My career somewhat started with a fizzle rather than a bang in a production of Joseph with the NYMT back in the mid-1980s. Jude Law played Joseph – I was the back end of a camel. True story – the camel had slight toilet issues and I had to drop brown bean bags to the floor on certain counts in the music! You have to start somewhere. Today I am directing and choreographing the 50th-anniversary production of it which goes to prove it’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
You are about to enter a gruelling, demanding yet ultimately rewarding profession. One in which you’ll be constantly bombarded with negative statistics. Such as “Only one in 10 dancers finds a job” and “there are always more actors out of work than in work”, etc etc. Personally I never listened to those naysayers. If it really is true that only one in 10 get a job then why not make it your goal and mission to be that special one? If your heart, mind and manner is set on a successful career there is nothing to hold you back.
The right approach to the profession will pay dividends. Yes, you need a certain level of technique but remember your attitude counts in equal measures. Being a good company member, being polite, never being late are all just as important to a potential employer as is executing a clean triple pirouette. Technique will get you so far… your professionalism may get you further.
If there is someone I’m interested in hiring but don’t know their work I’ll always check their history. Do they miss shows? Do they respect their fellow company members and most importantly does their standard of work sustain over a long contract? If the answer to any of those questions is no, sadly I would not take the risk. There are too many people out there who I know will deliver. Hiring someone new always involves an element of chance. It’s your job to convince the creatives of your worth and prove your position within a company. Your first job is vital, it is there you can cement your future.
Theatre and dance can take an audience away from their personal troubles. A haven of much needed relief. We must never underestimate the gift of what we do. In a world full of gloom and trouble a trip to theatre can potentially change lives. It is our job to honour that. To go out every performance and tell the story. To commit, to enlighten and to inspire. You never know on that quiet mid week matinee just how much your performance may enhance someone’s life.
We recently lost a great choreographer in Gillian Lynne. She leaves behind her an astonishing catalogue of ground breaking work. She was also brave enough to give me a chance in giving me my first job back in 1991. A national tour of the musical Pickwick with the late, great Harry Secombe. I later in my career thanked her for this and asked her why out of 1000’s that auditioned she picked me. She simply replied “You were fearless darling and took a risk”. At the time I didn’t really understand her. Now I think I do. When casting a show you crave bold, daring and indeed fearless dancers to create with. So when you audition take a leaf out of my book back way back when and don’t hold back. Take a risk. Put yourself on the line. Don’t think why think why not.
Who knows among you reading this today could be the new back end of a camel and future director and choreographer!!!!
I wish you luck, longevity stamina , and most importantly happiness with your careers ahead.