When to Walk Away from a Dance Job

When you dream of being a professional dancer, that dream generally includes your hopes of consistently working on some exciting projects.  You dream of being hired to work with your favorite company or artist or musical production or dance program, right?

However, when reality sets in and you really start to learn the nature of being a freelance dancer, you quickly begin to realize that making a living as a professional dancer isn't as easy as you may have hoped.  Dance jobs can be few and far between, and it often takes juggling multiple opportunities to make ends meet.  

Although, being a professional is about more than just exchanging money for movement.  Being a professional also calls for the use of wisdom in choosing the projects that are in your best professional or personal interest.  Exercising such wisdom means you'll sometimes have to turn down a gig.  Continue reading to discover when it's best to walk away from your dance job.

1.  Walk away when you're already booked on a job with a conflicting schedule.

It's great to have your pick of a number of exciting dance jobs, but saying 'yes' to all of them could hurt you in the long the run.  Aside from the obvious fatigue, taking on too many projects, especially those with conflicting schedules, can ruin your reputation as a reliable dancer, thus damaging your professional career and potential to get future work.

If you've already given your word to work on a particular project, do the professional thing and honor your commitment.  Dancers who over extend themselves are rarely able to give 100% in every job, and they usually end up coming off as flaky and inconsistent.  Remember, the dance community is small, and having a poor work ethic on one job will definitely ruin your chances of getting more work

2.  Walk away when the team or staff is disrespectful or when working conditions are dangerous.

Dancers can sometimes be so happy to have a job that they'll overlook uncomfortable or even hazardous working conditions.  However, no job is ever worth personal degradation or risking preventable injuries.  After all, you need a fully abled mind and body to continue working.

If you're ever on a job with either of these conditions, always opt for communicating your concerns with the production team or staff first.  If you have an agent or manager who can speak on your behalf, you can get them involved too.  It's time to consider walking away only when openly discussing your concerns does not resolve the issue.  

Note: When leaving a job, be sure to do so graciously.  Again, the dance world is very small, and it's always best to avoid burning any bridges when possible.

  3.  Walk away when the job is not worth your time.

Dancers sometimes have a hard time knowing their worth.  As we've often said before, it's likely because you've never been taught how to assign a value to your work.  We've generally only been taught how to dance, and then how to go out and audition for work.  Rarely are we ever introduced to the business skills needed to sustain a dance career or to get paid what we're worth.

With that, it's incredibly important to turn down jobs that don't pay well, or even worse, that don't pay anything at all.  If you're unsure of what acceptable rates are, start by researching the going rates in your area.  Ask friends or colleagues what they've been paid.  Check out organizations like Dancers Alliance who publish starting rates for performance jobs.  

More importantly, start by calculating your personal hourly rate.  By doing some very simple math, you'll find a minimum hourly rate for your work.  Knowing this rate will help you gauge which projects are worth your time or not.  Once you're clear on you're worth, you'll easily be able to pass on those jobs that don't meet your minimum.

Here's the takeaway: Yes, the dream is to get paid to dance to your heart's content, but every job is not good for you.  Do what's best for your career by saying 'no' to jobs that do not support your professional or personal growth. 

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