April 2018 | New Beginnings
At the start of 2018, I decided it was about time I stopped imagining what could be, and instead make those thoughts more of a reality. This sounds very dramatic, and I have been working on some of those ventures up until now; but I did make a huge, and slightly risky step forward in my career by going entirely freelance as a dance artist.
I left the security of my full time job in marketing, to pursue a beloved dance career wholeheartedly. If I wanted to be able to say I truly tackled all my intended career goals, I needed to make some changes.
However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. As this is my first blog, I should probably introduce myself a little and explain how we've reached this point:
Dance has been a constant, integral influence in my life and work. I started training in RAD ballet and ISTD tap and modern dance from the age of three to eighteen, before attending the University of Chichester to study BA (Hons) Dance and then MA Dance Performance. I left formal education with two degrees, the best experiences of my life so far and a fire in me to go and dance.
Things don't always go to plan though... To support the search for dance work that I was truly passionate about, and to be able to offer enough freedom to audition for performance work; I started a part time, casual role Front of House at my local theatre. Within a few months - although I thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility of the job in a familiar arts environment - I was struggling to guarantee payment of my MA loan and living expenses. At the same time as this slight panic however, I was recommended to apply for a full time role at the theatre and thought it was just the thing I needed. I got the job and have spent the last two years as Sales and Marketing Assistant at the Grove Theatre, Dunstable (alongside various dance teaching roles, CPD courses/workshops and involvement in one-off performance projects where I was able to).
Don't get me wrong, I have been fortunate to work with some very supportive, inspiring people at the theatre and have learnt a great deal professionally over the last two years, be it technical or character building skills as a new-found arts marketer as well as a dance artist. Marketing has been a new and exciting creative outlet for me, that offers transferable skills across all my work and provides a rewarding pride as a result of positive responses to ones marketing activity. To name a few parts of my role, I was responsible for digital marketing (including e-shots, basic Photoshop design and social media of which I launched a theatre Instagram account), as well as support for management of marketing campaigns, events, website editing and extensive use and knowledge of the theatres ticketing system (we loved a good report). But there were moments when I would hear of a dance project looking for artists and be gutted that I couldn't make the time work to take part, or simply use full time work as an excuse not to apply (as much as I hate to admit that).
With this in mind, in November last year, I returned from two weeks of annual leave as a one-woman marketing team and so had to seriously think about my options. Acting Marketing Manager as well as Sales and Marketing Assistant - in the lead up to the Christmas panto period, creation of a new theatre brochure and the likelihood of new colleagues not being appointed until 2018 - was understandably hectic for one person. I tackled the challenge head on, determined to prove I could do it, but having to ask for casual help when needed (very much appreciated once I learnt to train and delegate jobs, at the same time as ensuring the work was done in time and to my perfectionist standards). It's an achievement I'm proud of, but it wasn't a sustainable way to work and the niggling feeling of wanting to pursue dance work continued to cloud my outlook on my career.
I should mention at this point, that throughout 2017 and into early 2018, I was offered a place as part of a fantastically encouraging and nurturing CPD programme for community dance artists: Matthew Bourne | New Adventures' Overture. Four residential weekends of Overture provided me with enriching experiences that questioned and encouraged my dance practice, alongside a new network of incredible artists.
(I'll write a separate blog to give my Overture experience full attention at a later date - keep your eyes peeled).
So; I'm questioning whether the theatre is the best place for me at an incredibly demanding time on my skills and knowledge, as well as wanting to pursue more dance work and am part of an almost overwhelmingly encouraging network of community dance artists.
The answer was in front of me, I just had to make the next move... I didn't want my Overture time to come to an end in February 2018, without having moved myself to a better place in my career, or without putting in place actions for the ideas gained from the programme that I want to pursue. As a result, I made the difficult decision to leave the theatre and take the leap into life as a freelance dance artist as of February 2018.
The last couple of months have been equally daunting and exciting whilst I find my feet as a freelancer, but I have enjoyed having the time to meet even more new and fabulous people, start new teaching and art facilitating projects and initiate talks about future work. Here's to new beginnings and new dance experiences, as well as anticipation for the unknown to come!