I am a Dancer by profession and a Performer by nature. This is what I have done all my life, since the tender age of 3, when I began taking ballet lessons at school. I have been fortunate enough to be able to develop my passion into a career that has taken me around the world allowing me to perform in front of a variety of audiences. I have performed on cruise ships sailing the 7 seas, in hotels, care homes, bars, theatres, back gardens and everywhere else in between.
When I started out dancing, and performing, I had no idea of the skills and lessons it would teach me for later life and how well equipped for the world dancers are as people.
1: If at first you don’t succeed …
As a dancer you spend many hours in studios developing and honing your skills and technique and like many other jobs, you will never stop learning. However there will come a time when you feel like you are good enough to audition and get a job, in fact, it feels like the role was created for you and only you.
After the first round you get cut!
Yeah it’s that brutal! If you speak to any performer, they will tell you for every ‘Yes!’ there have been 100’s of no’s. The difference is we just get back up, brush it off and keep going, because as my Dad always says, ‘Do you really want to give up, when the yes could be just after one more no?’
2: How to take direction
Now don’t get me wrong there are a fair few dancers out there who could be considered Diva’s and we all definitely have strong opinions about those around us. However what we have mastered is the art of taking direction, it’s a key requirement in our industry. This can be anything from choreographic direction, artistic direction to physical direction. Having the ability to take someone’s words and translate them into what they have envisioned without letting your own ego or opinions get in the way goes a long way.
3: Fast learners
When I was working on cruise ships, on average each ship would have 4/5 different shows lasting a minimum of an hour. In that show you would have up to 20 costume changes and be one of a cast of 16. We would get on board and have 4 weeks to learn EVERYTHING!!! Sometimes less if we were opening a show early.
Dancers and Performers have this innate ability to retain information on an epic scale. This makes every other new situation so much easier and has often made me stand out above the rest when working in other fields. The average person takes several demonstrations before they fully grasp a new process, however the average dancer sees it once, twice at most and has it down.
4: Can make friends with almost anyone
In almost all of the dance jobs I have done, I have lived with my fellow cast members, sharing a room after meeting that day! Yes, that’s right, you step on board a cruise ship and are immediately introduced to the person you are going to spend the next 9 months living with. In the case of ships it’s not in an apartment, but in a 6ft x 12ft cabin (including bathroom). You have to be open and approachable to be able to deal with this situation, after all you don’t want to be ‘that person’.
I am yet to meet another profession where this is done so effortlessly, let me paint the picture for you. It’s 1hr before the show starts and your 1 female singer falls ill, leaving up to one of the dancers to fill in her spot. This dancer is taken out of their role to cover the singer, meaning that every dance they were in now has to be re – staged so the audience doesn’t notice there is someone missing. This may also mean that other dancers have to jump into her position in routines they wouldn’t normally do or be in a section they wouldn’t normally perform.
All this is done without rehearsal, purely talking through the show, maybe a quick check for any difficult parts, like lifts etc and then ‘BAM’ the curtain goes up. You are now performing in front of over 1000 people! I have had the experience of having to cover the singer for the night with a total of 2hrs onstage rehearsal, before singing live in front of a full theatre … it was exhilarating.
These are just a few of the things I have learnt during my performing career and I know there are so many other skills I have e.g. being able to do the splits on demand as well as generally having the most rhythm on any wedding dance floor.
I have this amazing creative outlet to thank for helping me to evolve into the person I am today and even when I finally decide to hang up my dancing shoes I know that I will still always be A Dancer.