Don't let money, jobs, or roles determine your worth as an artist.
We all want to be able to support ourselves with our dancing. Some of us feel guilty about calling ourselves a dancer if we have to hold down another job or two to pay the bills. We feel a constant anxiety to land that dream job with a company where we will finally be able to just dance. Then, you will be able to call yourself a real dancer; then your art will be worth something. But, this criterion of needing to live off your art in order to feel “dancer-y enough” is just a fabricated expectation made up by your mental demons. This need to prove yourself is holding you back from reaching your full potential and preventing you from enjoying your art.
The reality in the dance world is that there are so many talented dancers all fighting for the same few jobs. And, the reality is also that those few positions are not always given out based on talent or deservedness. I've heard horror stories about dancers being passed over for jobs or roles they rightfully deserved, earned, and had been promised with no seemingly logical explanation for it. The hard work, dedication, passion, and sacrifice were all there…yet, they were passed over, leaving them reeling from the confusion. Then on the other end of the spectrum, there are the seasoned professionals who are pushed into retirement prematurely as they watch their hard-earned roles being given away to younger dancers. Even though they may still be at the height of their ability, this causes them to question their worth in an art they sacrificed so much for.
We picked a brutal field to go into, no doubt. But, the real problem arises when you put all your worth as a dancer into these outside forces that aren't in your control. If you allow your worth to be determined by salary, jobs, and roles, you will forever feel like your destiny and artistic path are out of your own hands. And, you will never find fulfillment in your art. You will always be chasing more; constantly haunted by the feeling that you are not enough.
How do you fix this? Remind yourself why you started dancing in the first place. It’s a passion that allows you to express something inside…to share your story with the world. It’s something you do that makes you feel alive. It doesn’t have to pay your bills; it just has to provide meaning for your life. What if that was the only criterion for determining your worth as an artist – not money or fame or ranking, but meaning? And that meaning in your art is something only you can determine. This puts the power of your art back in your own hands and is your path to reaching your full potential.
This doesn’t mean it will be easy when you get turned down for jobs or roles. You are still going to feel the pain, disappointment, and hurt. But, having the tools to deal with these emotions will prevent your demons from taking over and trapping you in a downward spiral. Journal, talk to a friend, workout, do anything that puts the control back in your hands and gives you a sense of power in your body and life. Then, remember that these outside forces don’t determine your worth as a dancer; you do.
Just because you may not be performing on the biggest stage with the best company in the principal role, your unique art is still worth something. It’s not about the audience you are performing for or the money you are making; it’s about you – and having the courage to show yourself no matter who is watching. Because deep down, you know the meaning in your art, why you do it, and what it brings to your life. That is what your art is worth, and that is what will allow you to become the greatest dancer you can be.