How many hats do you wear in one day? Seriously…take a minute…this minute right now…to think about how many roles you fulfill in one day, and how you transition from one into the next without tripping over your own two feet.
Story that’s sort of related: About a month ago, I (along with seven other dancers), spent a week working with Monica Bill Barnes and Company (Company = Anna Bass) as they developed material for their new piece, Luster. As the week progressed, we quickly learned that in order to be successful in this particular process, we had to constantly think ahead and show up prepared to do anything and everything that may need to get done.
Learn some choreography, sure. Sweep up a pound of confetti, you got it. Sing alongside an a cappella choir while step clapping, okey dokey. Wait for permission to do any of the above, you’re cruising for a bruising…and unemployment.
The moment Monica had to address this issue was the moment major light bulbs went off in my head: this field is actually crazy autonomous, and you can’t exactly wait for permission to make things happen for yourself. As a product of generation-NOW, I’m so used to just kind of, sort of, waiting it out until someone else makes whatever I need/want happen, or until I get the go ahead from the authority to get started on my own. So much of what you do in this field and the successes you experience, happen because of the opportunities that you, and oftentimes you alone, make happen.
As I’m spending a lot of time developing my impressive…five page curriculum vitae, I’m starting to realize just how many hats I’ve worn throughout my life, let alone in one day. While my list of experiences isn’t especially long, and basically starts with moving to New York two years ago, it demonstrates just how proactive one person (me!!!) can be in a relatively short amount of time. Unfortunately, as much as I wish were the case, working in the dance community doesn’t ever start and end in the studio alone; I spend about the same amount of time sitting behind a desk as I do painting the earth with my body. In order to get where I am now, months away from graduating with an MFA, I had to constantly accommodate the needs of the hour and and get my tush in gear…and I don’t see this trend slowing down any time in the near future.
On a smaller scale, any given day of my life can look like the following: one hour I’m a teaching assistant for modern technique, the next I’m teaching a class or leading a rehearsal, the next two hours I’m a dancer for Dumbledore’s piece, the next hour and a half I’m in class sloshing around the floor for a letter grade, then I take a break to talk on the phone with my boyfriend, then have a meeting with my thesis advisor, then I go home to feed my cat, and then I call my mom before bed…somewhere in there I eat and go to the bathroom.
Deep breath, I sometimes kind of feel like an animal, and you will too. That’s ok.
I don’t know if it’s just the department I’m affiliated with, or if it’s the field in general—we quickly learn the importance of building a trusting environment where artistic choices can be made while simultaneously maintaining a level of professionalism that produces high quality work at an efficient pace. It can be a lot to navigate, and oftentimes the people you work with are switching roles just as frequently as you. In a room full of Supermen (…get it?), you’ve got to be on your toes ready to take flight in any given direction, depending on where the wind is blowing at that particular moment. I find that not only am I working to maintain my own sanity as I switch from one role to the next, but my relationships must also shift—and this can almost be harder sometimes than managing just myself (…and I’m an animal, remember?).
Back to my schedule, I can literally leave a rehearsal where I’ve rolled around and dripped sweat all over the chair of the department while laughing the entire time, and then immediately have to switch gears to enter a meeting with her to discuss my role as a teaching assistant. One situation ends as the next begins, but does that mean I must just as quickly drop (and forget) what happened twenty minutes ago?
Additionally, there are times that I receive multiple emails from the same person within ten minutes that have such a dramatic shift in tone from one to the next, that I sometimes have to double take to make sure it’s the same signature at the bottom of the page. If one email is addressed “Dear Nicole”, and the next “Hey girl”, and I respond to them both in one message, am I supposed to respond with “Dear Girl”? Like…what’s legitimately kosher when the lines are so blurred?
From talking with my professors, including Dumbledore, it doesn’t sound like it ever gets easier, it might actually get more complex–BUT, you quickly learn who you can trust and confide in, and then when it’s appropriate, you do it! When you’re done whining/gossiping/Harlem shaking…you put your professional hat back on and continue working like the Dyva we all know you are. At the end of the day, as long as you maintain a strong sense of self, it doesn’t actually matter what hat you’re wearing in public; as long as you’re being proactive and doing good work, you can probably get away with just being you.
Eyes open, humility available (nobody’s too good, not even for sweeping confetti nine times in one day), get working.