One Dancer’s Journey
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.
Todd Fox returns with the next installment of “One Dancer’s Journey” — if you haven’t had the chance to read the other posts by Mr. Fox, you can find them here.
by Todd Fox
5. What have you had to struggle against in dance?
I didn’t experience an overwhelming amount of ridicule in public school as a boy studying ballet but I did hear my share of jokes and was teased often. At first the teasing didn’t really bother me because I was obsessed with learning ballet and I didn’t really care what people thought—but you can only ignore things for so long.
It all came to a head pretty quick one day in 9th grade when a student was teasing me and called me a name so I punched him square in the face causing a bad nose bleed. I was promptly suspended from school and my parents completely freaked, it was definitely NOT the proper or mature way to handle the situation but I was 15 at the time, it happened, and I was never teased again.
Teasing and name calling aside, I think the number one thing I have had to struggle against as a professional ballet dancer here in the United States is the perception of my life’s work as some sort of contribution to a non-essential charity, as if it has no value in the “real world”.
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…0
Todd Fox is back in the second installment of our feature on “One Dancer’s Journey”…answering questions 2 & 3…if you missed his first post, check it out here…
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I perform mostly short term or guest artist engagements abroad these days as well as teach master classes at various schools and universities. For the past 13 years I have run my own management agency, Elitedance Artists Management, which continues to collaborate with dance projects and organizations all over the world.
I also oversee the distribution of a retail product I created for ballet dancers called “Balletband” and in the coming months will be introducing a brand new product to the market which I anticipate being popular among student and professional ballet dancers everywhere.
3. Can you share a special or memorable moment from your career?
My career has spanned a little over two decades, it would be difficult to narrow down just one memorable or special moment so here are a few.0
Today I’d like to welcome Todd Fox as our latest contributor to 4dancers. Todd originally was going to complete the interview I sent for “10 Questions With…” the feature I typically use to highlight dancers and dance-related professionals on this site.
Time passed and he found himself answering the questions in depth, and after we talked a bit, we decided we would break them down into monthly posts, so that readers could get a closer look at his journey through the dance world. Today is his first post…answering question 1…stay tuned next month for more! -Catherine
1. How did you become involved in dance?
I was born in Miami Florida and from a very early age my mom exposed me to dance. She taught ballet for a magnet arts school in Miami called PAVAC, Performing and Visual Arts Center, and used to drag me around to all the classes she taught.
As I got old enough she made me learn ballet by taking one of her classes each week with her other students. At that age I wasn’t at all interested in studying ballet, I thought it was boring and I hated wearing tights. All I ever wanted to do was go ride my bike with friends or play video games but my mother was insistent, VERY insistent. She eventually presented me with an effective ultimatum, take one ballet class per week or I wouldn’t receive my weekly allowance. So, I studied ballet like this on and off for most of my young life, I went through the motions but never really took a serious interest, it was all just to appease my mom and of course get my allowance.
When I was 13 my family moved to New Jersey and in Somerset County where I attended public school there was a Vocational and Technical School (vo-tech) which had a performing arts program offering dance. There were lots of girls in the Vo-Tech dance program from mine and several neighboring schools with no guys at all. At that age the thought of spending my day dancing around with lots of girls and being the only guy had amazing appeal and much to my mom’s complete jaw dropping shock and surprise I begged for her to let me enroll.3