As a cash-strapped, overdraft-ridden postgrad, keeping up dance training seems to become increasingly tricky as time and money continue to be elusive little blighters. So to address this pretty common problem for arts people everywhere, here are five ways that I cheat the system and keep dancing for cheap…
Creating work is hard as an artist on your own, so find a friend to share the load – and split the cash…
I recently worked with Richard Hames, a composer from the Royal Academy of Music on a dance/music collaborative work. It was great to work with a composer, as I got a new insight into how choreography can be influenced by artists from other fields. Working outside the normal dance community, with a non-dancer as my outside eye, gave me a fresh perspective on my choreography and challenged me in new ways. Rehearsing at the academy also meant fantastic resources for free, and a beautiful performance venue – always handy.
The work was performed in a couple of locations and I really enjoyed the process – creating a solo could have been a very lonely pursuit but collaborating gave me much-needed support and lots of new ideas.
2. Commit yourself
It’s hard sometimes to drag yourself to class. Excuses like, too tired, too busy, too poor, can very easily make going to a regular class seem like an impossible task. I decided this term that to get the most out of the classes available (run by Brighton Dance Network) I’d book a bunch in advance and pay up front. It hurts just a little, then after that there are weekly classes that you absolutely must go to because if you don’t you are LOSING MONEY. I don’t really need to say any more.
Auditions sometimes suck, and sometimes they get you a job. But they are always free classes with challenging material to get your limbs around, and challenge the synapses in picking it up on the spot.
Admittedly, depending on location, the free class can cost a hefty sum in travel expenses; but getting a day return to Amsterdam is one hell of an adventure, so why not just try it. Disclaimer: I’ve never actually done that. But maybe I will…
4. Don’t save it for the studio
One of the big issues with dance, whether in an established company or not, is that good rehearsal space is hard to come by. Even successful companies have to improvise, with harlequin dance floor on top of playmats being the most ingenious solution I’ve heard of (Vincent Dance Theatre, I salute you).
Because of this, we can’t afford to be choosy with when and where dance has to happen.
I practise arabesques in my kitchen, improvise in front of the bedroom mirror and have solo headphone discos while walking to work. It probably looks a bit weird, but as a contemporary dancer, isn’t that the dream?
5. And if you can’t dance…
Write. Draw. Watch. Discuss.
I sometimes realise I get so caught up on finding the next performance or rehearsal opportunity, I forget that dance is a spectator art, and I can be a spectator too. So I blog about it, I go to performances, I choreograph with words and create in my head. It is so satisfying to be engaged in this way, and it is a reminder that to be a dancer is a way of thinking, not just of moving. Try it, it’s lovely.