Monday, 21 March 2016

Even The Longest Journey Begins With A Single Skype (Confucious)

Just to clarify, in case anyone is unsure, the online sessions are for everyone to attend if they can, regardless of who your tutor is and who is taking the online session so pass the word along so we can all chat together and share ideas!

Friday's Skype session with Adesola, Lois-May and Lauren was such a great help to me for gaining more understanding about where I am heading. It was great to hear others' thoughts and to share some of my own.

One very important piece of understanding for me was that:
it is not the destination that is important, rather the journey. 

There are no wrong answers and the course is designed to make us think more deeply about what we are doing, where we are right now, and where we would like to go. It might be that we should like to go in one direction but after 6 months and researching everything we can about that path, we might decide that actually that is not the path we should like to pursue but we have discovered something else that suits us better. It is not that we are asking these questions in order to find the answers. We are asking these questions to understand ourselves better, to realise where we are right now and to gain a better understanding of where we might like to go and how we might get there.
We are on a journey of self discovery.

The tasks in the module are tools to help us to think and to stimulate our thoughts. Look at the bigger picture rather than only at what is directly in front. We do not have to concentrate on every task if that particular task does not stimulate our thinking but we can concentrate on the ones that do. We do not have to do every task as a set of instructions to be carried out. We can integrate tasks together with other tasks, and with our professional practice.

For example, we can integrate the use of social media platforms with reflection.
How did we use social media before this course?
Was it just something to use to keep in contact with friends?
Was it for self-promotion?
What did we know and understand about web 2.0 before we began to read, understand and research?
Now that we are at the start of our journey, and have hopefully looked into these things more deeply, what understanding and knowledge have we gained about social media?
Has observing our social media from a different perspective given us a better understanding of what others think of us?
Does the information we are gaining help us in our professional practice?
How has it helped us in our professional practice?
Has it given us something that perhaps we didn't have before?

We are meant to be integrating the tasks together with each other and with our professional practice. So we go to work, something happens that we think is connected to the tasks we are doing, we can reflect on it in our journals, gain a better understanding of ourselves and how and why we react the way we do, and then it can help us to deal with things in the future.

Another thing that Adesola asked us was who inspires us? This is something I have never really actively thought about. I have a lot of favourite dancers but while discussing who inspired me I found out that I am inspired by pioneers, people that force change and create. People like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gene Kelly and Bob Fosse. I'm also inspired by people like Debbie Reynolds, a 19-year old gymnast who could only do a time step, but she learned how to tap alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor for "Singing In The Rain". It is impossible to tell that she didn't know how to tap before that film. Her determination, hard work and commitment are inspiring.
Another person I find inspiring is my friend who is a singer and with whom I have often worked. I have been his manager and he has been mine. He handles some situations that arise differently from me and he makes me think more about how I handle situations and if there is a better way.

Another topic of conversation that came up was what do we really think of our professional practice? The tasks are there to stimulate us to think about what we are doing right now.

My professional practice is dance and performing. But my field is vast! There are so many jobs in the world of dance that we can move on to or develop. Dance teachers, benesh notation, repetiteur choreographers, assistant choreographers etc.. These are all jobs within my professional practice and there are lots more.

As we know, as professional dancers we cannot go on forever. Our bodies do not last forever and perhaps our circumstances change.
Where can we go within our field and what do we need to get there?
Have we got the things we need?
Where can we get them and how?
Is this really where we want to go?

These are questions which we can or cannot answer right now. If we do answer them then perhaps we shall want to change them later. That is very well. We do not know what the future holds. However, we can try to be as prepared as possible. This course is designed to help us to think about and understand who we are and where we are right now and where we may possibly want to go.

The destination is not important, our focus is the journey. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Uses Of 2D Images In Promoting Oneself

Instagram, an application on my phone that I was forced to set up by my friends but have never used...... Until now. 

I must admit to being totally confused by the hashtag and I have not yet inserted it into my posts because I do not fully understand it. I am not on Twitter but my research so far has shown me that having Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and using them regularly and in conjunction with each other benefits one tremendously in terms of promoting oneself to a larger audience.

This is the link to my Instagram account. I am a total novice at using it so any advice would be greatly appreciated please!

As I have never used my Instagram account before, I have uploaded only my portfolio photographs so far. I shall be uploading some pictures of myself performing in the near future because my portfolio photos demonstrate mainly my ability in classical dance and I have mainly performed as a jazz dancer.

In looking into promoting oneself I discovered that many artists had a public Facebook Page. I have begun to make one but it is taking me a long time to sort out exactly how I would like to portray myself publicly.

Facebook Page

Whilst looking into 2D images and their uses for dancers, I came across this piece by Georgina Meller on the ISTD website titled, "Social Media: the new spotlight for dancers".

It is an extremely interesting piece about the uses of promoting oneself through social media and how web 2.0 is allowing artists to gain employment through using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.. On focusing on the sections about images and video uses in social media, Georgina Meller states that; "When you have images or videos in your online posts, you are 35% more likely to get likes and retweets.". She also says that; "Research shows that people remember 20% of what they have read and 80% of what they have seen.". It is proven to be a good idea to use images and video more than the written word when advertising because we, as consumers, are more likely to remember it. 

The article also goes on to talking about consistent brands across all social media platforms. Meaning that all their cover photos, profile pictures and important picture are identical across all their social media sites. In relating this to the dance world, it makes sense to use the same picture for all profiles and cover photos. This is something I have already implemented on my Facebook Page, my Instagram, my blog and my personal Facebook. I shall also be doing the same thing on my Twitter account once I have set it up. If people remember images more than words then it is a more reliable way for people to recognise a dancer on the different media sites and that should lead to improved recognition for the dancer at auditions.

Taking this knowledge into account, it makes even more sense to add a head shot onto a CV because an employer is more likely to remember the image rather than the words and make a link to one's social media platforms. 

"Dancer's are all about visuals, so take the opportunity to post creative, unique and inspiring pictures" 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Online Public Personal Profile

After chatting with Grace Hume about CVs and Profiles it got me thinking more about my own. Today I have finally managed to write a public personal profile to display on my online pages which I am beginning to feel happy with. While I am not happy about how it looks on my blog, I am happy with how it looks on my Google+ profile. Due to the main focal point of my blog being the posts, my profile (About Me) is squashed in the right hand side and has forced the layout to be jagged, a sacrifice I had to make because I did not want to alter the layout of my blog posts. On my google+ profile, it has a specific box and is clear and easy to read.

Here is my first attempt at my online personal profile:

"I graduated from Northern Ballet School after studying their classical course for 3 years. I am trained to the highest level in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, double work and I can learn any other style taught to me. I enjoy all styles of dance. 
For the past 8 years, after graduating at 19, I have worked for cruise companies as a Dancer, Dance Captain and Production Manager. I have traveled around the world and seen some incredible places, cultures and people. I have learnt the basics of some other languages and enjoying using them when I have the chance. I am reliable, punctual, helpful and organised. I am also very good at taking rehearsals for cleaning, re-blocking, tech runs and teaching choreography. I am a very fast leaner and can retain choreography and perform it immediately. I have experience in time management, people management and communicating between my team and others I am working with. I am able to solve and negotiate problems and am open minded to others' ideas. I enjoy working as part of a team but I am also able to work on my own using my own initiative and imagination. 
I have some teaching experience in tap, ballet and jazz, mostly private lesson for children. I also have experience in teaching ballet classes for professional dancers on board cruise ships. I was team leader for my group on the Outreach project when I was at Northern Ballet School and studying for my Diploma in Professional Dance.
I am currently studying to gain my BA (HONS) in Professional Practice (ARTS) at Middlesex University."

I am sure there is still room for improvement and I feel like it is a little on the long side but when writing an online profile, one can never be sure who is going to read it or when, so it is best to display as much as possible so that it is available all the time to everyone. 

I have mentioned some of my skills but I also have skills in costume repairs, basic costume alterations, basic costume making, set and prop repairs. These have been useful skills during my career and I am sure they will continue to be in the future. Should I not add that in too?

I can adapt this profile to incorporate into my CV. At present it is far too long and perhaps I can create another sub category in my CV for skills to shorten the personal profile. On a CV that is personalised I can put only what is relevant to that specific company but with an online CV, who can say what is relevant at any given point? 

Is it a good idea to add hobbies? After my research into employers screening employees' social media sites,, listing one's hobbies shows what one does in one's spare time and shows another dimension of one's personality that my research has shown employers to be interested in knowing before issuing invitations for an interview, or granting employment.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Devaluing Dancers And Artists

I was part way through writing a post for Task 1d when I got a notification from Facebook from a public group. It was an advertisement for an audition. I paused in my task because the post brought up a problem that I feel very deeply about and I'm sure many other people feel the same way. The post stated there was an opportunity for dancers and, if interested, to send CV's and show reels to them and then, if a successful candidate, one would be invited to participate in a workshop. 

I noticed that the poster had no mention of the wages or for how long the contract would be, only mentioning some very vague reference to future projects.

I decided to email. Below is the correspondence so far. 

On 04/03/2016 13:49, Nora Kathleen McCabe wrote:
Good afternoon,
I saw your advertisement on---------------------. I would like to know
what the pay is and what is meant by future dance projects?
Thanks in advance,
Nora Kathleen McCabe
Sent from my iPhone
On 5 Mar 2016, at 18:04, wrote:
Hi Nora,
Thank you for your email enquiry.
We are currently looking for professional contemporary dancers to join the company. Initially this will be for a 8 week research and development on an existing idea for a piece that will be performed at the end of June. There are further similar projects to follow, and company members will also be given the opportunity to deliver dance classes and workshops on behalf of ------------------ over the coming months.
Should you be interested in this post, please send a cv and showreel to us.
Artistic Director
--------- Dance Company 
On 05/03/2016 18:10, Nora Kathleen McCabe wrote:
Thanks you for your reply.
As you are requesting professional dancers, what is the pay please?
Sent from my iPhone
On 6 Mar 2016, at 19:15, wrote:


As a contemporary company that relies on Arts Council England funding, our minimum fees/pay is set by the Independent Theatre Council ( You will find that the majority of contemporary dance companies will pay these wages, although a higher level of professional experience can merit a higher wage.

Best wishes,

Yes, thanks for the link. I have read it. So what are you intending to pay your performers? 


Sent from my iPhone

As you can see, I have not yet received the information for which I was asking. This evasion leads me to believe that they are not planning to pay anything above Minimum wage. The contract is for 8 weeks but what is the case about the future works and when will they be? How can a dancer, whose whole income is coming from what work they get and maintain, possibly hope to audition when they cannot be entirely sure if the money offered, or not, will be enough to support them or for how long it will support them? 

This company has only made mention of how many weeks the first project will be but using the link I was provided with, it is impossible to calculate the wage. There is mention of travel expenses, food expenses, hotel expenses etc. The company does not provide one with an address of where one will be working/rehearsing/performing, except to say a certain area of England but the area they are speaking of is rather large. How can one possibly estimate if one will get the travel allowance or if the performance in June will require one to stay in a hotel and therefore be eligible for that "extra" money allowance?

The company also says that a higher level of experience may merit a higher wage but again, there is no mention of how much more experience is needed for this higher wage or of what that higher wage will be. Also, if we are all new to a company, is it fair to give one person a higher wage than another just because one has worked before, when we are all starting at the same place with the same company? Within companies people earn a rise due to loyalty to the company, not because they have more experience with a different company. Other times a higher wage is given if one is going to be a soloist rather than in the corps. Again, there is no mention of different positions within this particular company so how can one tell if one is going to get the opportunity for the higher wage?

I shall be keeping up my correspondence and shall post again when and if they come back with a more detailed answer. 

This correspondence got me thinking about all artists and how I have so many friends and colleagues that have at some point in their career been asked to work for free. The companies that offer EXPERIENCE and EXPOSURE generally require dancers with 3 years professional training and professional performance experience. For all of one's hard work, time, training, travel expenses, etc. is EXPERIENCE, EXPOSURE and NO MONEY really enough of an offer? Is it acceptable to offer so little when one can gain EXPERIENCE and EXPOSURE and BE PAID FOR IT?

These are the Oxford English Dictionary's definitions of the words "professional" and "amateurs":

Professional - "A person engaged in a specified activity, especially a sport or branch of the performing arts, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime."

Amateur - "A person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis."

So why ask for professional dancers if they are wanting amateurs? 

Here is a post that has been flying around social media that perfectly sum up this problem that many professional dancers face.

By exposing posts like this one to as wide an audience as possible, hopefully this kind of problem can be something we can change. Web 2.0 is a great help in getting a message out to as wide an audience as possible. 

Another Artist feels the same way. This artist gives permission for this piece of artwork (below) to be used on Blogs, Facebook, etc. with conditions to not remove their signature and the link to their website. Here is the link.   

 This artist also feels that asking artists to work for free is wrong which is why they are giving permission to use this artwork to share as much as possible to try and help others understand that what we do is our living and we need money to live just the same as everybody else does. The artists is also aware of the importance of web 2.0 in the use of communication otherwise they would not allow the use of their artwork in promoting this very important message. Web 2.0 has managed to give ALL artists a voice rather than only having a representative through a union. Also the artist has cleverly created something to look at, not just to read. Imagery seems to help to attract attention more than just printed words do. 

It is sad to realise that some of these people that are offering only experience and exposure were once, most likely, in the same position as we are now. They were being offered the same thing and complaining about it but are now treating the younger generation the same way they were treated. If the older generation continues to behave in the same way as their seniors then how can we expect anything to change, not just in the world of dancers and artists, but in everything? We are the ones that have to change things and I hope that web 2.0 can help our generation to do that.

This extract taken from The Untenable Economics Of Dancing, by  Andy Horwitz on March 27th 2014 for Culturebot Maximum Performance, shows that things have in some ways changed but not for the better.

In 1993 the NEA published a study called Dancemakers that found that “the average annual income choreographers earned from their artistic work in 1989 was $6,000, while their professional expenses totaled $13,000. Including money earned in other pursuits, a dancer’s average income reached only $22,000.”

More than twenty years later it is fair to say that not much has changed, except that in 2014 that same dancer has crushing student loan debt from an MFA, the cost of living in New York City has skyrocketed and the funding infrastructure for dance has imploded. But still, we dance.

According to The NEA’s 2012 publication How Art Works, the human impulse to create and express is “the primary motive that powers the system.” The human impulse to create and express is so strong that people will withstand significant hardship to pursue it.  As far back as 1966 Baumol and Bowen’s groundbreaking study Performing Arts: The Economic Dilemma told us that, “performers frequently are dedicated individuals who are willing to work under economic conditions which would be considered appalling in other activities,” exchanging real income for what is known as “psychic income.”

As you can see, this article states that our superiors are exploiting our need to dance to get us to work for minimum wage or less because they are fully aware that we cannot stop ourselves from performing. Is this right? Is it right to devalue artists?

Of course, we are also not helping ourselves. In some cases, dancers are guilty of devaluing themselves! By dancing for free or minimum wage we are encouraging employers to offer experience and exposure over money or as little as possible money because there are some people who will work for nothing except the "psychic income". While some people may be able to afford to do that due to having a more secure financial situation, some others do not have that comfort and must work to survive alone. I trained hard for 22 years so I would be able to turn my passion into something that would earn my living. I have worked very hard to be good enough to gain gainful employment. If dancers keep working for free and devaluing our industry then why should these companies that are willing to pay us for our talent continue to do so when they know they can get dancers, perhaps not so good, willing to work for nothing? The continuation of this practice is putting dancers hopes of earning a living at an ever greater risk because we cannot live without money. Dance teachers do not teach for nothing because they have the studio to pay for, their equipment, bills, house, family etc. Why do some employers refuse to accept that performing dancers have the same expenses? 

Here is a link to another blog discussing the same problem, although it focuses on painters it is relevant to all artists. 

Another thing I find worrying is this post I came across on Dance Auditions UK, a public Facebook group.

A quick FYI for us all.
It is ILLEGAL to charge audition fees in the UK. That means anyone insisting that you need to cough up a payment before you start working is probably breaking the law.
Since I have been doing a small study on companies that do charge audition fees I keep on exchanging emails with a certain american ballet company. A certain company that holds annual auditions (though whether they take any London based dancers is unknown) has told me in a very used-car-salesman way that their audition next year (Feb 28th) contrary to their own website notices, is in fact free. Anyone wishing to do the class will of course have to pay through the nose in order to take part in that part of the audition process. So either pay for the right to probably not get a job or turn up after most of the audition is done and try to dance whilst being only partly warmed up.
Anyone taking part in this audition in the Rambert studios please get in touch. I would be very interested in knowing how it goes.
Is it right to charge people to audition? In the comments, it is also mentioned that they are charging applicants to audition at colleges. I know for a fact that this is going on in some colleges. Does anyone know if that is legal? Is it right to make potential students pay to audition?
If anyone went to this audition above, or knows anybody that did, can they please let me know what happened? I am very interested to find out what the situation was.