After dedicating your life to dance for so many years, it's unrealistic to expect that you'll fall for a new vocation right away. Photo by Ralph Daily/Wikimedia Commons
Why is it so hard to find another passion like dance for my next career? I've tried to prepare by taking vocational tests at Career Transition For Dancers and online college courses. But I keep hitting a dead end.
"We have to decide between taking any work that pays the bills or living on a shoestring budget to dedicate our whole focus towards our next dream job," writes Barry Kerollis about his transition out of performing. Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Kerollis
Having begun my dance career in my late teens, I successfully bypassed the student debt many Americans face when they take out loans for college. For seven seasons, I had a cushy job dancing in the corps at Pacific Northwest Ballet. During that time I put nearly $50,000 towards my 401(k), saved an additional $10,000 in my bank account and used a dancer-run grant program to fund my associate of arts degree with a business focus from a local community college. I was proud of my fiscal responsibility and felt that I could easily survive a financial shortfall. But I had no idea how much debt I would accrue as I transitioned from performing to teaching and choreographing.
It's unsettling to feel unsure if you're allowed to call yourself a dancer. Photo by Taylor Ann Wright/Unsplash
Every dancer knows deep in their heart that dance is only a temporary profession, yet we devote our lives to it anyway. We feel called to it.
I never felt like I had a choice; I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. I started training at 3, and became immediately obsessed, grand jeté-ing down grocery store aisles forevermore. I described myself as a dancer before even thinking of myself as female, bisexual, American, feminist or teacher.
The phrase "I am a dancer," is such a source of masochistic pride that I am not sure it reads to people outside the performing arts community, but it is often the only way we can see ourselves.