We’ve identified the problem(s):
Dancers are underpaid and undervalued because:
1-They don’t value themselves, will work for nothing and kill their bodies, and struggle with self esteem and self worth
2-Because of #1, the public therefore doesn’t value them, thereby making it impossible for dancers (and directors/producers) to BE well paid, and it becomes a negative cycle of dancers feeling worthless, the public believing them and not supporting them, and thereby proving their worthless belief to be correct, etc. The most significant source of income for dancers still sources donors, by a landslide. In other words, we don’t make anything unless someone gives us a handout. Not great for valuing ourselves.
My first reaction was – start from scratch. Start dance from the ground up, new people, new ideas, new personas. That seemed easier than the alternative – teach dancers to value themselves, and thereby shift an entire industry mind-set, which will then re-train the public. Well then. Thanks to the advice and constant encouragement of one of my business mentors, I shift my focus to the road less traveled, the seemingly impossible. Nay, not less traveled, the road NOT EVEN MADE YET. Well, put on my hiking boots, rent a backhoe, and hope to high heaven that I am not alone in this. The only way this will be possible is if angels seen and unseen are enlisted in the cause, clearing away the brush and the weeds and the fallen trees to create a brand new path. You’d better bet your booties my prayers have intensified ten-fold as I look at this new challenge.
The great thing about this is it seems that all of the things that I have been passionate about throughout my life, and have wanted to teach others, have come full circle and are in support of this. So, let’s talk more specifics:
How can dancers value themselves more:
1-Their health/nutrition. I have been studying nutrition intensely since I was 11. I have strong feelings about what things you should avoid and what things you should NOT avoid, and what works for long term success rather than short term results (and later damage). Education about this would be part of teaching their value.
2-Body mechanics and safety. This includes injury prevention, proper stretching and warmups, and what things should be avoided no matter how popular, because if you care about impressing people above taking care of your body, then you don’t value YOU. If other’s opinions are worth killing your body, there is something wrong with your self care and your relationship with your most important instrument. Go watch a guitar player, a violin player, a (fill in the blank here with a musical instrument) player and they do everything in their power to keep that instrument safe, well tuned, and in top condition AT ALL TIMES. And yet, their instruments are replaceable – our bodies are NOT. We’ve got one, and once our metaphorical strings are broken, we can’t go to the store and get a new one. Your body and its safety should be #1, #2, and #3 if you are truly valuing yourself and your dancing. See my previous articles on Proper Warmups AND Overstretching
3-Money management and ways to increase your income. Being a business owner in various roles for 13 years now has helped me to see what works and what doesn’t work in terms of saving and spending, how to get a raise, how to interview, how to write a resume, what you should do for free and what you should NOT do for free, and how and when you should work for yourself. Dancers struggle so much with believing in their financial worth that they hold down an average of FOUR jobs, while dancing and working their patooteys off for free. This is NOT what I would call believing in their value, and often leads to not taking proper care of their health, nutrition, and body safety and injury awareness and prevention.
4-And last, but definitely not least, self esteem and self value. This is where Dance Your Truth comes into play and ties everything all together. This helps people see WHO they are, how they are unique, and what they are here to contribute to the world. Once this is seen, TRULY SEEN (and this often takes more than one or two sessions!), they will go about everything else differently. And the great thing about this is that all I do is tell them what is already there. I decode their movement and teach them how to get down to their true self, and then through their movement THEY tell ME who they are and unveil their incredible destiny.
This is all step one in moving the mountain of an entire industry’s “standard.” The next step is taking these dancers, these new creatures who know who they are and why they matter, and creating works of ART that will do the same for the public. Not just for their parents, significant others, and arts patrons, but for EVERYONE.
And as for my role? Step one is already in play. Workshops are scheduled, curriculum is created. The passion and clarity of vision are there. Step two is in the works. Stay tuned!
For more information on the Dance Your Truth movement, and to schedule your own workshops (from all over the world!) see DanceYourTruth.org