For those of you who are just tuning in, this series, “One Dancer’s Journey” follows Todd Fox through his in-depth answers to the questions we typically pose in our interviews with dancers and choreographers. We’re up to question #4….
by Todd Fox
4. What advice would you offer other dancers?
I could literally write a book as an answer to this question but that has already been done many times so I will only touch on a few points of interest.
Get over the insecurities and pound that pavement, today!
I frequently hear from young aspiring professional dancers who tell me how they didn’t go to an audition or send out their pictures and resumes for consideration on a gig because they thought for sure it just wouldn’t happen–so why waste time trying. This has never made any sense to me; students will spend years of hard work in the studio improving and expanding their technique/abilities but when it comes time to learn and expand into the actual profession, suddenly they become insecure.
Every aspiring professional dancer needs to realize that auditioning and seeking out employment opportunities in this industry is a learning process unto itself. Just like learning technique, there are dos and don’ts, tips and tricks, and all sorts of trials and errors you will have to go through to learn how to secure employment as a professional dancer. The ratio of being turned down will always outweigh the actual offers of employment–it has been that way since the dawn of the industry and it’s something you are just going to have to deal with.
Everyone has insecurities and nobody likes to be told they are not right for something they really want to do but you have to at least try, otherwise you will never succeed. This industry is filled with stories about professional dancers who ended up getting amazing jobs and opportunities they never thought would happen but because they took that first step and actually tried, it somehow managed to work out. It is imperative that you leave no stone unturned throughout your journey to become a professional dancer…
Go to every audition you can even the ones you don’t think you’re right for and if it doesn’t work out try to come away from the experience having learned something, even if it’s just a new combination. Send out resumes and letters each day, knock on every single door of the companies/productions you want to dance for and DO NOT go away no matter what. Very few dancers enjoy the luxury of having this industry come beat down their door with employment opportunities. Get over the insecurities, get out there and make it work for yourself.
Competition is Useless!
In case you couldn’t tell from the heading, I like to draw a very clear line in the sand as to where I stand on the topic of competitions and competitiveness. Unfortunately, in the dance world competition is widely advocated and in many cases actually used as a form of motivation to enhance training methodologies.
Trust me when I say, BEWARE of the instructor, choreographer, or artistic director who uses competition as a form of motivation to try and make dance artists work hard or excel. Aside from being highly unethical it’s layman’s methodology, plain and simple. Anyone can pit two or more people against each other by simply dangling a prize in the form of a role or promotion above their heads as that requires very little thought process or individual creativity.
I feel that the application of competition in the arts is a fundamentally flawed process mostly because it exclusively quantifies ability and technique which are only skin deep elements of any creative artist. For me, the true defining characteristics of a creative artist lie within individual perspective and interpretation, both of which are unique to the individual and beyond conventional measure.
As with all art forms, dance is a state of being, a direct reflection of your own unique perspective and interpretation of life. You are like no other artist and as such, to compete with another for any reason is a useless waste of your creative energy. Don’t ever give in to the competitive mindset no matter what the prize, dance like YOU because in the end a deeper understanding of who you are is the only prize.
Never give up!
As much as nobody likes to publicly admit it, the professional dance world is a cold, harsh, and in many cases unfair place to try and build a successful career. The reality is this, the vast majority of aspiring young dancers will not achieve career success in this industry. No matter what University degree you hold, no matter how many lead roles you performed at your local or regional school, the professional opportunities are too few for the amount of people who make the attempt each year.
Finding a good job is extremely difficult and finding several good jobs as a professional dancer is nothing short of a miracle. There are factors working against you all the time which aren’t even related to your dancing such as body type, age, ethnicity, and good old fashioned industry politics. Then there are the factors actually related to your dancing which are so vast I could write for days just on that subject.
The good news, it has been this way for a long time so it’s really nothing new and many people before you have been able to achieve career success and live their dreams despite all of it. The bad news is you’re going to have to deal with it and somehow carve out a path to success without becoming afflicted by the many circumstances that will inevitably present themselves.
There is no one defined method for achieving success in this industry, what worked for one may not work for another, and while some dance artists achieve success quickly, for others it takes much longer. It’s all about hard work, persistence, being in the right place at the right time, and most importantly, NEVER GIVING UP.
There will undoubtedly be times in your journey when things get overwhelming or your goals start to seem impossible and out of reach. If and when that happens it is very important that you do not put blame anything or anyone for your situation. It is imperative that you keep focused on your goals and remain positive no matter what because your state of mind and actions will ultimately determine your future.
Remember that you are the person who made the decision to go down this career path and that your destiny lies exclusively in your hands. Work hard and keep working harder until you achieve success or die trying, don’t be the statistic that gives up–be the exception that succeeds. If you give up, for the rest of your life you will never know just how close you were to actually achieving success and living your dreams.
Make no mistake about it, the struggle to fulfill a dream is rarely an easy task, especially if you’re one of the only people who sees it but that’s why they call it a dream. Hold onto your dreams for dear life because they are what truly make it worth living. Live the life and never EVER give up!
BIO: Throughout his professional career Contributor Todd Fox has performed with ballet companies around the world including Ireland’s Cork City Ballet, South Africa’s Ballet Theatre Afrikan, Yugoslavia’s Serbian National Theatre Ballet, Scotland’s Ballet West, Venezuela’s Ballet Metropolitano de Caracas, Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, Isle of Man’s Manx Ballet, and the USA’s Cleveland San Jose Ballet, BalletNY, and Joffrey II Dancers.
Described by the New York Times’ Jack Anderson as, “most notable for his effortless jumps”, Mr. Fox’s performance repertoire includes such favorites as Albrecht in Lavrovsky’s Giselle, the Angel in Rudolph Van Dantzig’s Four Last Songs, Pas de Cinq in Rudolph Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty, The Fool in Agnes de Mille’s Three Virgins and a Devil, Stanton Welch’s Orange, George Balanchine’s Apollo, Valse Fantaisie, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Escamillo in Roland Petit’s Carmen, Gerald Arpino’s Kettentanz, and Antony Tudor’s Continuo.
Theatrical credits include the Off-Broadway production of Life’s Too Short to Cry, National Tours of Dreamgirls, Cinderella starring Phyllis Diller, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of Their Shells Tour!, and most recently Todd originated the role of Police Chief Louis Renault in Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures’ original production of John Clifford’s Casablanca The Dance. Television appearances include performances on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, the RTÉ broadcast network reality series Ballet Chancers, The Drew Carey Show, and in the Emmy nominated broadcast of Blue Suede Shoes.
Since 1998 Todd has worked as an agent/manager specializing in the representation of high profile guest artist ballet dancers from around the world. He has successfully negotiated contracts for many clients governing a wide array of live performance engagements and film.