Take 5 for Your Career: Smart Spending
Financial planning for dancers usually runs along the liens of "How to live on pennies a day." But what about when you begin to earn a steadier income? Whether you're patching together several jobs or have landed a full-time position, you should develop a financial strategy.
Budgeting may seem dour, even daunting. But a realistic plan will prove invaluable--particularly when you hit hurdles no dancer likes to think about: unemployment and injury. "Our profession is fleeting. One day you could be healthy, the next day you could have a torn ACL," says Ariana DeBose, who was recently in Broadway's Motown: The Musical. "You have to be proactive."
Health insurance should be number one on your list of expenses. If you do get injured, it will ease the financial pain. DeBose gets hers through a performers' union--she's a member of SAG-AFTRA and the Actors' Equity Association. Freelancers also have options--many more with the Affordable Care Act (see "Your Body, Your Health Care," page 116). But there are other priorities, too. From setting aside money for taxes and retirement to spending wisely on daily expenses like rent and classes, planning carefully will help you make the most of your income.
1. Develop a Savings Plan
As a freelancer, it's common to face extended breaks between gigs. In these situations, a rainy day account can be a huge help. As a general rule of thumb, Las Vegas-based financial consultant Jessica Scheitler recommends that most people have enough squirreled away to cover at least six months' expenses. But each individual's needs are different.
When DeBose was building her savings, she used the six-month guideline (plus a little cushion), which put her goal at $20,000. That figure may be overwhelming--especially if you've just started working. But saving doesn't happen all at once. DeBose says she put aside one third to half of her weekly paycheck until she met her goal.
Kristin Klein, choreographer and artistic director of Inclined Dance Project, saves a more modest sum, about 10 percent of her income. The amount is up to you, but the goal is the same. "Everybody wants some sort of stability," Klein says. "It's a way to feel safe."
2. Account for Taxes
For freelance dancers, tax season can be especially stressful. If your paychecks don't have taxes withheld, you may owe a balance on April 15--which often comes as a shock. Setting aside some of your untaxed income will lessen the blow; Limón Dance Company member Logan Frances Kruger says she tries to earmark a third of her 1099 income for taxes. And if you owe taxes one year, you may be required to make quarterly estimated payments the following year--another cost to plan for.
Whether you're a full-time employee or a freelancer, it's also important to understand tax deductions. "Anything that's helping you advance your career is going to be deductible," Scheitler says. That may include everything from dance classes to headshots. But you have to be able to prove these, so organized records--receipts and bank statements--are a must.
3. Pay for Continuing Education
Although investing in developing new skills early in your dance career may seem unnecessary, it will help you in the long run. When Kruger was freelancing, she worked the front desk at a Pilates studio. The position allowed her to take teacher-training classes at a discount and practice on the studio equipment for free. "It was completely strategic," she says. Not only did she build a valuable skill set that can provide financial support during a career change, she uses Pilates to keep in shape when she's touring or unable to take class. Plus, Kruger was able to deduct her Pilates training on her taxes.
4. Plan for Retirement
With your career just hitting its stride, retirement may be the last thing on your mind. But the earlier you start contributing to a fund, the easier it is to save slowly and steadily. Opening a retirement account will help keep you on track: You can take money out of a savings account at any time, but retirement funds won't be touched for decades. (Withdrawing money early almost always incurs penalties.)
If you have a full-time employer, you may be able to pen a 401(k) retirement fund. All Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, for instance, are offered a 401(k) options in their contract, negotiated by AGMA. One facet of their agreement is a company match; if a dancer puts money into her retirement fund, PNB matches her contribution.
If you're a freelancer, the most common option is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). There are two main types, Roth and traditional, with significant differences. Do you r research before making any investment--whether that's talking with financial professionals, researching online or reaching out to friends and family.
5. Spend to Save
After living on so little for so long, you'll want to enjoy your influx of cash. Rather than completely altering your lifestyle (and your budget), remember that small luxuries can go a long way. Kruger has been able to save and invest without sacrificing creature comforts. One frugal choice: She cooks most of her meals at home. But she treats herself to indulgent items, like truffle oil. And rather than buying the cheapest bottle of wine, she now splurges on a $10 bottle--sipped out of a nice wine glass. "Little things like that are worth it," she says. "They help you stick to your plan and goals."
Katie Rolnick is a freelance writer and TV producer based in New York City.
Image courtesy iStock.
From coast to coast, choreographers have spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency responding to the impact of his election and what it means for them as artists.
New York City's Dante Brown used rubber Trump masks in his work Package (revamped), which examines the monstrosities of power.
A video titled "Dancers vs. Trump Quotes" went viral last summer, showing dancers taking Trump's "locker-room" talk to task.
Alexis Convento, lead curator of the New York City–based Current Sessions, dedicated a whole program to the concept of resistance, while educator and interdisciplinary artist Jill Sigman has initiated a workshop called "Body Politic, Somatic Selves," as a space for movement research around questions of support, activism and solidarity.
In San Francisco, choreographer Margaret Jenkins facilitated a panel of artists about the role of activism within their work.
When London-based perfume company The Beautiful Mind Series was looking for a collaborator for their next scent, they skipped the usual celebrity set and brought in prima ballerina Polina Semionova instead. "I was fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a great dancer," perfumer Geza Schoen said in a press release. Semionova's ballet-inspired scent, Precision & Grace, celebrates the intelligence and beauty behind her craft.
Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series
Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.
"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.
After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.
Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org
In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."
She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."
Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.
Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.
Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."
Ever find yourself lusting after that six o'clock penché, or a développé that will reach your nose? You're not alone. The eye is naturally drawn to the end points of a movement, and, in dance, that often translates to the highest extension.
But what if you're born without extreme, Instagram-worthy lines? It's a matter of developing a laser focus on alignment as well as strengthening and stretching with better body mechanics in mind.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
Choreographer Tero Saarinen has a proclivity for the peculiar—and for epic orchestral music. That he should be commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a new dance work to accompany the U.S. premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Cello Concerto en forme de pas de trois only makes sense. Zimmermann's eerie, difficult-to-classify composition falls squarely in Saarinen's wheelhouse. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jan. 19–21. laphil.com.
Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?
If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.
"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."
I'll never forget something Roberto Bolle once told me when I was interviewing him about his workout regimen: Talking about how much he loved to swim, he said, "I would love to go in the Italian sea, but I am too well-known there to show up in my suit."
It always amused and kinda shocked me that a ballet dancer could reach that level of fame. But it's true: In his native Italy, Bolle is a bonafide celerity.
Everyone knows that community college is an affordable option if a four-year school isn't in the cards. But it can also be a solid foundation for a career in the dance field. Whether students want an associate in arts degree as a precursor to obtaining a bachelor's, or to go straight into the performing world, the right two-year dance program can be a uniquely supportive place to train. Don't let negative stereotypes prevent you from attending a program that could be right for you:
Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?
The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."