What are you doing now?
Updated: Feb 13
Is the dreaded question we are asked when we bump into someone we grew up with or knew us in our all singing all dancing hay day. To all performers we know that isn’t your average How are you? Or what are you doing at this very precise moment kind of question. That is a question of what are you doing NOW in your performing career... you know? The one you studied for, missed out on most of your childhood for and made your parents completely penniless and siblings hate you because most of the time they were dragged along to many of your dance shows, competitions or exams based in Timbuctoo.
We start to sweat slightly, stumble over what we want to say and what we know is the truth. The room closes in on you and suddenly you are praying for the ground to swallow you up. With that thought, we smile as naturally as we can and wish we could name drop the next UK Tour we are embarking on but instead through gritted teeth we reply something along the lines of “ Oh, I stopped dancing, I JUST work now. (9-5 in a showroom selling Kitchen Appliances that cost more than your house to rich, ponsy Londoners whilst dreaming of the better days where my job entailed waking up in Bora Bora or Australia)
Without too much of that detail being said, the person looks at us and simply replies like a normal human being and continues to chat to us and suddenly we realise they don’t view us as the absolute failure we feel and see ourselves as. I am sure many ex-performer’s and even still going Performers felt or feel the pressure of always having to have a diary full of substantial jobs lined up and the contract goes as quick as it came. Choosing the arts is one of the most difficult, soul destroying, emotional rollercoaster careers out there because if you haven’t got the RIGHT talent, the strength to pick yourself back up or keep fighting after a knock back then it is an extremely short lived career. Like myself and many of my closest friends we know how that feels and how we still yearn to do everyday what we worked so hard for, how it still sits with us that it didn’t work out and how deep down in our hearts of hearts we know we are and forever will be dancers and nothing else compares.
I speak in the terms of ‘we’ as I believe I speak for many others out there. From a very young age we already knew where we were destined to be when we grew up, there was nothing on this earth we cared more for. School came second whether you were an A* student or not. We lived to dance, we lived to perform. We had to grow up quickly, push ourselves harder than most children our age had to and build our minds and bodies to be strong and resilient. For our world was a constant shower of knock backs, injuries, disappointment and hard work but through all of that nothing beat or does beat being on the stage performing, winning, entertaining and living. Dance isn’t something we do, it is who we are. We loose ourselves and become a higher version of ourselves, no other feeling compares.
So, when we can no longer do what we love everyday due to many different reasons and people take an interest in where that life has taken us, we feel our barriers rise and a longing ache for an art we once use to live and breathe.
I have begrudgingly tried to become someone who is confident to admit that I no longer perform anymore but the truth hurts. It’s only when I have to say it out loud does the negative, pitiful voices start in my head. ‘ you failed ‘ , ‘ you didn’t have enough fire ‘, ‘ you let relationships get in the way ‘, ‘ you weren’t good enough ‘. They beat me down, so much so that I start agreeing with them out loud and saying that I wasn’t as good as the upcoming talent and that I wasn’t as hungry as all the other hopeful performers which is why I let it slip from my hands. But that isn’t the truth, so many factors came into it. From not having the flexibility in my full time job to attend auditions or the money to fund classes, photos and pay rent in London and yes maybe I was completely exhausted from being told I’m on the books and will wait to hear back and never hear anything again.
Did I have thick enough skin? Yes, I did but as the years passed by my skin and my patience soon wore thin and after three consecutive years abroad I wanted a normal, stable working lifestyle. I did get to travel the world whilst doing something I love and I know there’s many of my peers that didn’t even get that far, but there was so much more I wanted to achieve but I chose to call it a day.
Do I regret it? No, I made my choice and to hear some people say they didn’t get through to the second round makes me thankful that isn’t me still enduring the rejection.
Do I miss it? There is nothing I miss more than being given the 5-minute call, standing backstage and hearing the overture blare out. The feeling is indescribable, and I am completely jealous that there are people out there doing it everyday and probably complaining about the routine of it all. I know they complain because I was the complainer, when I didn’t have the energy or the want to do it for the 5th time of the week. But my time came to end and I am still on the road to another passion. This..
There will be no other job that compares to the one I use to have. There will be no other love like the love I had for Performing but I will always have the love in me and if someone asked me to drop four eights of choreography, you can bet your life I’ll do it in a flash.
Nothing lasts forever and all good things come to an end, this much is true. That doesn’t mean to say that I have failed in any way or should be ashamed when people ask me what I am doing now. It’s life, and performing was never going to be until I die. The memories will last forever as cliché as it sounds and I have hard photographic evidence to show my future children that Mummy use to be ‘An all singing, all dancing disco queen’.