Updated: Feb 18
How can an American dance in Europe?
At 18 years old I dreamed of dancing in Europe. It took 9 years of floundering, failing, and dead ends to finally achieve that dream. At last, it was achieved in spectacular fashion: I became part of the cast of a multi-million dollar revue at a historically and culturally important, world famous cabaret, The Lido de Paris.
However, what took me so long? Why did I struggle so much? I was 27 when I landed in Paris. I was dancing along side 23 and 25 year olds who have been dancing internationally since they were 17. What did they possess that I didn't?
The answer: International Network.
All my colleagues have multiple contacts who work abroad.
Either their dance mentor, dance school, or dance friends had pre-built networks of jobs that plugged them in immediately to the international dance scene. (I could speculate how smaller countries with limited markets propel these dancers in to the international scene more readily than Americans.)
The first move is to audition for employers who could sponsor the all important work visa.
It is no use to be accepted into companies who cannot legally allow you to work in the country.
Meanwhile, in the United States. Too few people in my personal network knew of any other dancer working abroad. If they were working abroad it was semi-professional unsupported-no-visa free dance gigs. Nothing a dancer with student loan debt could afford to undertake. Without a clear picture of the job market in Europe, it seemed too far away and unattainable.
Fast forward to today and I am working throughout Europe, the UK, and have ins to the Middle East, Orient, North Africa, Asia, and Australia, not to mention the high seas.
The shift happened when I entered the international community of dancers. I can say there were few foreign exchange dancers in my network in America. In America the companies I worked in had 80- 98% USA national dancers and employees. In my current company I work with 50% French nationality, 20% UK, 15% Shengan EU zone, and the rest outside. That demographic offers serious international network reach. There are only 3 Americans out of 60 artists in my company.
My first contract outside America opened up so many doors, my head was spinning.
It was 2014, I took a job on a cruiseship with a cast of 6 British and 2 Russian dancers. Their network gave me keys to so many casting director emails, production companies, and opportunities I never knew existed. Mind blown!
I fell into a pocket of international dance professionals
How did I get my first international job you ask? Cruise ships. Don't scoff. Don't ever scoff at your first contract. Or any small job. Or a job you think is not your dream job. It could be the stair step you need to the next step. And the next and the next until you reach that dream job.
Who is in your current network?
One piece of advice: don't snub anyone or any job you think is below you! Especially when you are starting out! You never know which one of your colleagues may become Creative Director one day.
Important to note: it is the year 2020. Internet forums, Facebook groups, and all the rest have made creating your own international network possible. For example, when Alonzo King Lines comes through Paris, I direct message the company and cast on Instagram to meet up for a coffee. And yes, they reply! I have had several young dancers write to me with questions which I am happy to reply to.
Find a Mentor
If you are shy or lack network - remedy that immediately! I suggest putting yourself out there on a limb and reaching out to your role models. In fact, I welcome you the reader to contact me or set up a session on Mentorly.
The landscape of dance networking has changed radically in the last 10 years alone. Globalization, ease of travel, and artist visa application ease is allowing more American dancers to be hired abroad more easily.
The artists featured in my blog are nearly all international dance artists. I encourage my readers to follow and reach out to them. Good luck out there. And remember...
Persistance, Faith, & Confidence!
Have a follow on the Twitter or Instagram here!