I’m a professional dancer. Growing up entirely immersed in dance, it’s hard for me to imagine people not knowing the absolute basics about my profession, however in my experience, I can state that the average person knows absolutely nothing about what my occupation could possibly entail. Now I’m more than happy to enlighten those who claim ignorance, but unfortunately most think because they’ve seen a music video or “So You Think You Can Dance” a half dozen times they are well versed on a dancers “struggles”. The only thing that makes my skin crawl more is the inevitable conversation below that happens to me every time I enter a bar:
Male Stranger that has just bought me a drink: “So what do you do?”
Me: “I’m a dancer and choreographer.”
Male: “Wait what? Are you like a stripper or something?”
Me: (deep sigh) “No…I’m not a stripper.”
Male: “Haha I was just kidding. But seriously are you like in music videos or something?”
To all men out there, while aerobic pole dancing classes for some reason completely beyond my understanding are the new trend, no girl likes to be asked if they’re a stripper. It is also not a great conversation starter and in no way witty or cute. It’s just basically an all around bad comment and should be kept to yourself.
The funny thing is that telling someone I’m a stripper would probably be easier to explain and more accessible to the person i’m conversing with than what it is that I actually do on a day to day basis. My days are spent in the exhausting commute back and forth from New Jersey to New York immersing myself in dance in as many ways as possible. I often miss meals (because of my excessive business and lack of money), run on little sleep, and generally miss out on seeing my family and friends. The summer has been way kinder to my body and mind (thank goodness the NY dance scene slows down in the summers), but here’s a synopsis of what the past 24 hours have consisted of for me:
- Attending a hip hop class last evening at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. I had to pay $20 to take class from a woman who screamed at me in a 90 degree room filled with 30 other disgustingly sweaty dancers. She screamed louder when anyone tried to ask questions and most of her warm up and combination consisted of thrashing your head in wild circles around the room. Yes I paid $20 (and trust me, I don’t have a lot of $20’s to throw around) to give myself a stiff neck and ensure that I can’t dance with my head for the next 2 days. Money well spent I’d say.
- This morning I taught a class of 2 year olds the foundations of movement. While the children were more enamored with the princess squares they were instructed to sit on and more concerned about who they sat/stood next to in class, I tried to teach them plies and arabesques which they managed to execute with their adorable flair. Unfortunately the class was really more an hour of babysitting than anything else. One little girl kept picking all of her scabs all over her body so I had to get her like 15 band-aids in the hour long class. It was gross.
- Lastly I just returned from working in the office at the dance studio where I teach in New Jersey. I sent out letters to local musicians on behalf of my boss in an effort to find potential collaborators in our upcoming shows this year. One of these groups is called “Early Music Players” and they specialize in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. My boss is very talented and intelligent within the realm of dance, however historical eras is certainly not her forte. She had not even heard the word “baroque” before. She spelled it “beroke” on paper. This is the woman I work for.
- In addition to giving history lessons, I spent most of my day re-organizing, re-arranging, and making an inventory of the prop closets. Now this may not sound like such a terrible task, however young kid dance costumes are a lot creepier than people realize. Also the smell of these items far exceeds their creepiness levels. I was elbow deep in sweaty dirty elbow length gloves, boas, and sequin hats in just about every color you could imagine. Some of these items were nearly 20 years old and had either a nice dust or mold covering. It was awesome.
While it may not be the most glamorous life, I love every bit of it. I might waste $20 on a bad class and babysit for 2 year olds and become the sparkly monster from the depths of the prop closet, but it suits me perfectly. Explaining that my job consists of me running around like a crazy person for the sake of dance is sometimes even hard for me to understand. But dance is something that crawls under your skin and etched in your mind. A never ending addiction that can never be fully satisfied and I’m completely hooked. So for now I will proudly say that my chosen profession is a dancer and hope that one day a man will buy me a drink and not ask me if that dancing involves a pole.