For those who can't do, teach…And when teaching isn't an option?

 In Dance on Screen, Uncategorized

Recently, I had the unpleasant experience of having to turn down a job teaching ballet because it interfered with my day job. Though I know I made the right choice, in terms of my well being and my welfare, I was upset over it.  I found myself reaching for my phone, calling up my mother, and crying to her about why something so simple has to be so difficult.  I love teaching ballet and I love working with young dancers–two things that make me want to do it as a career. Teaching has kept me connected to the dance world, and reminded me time and again why I love ballet so much!  But in Los Angeles, it’s not an easy career choice.

For one thing, this town is too spread out and I often spend more time sitting in traffic or battling freeway on-ramps just getting to a studio than I do actually teaching in it.  I hate it, but distance and traffic play a huge part in my in ability to teach as often as I’d like.  Then of course there is the wage: working as a freelance dance teacher, even for the highest paying studios generally doesn’t generate more than some extra pocket change.  It has to be vocational, because it really can’t be about the pay.

Such is dance.

Indeed, there has been a lot of press and talk lately about how underpaid/under-appreciated dance is as a profession and yes, I get it.  I was watching an awards show on TV once where a bunch of dancers were performing for a bunch of movie and television actors and the inequality of wages really hit home for me.  Here they were – artists applauding other artists – with one group making millions upon millions of dollars for their work and the other not even at minimum wage when you rack up all the hours they must put in.

It seems strange to me that dancers don’t get the same financial recognition as movie stars. They train harder and endure the physical risk similar to a professional athlete. But, I suppose, like every art form, some people get the glory while most of their peers get scale rates or unemployment.  After all, for each movie star we see there are truly thousands of out of work actors (I bet at least a few of them are pretty darn talented)!  It is, without a doubt, a hard knock life for anyone who wants to work in the performing arts, but no other job ever really measures up…I should know, I’ve had a lot of them!

Back to my point.  Turning down an extra teaching gig was difficult for me because I want to be able to just teach.  I want to do it full-time. Even if it is just supplemental income for my household, I want to be Sutton Foster in Bunheads. Oh, that being a ballet teacher in quaint seaside town while my hubby paid all the bills was my life!  I wish that was my big life conundrum! But alas, that is television, not my life.

I am still hopeful that one day, when I am a bit older, I will be able to just teach.  I will be able to focus my energy solely on dance–instructing and inspiring a new generation to find a passion for ballet just as I did!  But until that glorious day arrives, I will continue to write about dance. At least I don’t have to worry about the traffic to do that!

*photos from I Love Lucy via http://www.hannahjholmes.com/

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Comments
  • stephanie
    Reply

    Heather,

    I want to salute people like you, passionate individuals willing and wanting to pass on the traditions of ballet to the next generation. While I used to teach in the School of the Minnesota Ballet (and actually love it), I don’t share the same sentiments about the vocation. I am selfish in my art form and prefer to dance and perform versus teach or choreograph. I’m so thankful individuals such as yourself exist in this crazy profession. Thanks for sharing this. It’s never easy choosing financial stability over doing what you love, but you’ll find a balance between all of it.

    I also love this episode of I Love Lucy–one of my all time favorites.

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