Editorial Note: Each August for the past three years, I’ve asked dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist and human.
BY DEANNA GOODING
For me, dancing has been a tremendous life-revealing endeavor that continues to transform as I interact with it. Making it as a dancer is something personal to everyone at every point in their dancing lives, but the standard should be set by the one who is questioning it. If a dancer incorporates importance on the responsibility they feel fits their meter of value, then that may be an example of making it. Especially in America, and I know I can speak for my many fellow dancers, we constantly explain what we do. In conversation, I expand on my schedule, performances and company, not that curiosity is a bad thing, but goodness, I don’t perform Swan Lake and I’m not a stripper. Regardless of the judgments the outer world and even the dance world associate with the art, there is a relationship people can form with the physical study that exudes an ongoing dialogue of a person enveloped by movement or vice versa, movement enveloped by a person. When the dancer discovers the tools there are to engage themselves with the growth of learning and experience, they then begin to talk back to the language with their ability to be fluent inside it. This can translate to asking questions and experimenting answers using the mind and body. It’s not just applying choreography to the dancer, but using the choreography to outline the essence of intention for however the artist sees fit.
There are certain standards people associate with “being a professional” that are much narrower than the circumstances most institutions are able to provide. How can we determine what one has accomplished in dance, as many dancers have been dancing most of their lives? Where most professions require an accredited degree of sorts and proof of adequacy, and dance respects the BFA or MFA, it isn’t necessary nor is it typically discussed when at the edge of a job opportunity.
Financially supporting oneself as a dancer is a satire of a situation depending on the funding a certain region has to offer and the scale of the company. However, scale is not quality. Dancers are endlessly expendable and whenever there is demand for them, there will always be a gracious supply. The amount of dancers looking for work highly exceeds the amount of job openings. Generally, these jobs are in cities where the cost of living is higher. With this work-to-dancers ratio and the medieval notion that “you’re not good enough,” dancers as a whole are selfless, pandering and dithery.
There are many dancers, paid or not, who are “making it.” I have passed the threshold of thus far finding a lifestyle where I dance and get paid to do so, and maybe I’m “making it work” in my luck of the draw, but I have not “made it.” Nor is “making it” on my list of long term goals. This analyzation made me realize the stagnancy of giving this journey an end point. I hope to continue to make it work. I hope to continue learning from the many people invested in their ideas on the art form.
The beauty of this expression is its ability to disappear and relight out of human kinesthetic energetic and physical manifestation. Therefore, we as dancers are constantly making IT.
Deanna Gooding is from Londonderry New Hampshire, and started ballet when she was five years old at Londonderry Dance Academy. When she was 18 she moved to San Francisco, CA to study at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance where she trained for two years. Deanna has attended summer programs including American Academy of Ballet and LINES Ballet. Professionally, Deanna has worked with Oakland Ballet, Burns Work and currently dances for James Sewell Ballet.