails about an up-coming class series, sending workshop descriptions to a potential sponsor for next year and photos to producer designing a poster for a show you’re doing in five months. Buy a salad at an airport kiosk. Text your sponsor again, letting her know that due to stormy weather, your flight has been delayed for a half hour.  Board the next plane, eat your salad and try to discreetly stretch in the aisle near the galley and restrooms while the rest of the passengers doze.

9:45PM- 12:20 PM EST
 Arrive on the East Coast, wait twenty minutes for your checked luggage to appear, drag both suitcases out to the curb to meet your sponsor. Sponsor arrives, greets you with a hug, helps you load luggage, and you both chat while she drives you to your hotel and you check in. Bring luggage up to the room, call boyfriend to tell him you are safe at your destination. Go out in search of food. Most places are closed at this hour; drive around for nearly thirty minutes, winding up at TGI Friday’s perusing the menu for something healthy to eat. Have a glass of wine with sponsor, eat, giggle. Return to hotel room.

12:20-2:10 AM
Turn on the television; cruise through the channels until you find a suitably riveting reality show. Unpack; hang up costumes, iron skirts and veils for tomorrow evening’s show. Move dance togs and merchandise into your carry-on bag to bring to the workshop in the morning. Remove make up, wash face, brush teeth, set alarm for 6:45 am, and try desperately to fall asleep. Finally, you do.

SATURDAY

 6:45 AM
 Wake up, hit the snooze button  repeatedly on your phone. Toddle down to the lobby in the clothes you wore on the plane, make a “to go” plate of the only things you can eat at the breakfast buffet- hardboiled eggs, a banana, an apple. Pour a huge Styrofoam cup of super-weak hotel coffee. Go back up to the room. Dump a pack of Starbuck’s Via instant coffee into the hotel coffee, find another reality show, watch it while guzzling the doctored-up coffee and eating your breakfast, to which you’ve added a one of the nutrition bars you packed in your checked luggage. Get in the shower.

7:45-8:37 AM
Dress in your teaching clothes, apply make up so as to look as though you are  actually a member of the human race. Remember that students will want selfies with you, so apply a little more eye shadow and a brighter lipstick so that you will vaguely resemble the promo photos for the event that are plastered all over Facebook. Sponsor texts you saying there will not be time to return to the hotel after the workshops and before the show, and that she will arrive in fifteen minutes to bring you to the studio.  Madly dash around the hotel room, packing your costumes and cosmetic bag into the suitcase with the merch…so much for the ironing you did last night! Take elevator to the lobby, wait outside for the sponsor.  She pulls up, helps you get your bag in the trunk and hands you a tall latte with an extra shot of espresso. Hear angels singing as you sip the coffee, trying not to spill it as the sponsor races to the studio.

9:00Am-1: 29 PM
Arrive at the dance studio, set up your merch, greet students and make small talk. Class begins ten minutes late due to stragglers. Teach for an hour and a half, take a break and sell some merch, pose for photos with students. Resume teaching.  The workshop is supposed to end at noon, but everyone wants more photos. Chat with students while they are taken. Lunch is supposed to be from 12:30 to 1:30, but since you’re being mobbed, the sponsor has thoughtfully sent out a volunteer to get you a salad.  Eat the salad sitting on the floor in the studio while returning emails.  Call your boyfriend and leave a message. Check Instagram and Twitter. Students trickle in to the studio, chat with them and take more selfies.

1:30-4:49 PM
Teach your second workshop, sign a few DVD covers and sell more merch during the break. Three dancers you’ve taught several times before in two different states greet you and there are hugs all around.  They’ve driven for four and a half hours to come to this event. One of them gives you a gorgeous necklace; the others confide that they have a bottle of champagne for later.  Pose for a class shot with the sponsor and all the students; pack up your merch.  Drag luggage to the car, put it in the trunk.

5:15 PM
 Arrive at theater; claim a corner in the dressing room, lay out costumes, and hang up veils. Do a tech check for sound and lights.  Go to men’s room to apply Stage Face undisturbed, since the venue is overrun with female dancers, and the lighting in the dressing room blows for make up application. Eat some grapes  somebody's sharing with a nutrition bar and call it dinner. Guzzle a sport-sized bottle of water mixed with powdered green juice mix.

7:00 PM 
The doors in the venue are open.  Warm up and stretch in a hallway backstage along with a few other performers while listening to your set on your iPod. Socialize in the dressing room and have half a plastic cup of the champagne your friends are passing around.  Change into your first costume.

8:30 PM
The show has started. Shimmy non-stop backstage and try to stay somewhat quiet as more selfies-this time with crazy faces- are taken.  Text the BF at home; he answers back that the cats are all good. Watch bits and pieces of the show from the wings of the stage…many good dancers are performing tonight.

9:15 PM
 Intermission. Much of the cast is in the lobby mingling with friends and family. Pack up your first costume; change into the second one. Put your hair up in pin curls and stage-proof the wig that goes over them. Change your lipstick color to a darker, retro shade. Touch up your eye make up. Warm up...again.

10:00 PM
The show went great, the curtain call was fun, and the cast has given you flowers. Pack up  your stuff  while socializing amidst a dressing room full of shrieking dancers  all still high on stage  adrenalin.  Give gentle critique to the dancers who (inevitably) ask for it. Go to the lobby, pick up your merch and payment from the vending table. Pose for more  photos. Grab your suitcase from the dressing room and drag upstairs and to the street.  Throw in the  sponsor's trunk.

10:42 PM- 1:38 AM 
After party at a local restaurant. Of course your bag comes into the restaurant with you because you’re too paranoid to leave it in the car.  Drinks are served; you nurse one because you have to be on point in tomorrow’s workshops, plus you’re super-tired…and starving. The restaurant is crowded with tables full of rowdy, elated dancers. Make the rounds and chat with everyone. Take pix and post them on Facebook and Instagram. The food is taking forever; you’re ready to eat the furniture.

2:11 AM
Arrive at the hotel; try to work up the energy to scrape all the glitter and eyelash glue off your face. Turn on The Weather Channel for Storm Stories, switch to a true crime show because you’ve seen that episode before…last week, in fact…in another hotel room, in a different state.  Unpack your costumes and drape them over a chair to air out. Repack your carry on with merch and teaching clothes.  Wash your face as the killer whose being profiled on the crime show is being sentenced.

2:53 AM
Call your boyfriend to say goodnight because it’s three hours earlier in Los Angeles. Slather your sore hips with Arnica, your face with heavy-duty moisturizer, guzzle water and take vitamins. Try valiantly not to pick at the “road zit” that’s developing on your left cheek. Cover it in toothpaste, which works as a pinch-hitting astringent, replacing the Clearasil you apparently forgot to pack.  Listen to the uproarious racket of dancers having an after-after party down the hall.

3:16 AM
Turn off the television and lights, grateful that the workshops are starting at 10:30 am; as opposed to 9:00…you get to sleep in!  Pass out cold.

SUNDAY

7:32 AM
Somehow, you’re wide-awake. Lounge in bed for twenty minutes returning emails before getting up for real when your phone alarm goes off.

 8:00 AM
Stumble down to the lobby, noticing under the fluorescent lights in the buffet line that your limbs are still coated in glitter from last night’s show.  Become ridiculously happy that there’s scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast because it’s Sunday. Eat tons of food in the lobby’s café area, semi- incoherently rehashing last night’s show with a couple of dancers who are also staying at the hotel.  They admit they’re extremely hung over, but are excited about today’s workshops. Steal a couple of bananas from the buffet for later and fill a to-go cup with coffee. Stop by the front desk and print out your boarding passes for tomorrow morning’s flight.

8:36-9:59 AM
 Dump two packets of Starbuck’s via into your shitty hotel coffee, shower, make up and stretch to The Real Housewives Of New Jersey.  Return emails; one of them is from and LA dancer asking if you can sub her class the day after you get back. You accept and note it on your calendar. Another is from a sponsor asking about your music for a show that’s happening in a month and a half. You write back, saying you’ll send it when you get home the next day. Try not to notice the road zit, which is reaching massive proportions and looks like it’s going to blow like Mt. Vesuvius at any moment.

10:02 AM
 Sponsor -fully made up but looking half asleep- arrives  to pick you up from the lobby. She suggests stopping for espresso at a local coffee drive through and you practically jump on her in gratitude.

10:30 AM- 12:30 PM
 Teach your first workshop, which gets off to an awfully slow start because everyone’s bushed from the show and parties the evening before. Pose for photos, sell merch. Take a call from your boyfriend, the kitties are good. You miss them terribly and feel guilty about leaving them.

12:40 PM-1: 25 PM
 Lunch at a Mexican joint near the studio with lots of dancers. Shovel a tostada salad into your mouth, wishing it was enchiladas... and that you could have a margarita and nap after you licked the plate clean.

1:30 PM-3: 30 PM
The second workshop actually starts on time; the dancers pick up technique quickly, and it’s a blast.  Take a class photo, sign some books. Dancers who are leaving the event come up and say their goodbyes, take more photos with them.

4:00 PM-6: 7:17 PM
 Three private lessons in the studio, two single lessons and one small group who wants pointers on choreography in progress. They show up in full make up and costume, running there number-which looks great-like a well-oiled machine.

7: 20 PM 
Return to the hotel to drop off your suitcase, change and freshen up for dinner. Call the BF, no answer. Return emails from the lobby while waiting for the sponsor to arrive.

7:45 Am -9:50 PM
The sponsor and her troupe members bring you to dinner at lovely local restaurant. Everyone is exhausted but happy, dinner and cocktails are ordered.  Hear about some local dance drama during appetizers. Share dessert with everyone and call it a night.

10: 14 PM- 1:44 AM
 Arrive back at the hotel; listen to Scared Straight on television while packing your suitcases. The checked bag is considerably lighter because most of your merch was sold. Yay. Talk to your boyfriend and your sister.  Facebook chat with a European sponsor ( it's morning over there) about an upcoming workshop weekend. Write a cursory entry in the journal you didn’t have time for all weekend long. Start working on a new blog post while listening to some  creepy paranormal documentary on Nat Geo.  Get ready for bed. Pass out.

MONDAY

6:45 AM
Wake up, shower, and grab breakfast in the lobby while trying to write another journal entry. Slip an apple and a hardboiled egg into your purse to eat on the plane. Take the elevator back up to your room, pack up your toiletries, do a dummy check, and leave some change for the maid. The Do Not Disturb sign has been up on your door all weekend and the bathroom in particular is a horror show, full of wet towels covered in glitter and body make up plus  an overflowing trash can.

7:57 AM-9: 02 AM
 Sponsor meets you in the lobby to check you out and pay you. Sit on a floral couch under a gaily-colored over-sized  annoying "corporate art"  painting while going over the finances for the event.  She pays you and asks you back for the year after next. You accept. Load the suitcases into the car, drive to the airport.

9:30 AM
  Sponsor drops you off, you hug. It was a fabulous event. Thank the Universe silently for TSA Pre-Check as you whiz through the long Monday morning security line. Find your gate; buy a liter of electrolite water and a copy of Allure to read on the plane. Board the plane, silently surround your row with White Light, praying that no one will join you and you can stretch out. Your prayers don't work, but you congratulate yourself on being anal about always booking an aisle seat.

11:30 AM CST
 Change planes at ORD, thankful that the sky looks clear because it seems like every time you go through this damn airport there’s a  severe weather delay.  Find your gate, read about the new anti-aging techniques that are being developed.  Feel a slightly depressed because  now you not only have wrinkles, your face is puffy from far too few hours of sleep and the road zit is now the size of South America.  Board your second plane and heave a sigh of relief because this time the White Light trick actually worked! Spread out. Eat lots of tiny packets of salted peanuts...who cares if you look like The Elephant Man  when you're on your way home?

 3:30 PM PST
 Finally home after narrowly missing LA’s Monday Rush Hour. The cats swarm you, purring. Your boyfriend has cleaned the house and it looks amazing. Put your phone on the charger, slather Clearasil on South America, and pig out on some watermelon before taking a nap.

5:45 PM
 Wake up with your phone’s alarm. You could totally  sleep waaaay longer, but then you won’t be able to sleep at all later, and you have a full day of errands- plus a Skype private and the class you agreed to sub- the next day.

6:07 PM
 Walk into the living room, open your suitcases, and a kitty jumps in. Trying not to disturb him, add in a new stack of merch: t-shirts, more DVDs, copies of your book, and a box of promotional postcards. 

 Remove your class clothes and costumes, replacing them with fresh leggings, unworn tank tops and different costumes…because you’re doing this all over again in four days.


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 For some truly crazy stories about my years of travel, check out my memoir Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, backstage And On The Road. Purchase an autographed copy here:

















1 comment:

  1. love it Pleasant! Life and times of a very busy/crazy showgirl and master instructor.

    ReplyDelete