It’s time for the next question in our series, “One Dancer’s Journey”. Todd Fox has danced all over the world, and here he shares some of his experiences (and photos) from his travels…
by Todd Fox
6. You have danced for companies all over the world. Can you talk a bit about what that is like?
Truly unbelievable! When I was a young professional dancer just starting out I never imagined performing with a ballet company outside of the USA, not because I didn’t want to, it just didn’t seem realistic. The Internet didn’t exist back then and things were much different in regards to communication and retrieving simple information like addresses and contact info on companies you wanted to audition for abroad. You couldn’t just do a search for the company and email your resume/images/video, if you wanted to seek employment with a ballet company abroad you had to either wait for that company to host an audition here in the states, or, personally know dancers in those foreign companies who could tell you when they were auditioning in their cities, where to send resume/CV info via regular post and then somehow communicate via regular telephone.
That was just crazy complicated and back then my world was New York City, all I was ever concerned with when living in New York City was the perpetual task of finding a job, any job that would allow me to dance every day. Back then within my circle of friends and peers when you said you were going to dance abroad it generally meant crossing the Hudson River.
Ironically, during the first half of my career I ended up doing quite a bit of international touring with the companies and productions I danced for, I loved every minute of it and developed a great passion for traveling abroad. I began paying much more attention to what performance opportunities were available overseas and jumped at the chance to do any of them, even if the monetary value of the contract was so low that I would only break even. Then in 2001, the ballet company I worked for at the time, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, went bankrupt during its 25th year anniversary and I once again found myself suddenly unemployed. Up to that point in my professional career (12 years) I had worked for a total of 5 different ballet companies here in the states which either declared bankruptcy, ceased operations and relocated, or gone through major financial hardship forcing dancers into immediate unemployment and I was just so sick of it all. I decided to continue dancing but no longer within the structure and confines of a “home” ballet company and have since focused much of my efforts on performing seasonally and as a guest artist with companies overseas.
It has been a dream come true to use dance as a way to fuel my travels around the world in seek of new and emerging creative influences. Since I made that decision in 2001 I have been privileged to perform with ballet companies in 8 different countries spanning 4 continents. Not all have been high profile red carpet events but for me each different performance experience represents an absolute miracle in my career. Working in these foreign countries allowed me the opportunity to study and compare first hand many different cultural and ideological approaches to dance. I learned so much from each experience and as a result my own knowledge and creative perspectives on dance have broadened in ways I never could have imagined.
As amazing as these opportunities were, working thousands of miles away from home for extended periods of time as an independent dance artist presents unique challenges and it’s definitely not for everyone. Trust me when I say, there is a HUGE difference between touring and performing abroad with a company of dance artists you know and trying to integrate into a company of dance artists that you don’t know for just one season or a single production. There are cultural and artistic differences to take into consideration, language barriers, and workplace politics like power struggles, labor disputes, casting disputes, partners that are difficult to work with, or choreographers who may not like you just because of what country you come from. Granted, all this can be said of dancing for just about any ballet company on the planet but when you’re a foreigner overseas the difference is that you are not at home and at the end of the day when you go back to the hotel or whatever housing you are living out of a suitcase in you eventually start to crave “home”. For me it took about 7 years of performing and traveling abroad before I started spending more and more time at home and less time flying all over the world to perform. Everything runs its course and for the rest of my life I will always cherish the amazing opportunities and life altering artistic experiences I was exposed to while performing independently abroad.