Categories
Artists Business Careers Dance Goals Networking Training for success

Listen up

Sometimes, you should listen to those who have expertise and experience in your field, people who are practiced in it and educated in it, when you have choices to make.

Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to advice.

There’s no easy way to go about it.

There are dancers that I believe would have achieved certain goals of theirs had they heeded my advice and guidance.

There’s the teacher who didn’t seem to think much of me, who thought that I should have taken the first job I was offered because it was the only job I’d likely ever get.

Now, I didn’t turn it down because I thought I was above it. I turned it down because I wasn’t mature enough to leave home and tour for a year. As it happened, I was offered one of the top jobs any dancer could get less than a year later.

I digress. As artists and as humans, we do need mentors and colleagues to dispense feedback and wisdom, but we need to choose who we let in judiciously.

Not listening to anyone is bad. Listening to everyone will get you nowhere.

Categories
Business Careers creating motivation productivity

Onward

Well, we are definitely happy to say goodbye to 2020. With all the tragedy, heartbreak and loss, we had to find solutions to keep working and stay connected in healthy ways as all of our lives were upended.

Here are some takeaways from my challenging year:

  • When ‘business as usual’ isn’t possible, nimbly pivot, keep moving forward and whenever something’s not working, readjust and keep going.
  • Paying attention to all of the noise on social media is a choice. Shutting it down, turning away and unfollowing those who prove toxic is a better choice.
  • What’s right for others isn’t and doesn’t have to be right for you or me, even if it seems everyone is flocking to them and not us.
  • Routine is especially essential, even when it all seems upside down. Wake up. Make breakfast. Read. Start on the to-do list. Practice. Lunch. Work. Dinner. TV. Sleep. Repeat.

Here’s to a new year of new opportunities and possibilities.

Categories
Artists Business Careers

More than you think and not enough

Everyone knew better than me. What do I know, after all. How do I know this is the right way to go if I don’t ask people first. The people that know better.

It’s so great that we can now ask anybody what we should do. What song should I use? Which costume do you like better? What school should I go to? But wait. Does the rest of the world really know so much more than me?

Artists are, by nature, often second-guessing, hard on themselves, never quite satisfied with their work, contemplating what they haven’t accomplished. Does this sound familiar?

The truth is that we know more than we will give ourselves credit for. Trust your choices and trust your knowledge, and if you’re down to the final stretch of your endeavor mulling over a small detail, ask a trusted person who knows you a singular, specific question.

We will never have all the answers, but we have many more than we think.

Categories
Artists Careers Dance Educators Training for success

When to stay and when to walk away

Part of achieving success as an artist is having the right training. Having the right training means you have mentors. The best mentors will help you achieve your maximum potential in a way that is demanding without being condescending.

In vulnerable states, artists may rely on their mentors to get them through the roughest patches. If this vulnerability becomes manipulated, it crosses the line into unhealthy.

Your teachers helped you reach great heights under their tutelage and may have believed in you when it seemed nobody else did.

It’s all great until it isn’t. Fifty great things your mentor has done for you cannot outweigh one very bad thing they have done to you.

The effect teachers have on students lasts a lifetime, the good and the bad. If it doesn’t feel healthy, walk away, and cherish the ones that push you to your best and catch you when you fall.

Categories
Careers Dance Educators Training for success

Value isn’t cheap

On tour in 2005 in the town of Somewhere, USA, my cast mates and I went to a dingy gym in a hotel basement so I could teach them the audition material for the upcoming Radio City Rockettes audition. I’d been doing the job for many years at this point, so I knew what the open call would entail.

These women are fabulous dancers. I just needed to fine tune some tiny details. Two of the three that auditioned ended up getting hired that season, after being cut from previous years of auditions. Words can’t express how special that was to me. They of course didn’t pay me a dime.

Other times in my career I’ve been hired to guest teach at studios or as a faculty member of a convention or festival where students don’t know foundational tap steps, and I’m paid very well to teach them some basics that they could learn from anybody with some knowledge.

How much I was paid in any case doesn’t matter.

The value of a teacher’s work isn’t measured by how much money they make. It’s measured by what those they teach get out of it.

Categories
Careers Dance Educators Training for success

Full Circle

It was fun to grow up analog, to be a part of the generation that grew up analog. In the dance community we somehow figured out what was good, which dance studio would provide the best training and where the dance conventions and tap festivals were. When we got home at the end of the day, we were away from everyone. With a few exceptions, everything was local.

Adulthood combined with the ever growing internet made everything very big. I traveled to L.A. and New York City to study with as many dance artists as possible, to know them and for them to know me.

“Hey! You’ve been in my class before.”

Then came social media. Who remembers MySpace? You can now connect with anyone in your industry anywhere in the world. It’s an infinite realm of choices and possibilities.

I’m ready to go back to small. I don’t just mean geographically, although I can’t wait to be able to sit at the counter again at the tiny diner around the corner. I’m ready to continue doing my best work for the small group who shares my excitement and spirit. I’m back where I started, but so much better.

Categories
Artists Careers Dance

This one time

There’s nothing like live theatre. A play may be performed 8 times a week, but the time you see it can never be exactly replicated. When things go wrong, those are extra special performances to witness, seeing performers in all their humanity and vulnerability. Here are some of my finest [insert sarcastic tone] once-in-a-lifetime moments:

Stumbled in front of 5000 people in the opening number on opening night of my first season as a Radio City Rockette.

Got my fishnets caught in the trombone during one of the many shows at Casino Windsor. Only 250 in the audience that time.

Popped out of my costume during the opening number of Elvis To the Max at Casino Windsor. Guess where the audience is looking now!

Parade Of the Wooden Soldier pants split in the, um, crack during the opening night performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, once again, in front of 5000 people.

Got dragged off stage by my sheep in the Living Nativity during, you guessed it, opening night of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This time there were only about 2000 people in the audience.

Got called the “low point of the show” in a review by some local weekly paper in St. Louis, thankfully not the New York Times.

Still here.

Categories
Artists Careers Dance Trends

Kick it old school, also don’t

It’s convenient to shrug off current trends and say, “I’m old school”. That way, it’s easy to stay comfortable, not worry about what’s new and stick to what feels good.

Then we get disconnected. Then we feel obsolete. Then all this time passes by and shoot, we need to catch up. The other choice is sitting around grumbling about how it’s not like it used to be. Full disclosure: that’s still going to happen sometimes.

If there’s an upside to the increased time on my hands, it’s that I have gotten to stop and look around. I actually know songs that are current now. I get Tik Tok! I get it! I understand why people love it. I want to be better at it. It helps me work on skills that I can apply elsewhere like ideal camera angles, good lighting and comedic timing.

What is driving the culture right now will never supersede what is classic and timeless. But if we insulate ourselves from the constantly changing, hyperconnected world, it will be much harder to continue thriving.

Categories
Careers Dance and Social Media Networking

My door is open

Notable figures in any industry have a responsibility to be approachable and accessible. In the arts, this means anyone who travels to educate, who is known as a performer and/or is a director or leader of any kind.

What we say and do stays with those we interact with for years. The moments that teachers at festivals, conventions or professional studios (Steps, Broadway Dance Center, Edge) take to talk to students before or after class matter as much as the education they get during the class. The time that performers take to say ‘hi’ to fans and sign autographs at the stage door makes them impactful beyond the character they play on stage.

What we say on social media matters, and more so, how we say it. Most of us won’t get to hang out with the very famous, but don’t you feel like you could just sit and have a cup of coffee with Tom Hanks? Lin Manuel Miranda’s ‘Gmorning, Gnight’ tweets lifted people’s spirits so much he put them in a book. They make their followers feel important, even though there are millions of them.

When people look to us for training, guidance or insight, it is our responsibility, to them as individuals and to our art form as a whole, to be approachable and accessible. Twenty years later, they will remember what we said.

Categories
Artists Careers Dance rejection

Go out there and be terrible

Have you been laughed at, ridiculed or given a bad review? No? Well then, try harder.

Seriously though, you have to be terrible before you are good. If you are always good at everything, are you reaching enough?

The faculty hated that Pink Floyd piece I choreographed in college and reluctantly put it in the concert. I sang and tap danced in a showcase and got completely laughed at. There are many other instances. I learned so much from all of them.

Being formulaic is a comfortable place to be. If you do A, B and C, it will look like this and conform to expectations, like #1 songs on the Billboard charts. Check all the boxes.

The path to being remarkable is full of trying things that fail, being wrong, being rejected and being criticized. The sweet reward of this path is looking back and knowing that when you wanted to try something, you did.