How many times have you shared a dressing room or studio space with a dancer who was a total train wreck? Every other dancer in the place just sort of backs up and watches in horror as the crazy person -who, of course has shown up late- digs frantically in a suitcase scattering it’s contents all over, yells loudly on a cell phone, or has a complete meltdown.
We’ve all witnessed that, right?
Baby dancers can be excused (ok, once or twice) because they haven’t learned the ropes yet and don’t have the experience -or guidance to know exactly what’s up. But ironically, it’s all too common that the disorganized, noisy and entitled nutcase is a seasoned pro…and sometimes it’s even the featured artist!
There’s a big difference between bumbling your way hit’n’miss through gigs and being a true professional. Even though most of us already know (and practice) the points I’m about to mention, they’re worth re-visiting; they’ll help you to have a long, healthy and prosperous career.
Here are ten habits of successful dancers:
Make Health A Priority
This one seems like a total no-brainer, but many of us blithely ignore it. It’s obvious that we can’t perform to the best of our abilities by running on fumes. Many dancers (self included, by the way) routinely function on insufficient sleep and “meals” that consist of a power bar and a handful of nuts… or by pigging out during post-gig fast food parties. And what about ignoring injuries, preferring to dance while in pain rather than sitting a few shows out? Raise your hand if you’ve been there- we’ve all done it.
Needless to say, we’re only given one body per lifetime. Taking care of yourself is vital if you want a long, healthy career. So rest up, eat clean, take your vitamins, and see a doctor when you need to, and know the world –or your career- won’t end if you miss some time due to an injury.
Be impeccable with your word. If you confirmed a gig, you gotta be there…and you need to show up on time. If you’re running late, call or text. If you know in advance can’t make a gig or if a sudden emergency comes up, let the show producer or venue owner know immediately. Suggest a substitute, and share their info or offer to contact the sub yourself.
Manage Time Wisely
There’s damn few dancers who have managers, publicists and booking agents, so if you want a successful career, you’re going to have to handle all of this stuff by your lonesome. That means that even if you’d prefer being onstage or in the studio, someone’s gotta do the administrative work…and that someone is you. This includes everything from making lesson plans for your classes to promoting your gigs, from updating your website to booking shows, travel and studio time. There are only so many hours in a day, but it’s crucial to carve out some time to take care of business, it’s necessary. Set aside an hour or two a week just for administrative work, and you’ll probably notice a huge difference in your career.
This actually relates to the previous point, because good organizational skills will save you time! Keep a pre-packed dance bag to bring to class, whether you’re taking or teaching- that way, you won’t be wasting twenty minutes looking for your ballroom shoes, resistance band, or iPod.
Store your costumes with all the pieces and accessories (jewelry, wigs, shoes) you need for that particular act.
Decide what supplies you need for any gig. Create a master checklist if you need to, and refer to it as you pack.
Keep yourself on your toes physically by mentally envisioning what you want to achieve. Be in the moment; no “phoning in” your dancing at rehearsals, and certainly never onstage or at an audition.
Never stop striving for what you want. Set your goals, and make a timeline for what you’d like to achieve. Break down the steps you think it’ll take into bite-sized, do-able chunks, finishing each task before starting on the next one.
No matter how talented you are, nobody wants to work with a diva. Entitlement is an ugly trait in anyone, no matter how famous or in demand they are. This old saying might sound a little brutal and cutthroat but it’ll help you remember to stay humble. There’s always someone younger, prettier, more talented, and easier to work with waiting to take your place.
Baby dancers are addicted to practice cause it’s so new and fun. But once we get comfortable and established in our careers, many of us tend ignore home practice, or reviewing the fundamentals by drilling. World famous ballet dancers do their barre exercises every day, and Olympic medalists train like crazy people, also every day. No matter what level you’re at, you are no different- your performances will grow by leaps and bounds if you get back to basics.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Dancers
This is much easier said than done, because it’s in our nature to compare and contrast. It’s one thing to want to perfect a move because you like the way another dancer does it. But all too often, comparison leads to us beating ourselves up, because we perceive we’re lacking something that another dancer has.
Once you realize that every dancer is different and each has individual strong points to offer, it’ll be much easier to stop comparing, and feel comfortable and happy in your own right.
Never Stop Learning
There’s always something to learn. The more you broaden your horizons, the better dancer you’ll become. Learning is a process; it can be active and intentional- as in taking a class in a style you’ve never studied, or it can be passive, like watching another dance’s performance on You Tube. If you’re receptive, you can learn things that will improve your own dance technique even by studying unrelated subjects. Even your beginner students can teach you something relevant. Inspiration and “A-ha moments” can strike at any time. Stay open and be curious.
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