When I arrived in NYC, my 21-year-old self was so excited to get out there and pursue my Broadway dreams. While I was prepared to work hard, I wasn’t really prepared for all of the expenses necessary to sustain a career as a dancer. When I started out, I wasn’t budgeting my time or money properly if I wanted to keep this business called my dance career afloat. Thankfully, I picked up tips and tricks along the way to make my dancer life affordable!
For any dancer out there wondering what expenses you’ll have and how to budget the ongoing expenses of pursuing a career in dance, here are the things that worked for me.
1. Dance Classes
Dance classes were probably my biggest expense when I first got to NYC. Not only was it a strain on the wallet, but it also placed a lot of demands on my time. Don’t get me wrong, it was time and money well-spent because all those classes helped me become the strongest, most versatile dancer I could be, but there were life hacks I later learned that allowed me to get a lot of my classes for free and doubled as job opportunities.
How? I expanded my definition of dance class to include anything that gave me a solid warmup and taught me a combo. For example, auditions. Every time you go to an audition (assuming you’re a responsible dancer and do a good warmup beforehand), you learn a combo and voila you are getting a free class from that choreographer. On top of that, you’re practicing your audition technique. It’s two classes in one! Another example is assisting and workshops. When you assist choreographers in class or make yourself available to workshop their pieces, those experiences are not only a free class for you, but they’re also an investment in your relationship with that choreographer. Making myself available to help choreographers opened so many doors for me in my career!
Side Note: In these quarantine times, there are tons of classes available online and many of them are less expensive than they were when live in the studio. There are even some good free ones out there.
2. Voice and Acting Class
If, like me, Broadway is your passion, you need to make sure to set time and money aside for acting and voice lessons. After you wow a Broadway creative team with your dance skills at an audition, you’ll be asked to sing and maybe even read a scene before you can land the job. I know acting and vocal coaching are expensive, but I got the training I needed and saved big time by taking group classes. On top of helping my wallet, I got the benefit of seeing other people work and I learned so much from watching others hone their craft.
The next big-ticket item in my ongoing dance expenses is self-care. You’ve only got one body and you need to treat it well when your body is your livelihood! This means setting aside funds for things like chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massages, gyrotonics, yoga, pilates, or any other modality that could help restore my body. You may be thinking that this stuff is expensive, but believe me when I tell you that if you don’t invest in maintaining your body, it’s not likely to serve you for as long as you want it to. A $150 massage today to work out a knot in your back could save you two years of lost income from an injury.
Plus, I discovered many budget-friendly ways to take care of my body between my restorative appointments. My home tool kit: (1) tennis balls, (2) a foam roller, (3) TheraBands, (4) a Thera-Cane, (5) Epsom salt, (6) frozen peas, and (7) Tiger Balm. By combining this collection of items with YouTube tutorials and some advice from a physical therapist, I was able to work out many of the kinks at home and extend the time in-between my trips to see the professionals.
The final item in my dance budget: tickets. Why? First, I needed to remind myself sometimes why I was putting in all the hard work. I needed to experience the magic of a show now and then to keep my passion to perform alive. Second, I was able to get a preview of exactly what would be asked of me at auditions. By doing my research, when I walked into the audition room, I already knew the style of the choreography, and I often recognized the audition combo and knew where that number fit in the show. That knowledge gave me the opportunity to act the scene while dancing and stand out as someone ready to slot into the show. Fun fact: You can save money on most tickets by getting them last minute as standing room, rush tickets, or lotteries.
So, there you have it. Everything I learned I needed to have in my budget to sustain my Broadway dance career—and all the cost savings I found along the way. I invested a lot in myself as a dancer, but it was all necessary so that my “business” ran smoothly. They don’t call it “show business” for nothing!
Looking for remote work? Backstage has got you covered! Click here for auditions you can do from home!
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