While many people are excited to start their carb-free diets and get “summer bod” ready, most professional dancers look forward to summer lay-off with a mixture of relief and anxiety. After a jam-packed season, summer means relaxtion, catching up with family and friends, the struggle of finding ways to stay in shape and dun dun dun dun….unemployment. The possibilities of lengthy vacations and summer gallivanting are limited by rent and bills knocking and no salary there to answer. Too old for summer programs, the quest for gigs and mula begins. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by summer woes, but if you plan ahead, you can have an awesome summer and be ready to start the next season in fantastic shape (sort of).
Friends are a great resource for summer planning. Some are doing choreographic residencies, others starting summer programs in need of teachers. Some are taking a trip to Europe and need a travel companion (if you can swing it). A few might be doing collaboratives and collectives and sometimes they’re teaching workshops, which might mean free class! Take advantage of workshops, they’re a great way to make connections with new companies and choreographers if you’re in transition, or looking for something new.
I am a firm advocate of dancers getting paid to dance. We bust our @$$e$ and frankly, rarely get paid the amount I think we deserve. BUT, sometimes working for free can be extremely rewarding. If your unemployment can cover you for a few weeks, getting involved in arts outreach, volunteering and using your art to make a difference can be a truly incredible experience. Arts outreach can become a great way to make new connections, network with different members of the arts community and remind you of how important your craft can really be in changing the world. It can also lead to future paying jobs, some awesome travel opportunities and ideas for career transitions.
Even if you’re too old to attend, summer programs are often in need of resident assistants and camp counselors. Being in RA can be a great source of summer income, opportunity for free class and a good way to keep up with trends of the youth (yuck). Some intensives, like Springboard Danse in Montreal, allow attendees who are older professionals. I’ve personally attended Springboard twice and had some of the best summers of my life! Montreal is an incredible city bustling with art and culture, and Springboard provides some really wonderful opportunities for professional networking, choreographing and career development.
This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of The Black Iris Project in New York. Jeremy McQueen, the project’s creator and choreographer, is a man doing a collaborative in all the right ways. Creating unique works, utilizing professional dancers and artists during their time off, properly compensating his dancers, respecting their schedules and promoting a message to inspire change in the dance community. If you’re in the city this summer, come check it out! http://www.blackirisproject.org
So don’t get freaked out when you start smelling summer. Remember to treat your body well and take it easy for a little while. Utilize your resources, take advantage of cross-training activities, get together with friends and don’t panic. You’ll make it through summer, your success rate so far is 100%…my pointe exactly.
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” Charles Bowden