The Six Things You Should Do If You Get Fired
When Kathleen Martin learned her contract with Ballet West wouldn't be renewed, America was watching. Cameras were rolling for the first episode of the reality series "Breaking Pointe," bringing additional scrutiny to what was already one of the toughest moments of her career. "I knew deep down it was going to happen," she says. "I wanted to hold my head high."
As painful as the experience may be, it is possible to rebuild your career after being fired. Five years later, Martin is thriving as a soloist with Ballet San Antonio. "I didn't want this one setback to define me," she says. Here's how to part ways like a professional, regain your confidence and have greater success in your next gig.
1. Process the News
So, you just got fired—of course you're reeling, but Hubbard Street Dance Chicago artistic director Glenn Edgerton says that invariably dancers have been expecting the news. "If I'm letting go of someone, it's not a surprise," he says. "We've had multiple conversations about how much further I need them to go."
Glenn Edgerton, PC Todd Rosenberg
It's normal to experience pain, shock and denial, says Patricia "Patch" Schwadron, senior career counselor with Career Transition For Dancers, a division of The Actors Fund. You may not be able to help tearing up, but keep your cool if you don't want to burn a bridge—and save questions for after you've calmed down. "I'm always open to sitting down later," says Edgerton. "It's my job to help the dancer understand what wasn't working."
2. Find Out What Went Wrong
Part of moving on is identifying what your part in the situation may have been and which factors were out of your control. It could be that your work environment was unhealthy to begin with. "Dancers muscle through, but if you're being asked to do the impossible, of course you'll be failing in the director's eyes," says Schwadron.
Glenn Edgerton, PC Todd Rosenberg
Edgerton has only had to let go of a handful of dancers in his 25-year career, and he says a lack of passion has generally been the root. "But if you can be honest enough to address an issue like that, you can still be a great artist," he says.
3. Bounce Back Better
To rebuild your confidence, pinpoint other times you've overcome discomfort, says Schwadron. How did you feel the first time you put on pointe shoes or walked into a new studio? Catherine Drury, a licensed clinical social worker with The Dancers' Resource, believes the more you develop a sense of the artist you are, the less you'll rely on external validation. "Sometimes it takes the end of a contract for a dancer to find her voice outside the company," she says. Still, the loss of community may be the biggest change of all. "You'll want to build a transition team of positive and realistic voices to replace the support system you've lost," says Schwadron.
4. Make the Most of Your Free Time
It can be jarring to suddenly have more time on your hands, so structure your break, says Schwadron. Use the opportunity to explore a new skill. "Learn to edit videos, use Photoshop or paint," she says. "This tells your brain that you're growing and it gives you something else to talk about."
If there's time remaining on your contract, use it as a separation period. "You were hired to do a job, so be grateful for the work while you fulfill your obligation," says Schwadron. "Plan for the future while you still have money coming in."
5. Take on the Job Hunt
The scariest part of your next audition may be admitting why your last gig ended. Schwadron recommends developing a narrative and practicing it out loud. "Say, 'I'm very disappointed, but I'm excited by the opportunity to find something new,' " she says. "No one's going to argue with that." Edgerton values a dancer being up front about getting fired, because the truth always comes out eventually. "You don't want to find out after the fact, just like you don't want to hear a dancer bad-mouth her last director," he says. "You can say you didn't connect artistically—just don't throw someone else under the bus. Take responsibility for your half of the relationship."
6. Find Success in the Next Gig
Once you've landed a new job, use what you discovered in your time off, says Drury. "On break, dancers get back to their other interests, sleep more, spend more time with friends—don't abandon that," she says. If you approach this job knowing there will be things you love and things you hate, and that it could end at any time, it will help establish healthy boundaries with work.
Kathleen Martin, PC Alexander Devora
After leaving Ballet West, Martin realized she hadn't been taking care of herself in the pursuit of perfection. "Getting fired pushed me to see the bigger picture of my career," she says. She started paying more attention to her body and making time to relax. "Once I stopped trying so hard to be perfect, it translated to my dancing."
Before too long, dancers and choreographers will get to create on the luxurious 170-acre property in rural Connecticut that is currently home to legendary visual artist Jasper Johns.
If you think that sounds far more glamorous than your average choreographic retreat, you're right. Though there are some seriously generous opportunities out there, this one seems particularly lavish.
Every dancer has learned—probably the hard way—that healthy feet are the foundation of a productive and happy day in the studio. As dancers, our most important asset has to carry the weight (literally) of everything we do. So it's not surprising that most professional dancers have foot care down to an art.
Three dancers shared their foot-care products they can't live without.
Dancers trying their hand at designing is nothing new. But they do tend to stick with studio or performance-wear (think Miami City Ballet's Ella Titus and her line of knit warm-ups or former NYCB dancer Janie Taylor and her ballet costumes). But several dancers at American Ballet Theatre—corps members Jamie Kopit, Erica Lall, Katie Boren, Katie Williams, Lauren Post, Zhong-Jing Fang and soloist Cassandra Trenary—are about to launch a fashion line that's built around designs that can be worn outside of the studio. Titled Company Cooperative, the luxe line of women's wear is handmade in New York City's garment district and designed by the dancers themselves.
Royal Ballet dancers Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell recently got together for a different kind of performance: no decadent costumes, sets, stage makeup or lighting. Instead, the principal and first soloist danced choreography by principal character artist Kristen McNally in a stark studio.
The movement is crystal clear, and at the beginning, Naghdi and Stix-Brunell duck and weave around each other with near vacant stares. Do they even know they have a partner? And how should they interact? The situation raises a much larger question: How often do we see a female duet in ballet?
As a student, Milwaukee native John Neumeier appeared in an opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As Hamburg Ballet's artistic director and one of the world's leading choreographers, Neumeier now returns to the Midwest to direct and choreograph a new version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, a co-production of the Lyric Opera, LA Opera and Hamburg State Opera. Set to open in Chicago September 23 with the Joffrey Ballet, the ambitious work will see additional engagements in Los Angeles and Hamburg over the next two years.
How did you come to be involved with this collaboration?
It was initiated by the director of the Lyric Opera, Anthony Freud, but I had already been in contact with Ashley Wheater about a separate project with the Joffrey Ballet. The two things came together—and this was really interesting to me because Chicago was important at the start of my career. I was born in Milwaukee, but most of my training was in or near Chicago.
You've previously created version of Orpheus for Hamburg Ballet. What about this particular production caught your interest?
When I got this offer from Anthony, I just went back to the piece and tried to sense what it meant to me now. Gluck's Orphée was part of a push to reform opera and to make a complete work of art involving music, text and dance. What interests me—particularly in this French version we are doing—is that dance plays such an essential role. When Agnes de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, it was considered a revolution in musical theater, because dance moved the plot along. In Orphée, we can see that the same idea had been realized several centuries ago: that dance would not be just a divertissement, but a theatrical element, literally "moving" the plot along and expressing in another form the emotion of each situation.
Another idea in Orphée which fascinates me is its directness in projecting profound human emotions—emotions not used as an excuse for vocal virtuosity, but expressed in simple and direct musical terms. In Orphée, we have a mythical subject which is related in an extremely relevant, familiar, human way.
What happens when drones become part of the dance? For Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's latest work, Skies Calling Skies Falling, video artists David and Hi-Jin Hudge used a drone hovering 200 to 400 feet above the ground to film the dancers performing in an industrial granary. The resulting footage will be projected onto the floor and walls of the Taube Atrium Theater, creating a dystopian backdrop to the live performance.
Alex Carrington of MJDC, Photo by RJ Muna
It's been 34 years since Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling touched down on American soil, when The Royal Ballet first performed the great English master's tour de force ballet stateside. On September 22–24, Houston Ballet becomes the first North American company to perform MacMillan's epic chronicle of the murder-suicide of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Crown Prince Rudolf, and his 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. Chronicling the last chapter of the Hapsburg Empire, the ballet is known for its true-to-life realism, and for the role of Rudolf, which transformed the way male ballet dancers drive a story. It's considered a dream role for a male dancer. And with seven pas de deux with five different women, a deadly difficult one at that.
Driving Houston Ballet's Mayerling train is principal Connor Walsh, who nearly missed this opportunity to dance the part when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston Ballet's theatrical home, Wortham Center. Now moved to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and back in rehearsal, Walsh took a break from his busy schedule to talk about the role of a lifetime.
Have you ever felt like your relationship to dance is something of an addiction? Not to worry, that's completely normal—it's simply the way our brains are wired.
This week, The Washington Post published an intriguing feature that looks at the science of what actually goes on upstairs when we're watching a live performance. The insight comes from the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, which uses tools like brain imaging to study the relationship between art and the brain.
Here are some of the most fascinating takeaways: