The concept of ‘Keep on Dancing’ or ‘Just Keep Dancing’ must not be new ideas-there are periods in most dancer’s lives when they have to break down the value and incentive required to keep dancing. In business, you learn that in economics there must be opportunity cost, incentive, making choices (trade-off), and return on investment. Value is not only subjective, it results in a trade-off-when you choose one thing, you give up something else. This is also a variable in the opportunity cost. Usually, the dancer requires incentive, but rarely considers the return when beginning training. As the years pile up, and training costs escalate, the dancer (or parent) begins to wonder if there is value in dance education, and what the return on their investment will be.
Sometimes, when ‘enough’ seems to have been spent, parents create a cut-off, and the whole world seems to pressure the dancer to ‘do something now.’ Ironically, this means put yourself to work-become a professional dancer, because that is what it really means-good enough to get paid. No one teaches dancer economics, but, like history, or math, there should be guidance for parents, teachers, and dancers to understand and follow this ramshackle method of transitioning from a student to a dancer, but there is not. Not only that, but unless dancers have been tutored under business professionals, or exceptionally frugal people-and perhaps not even then, it is often very difficult to ‘reach’ a dancer. Mine, for instance, feels responsibility now, but when she was younger, she did not, preferring to ‘keep in dancing’ and her mind off problems, like money.
Out of sight, out of mind As long as a dancer is kept away from the realities of cost, away at school, in a program, in school, busy all day, one does not share or learn responsibilities of costs and keeping up the education of dancing, clothing, pointe shoes, and the many other necessities of classical ballet. Sometime, I think, that as a student, I leaned toward modern and contemporary because the cost was affordable to me (more) as a working minor. I often weighed the cost of pointe shoes, costumes, and other things, relative too my budget, trade-offs, and returns, at an early age. I have heard practical students leave ballet due to cost (or their parents). But it is not unreasonable to understand that the market for ballet dancers, hard-working students, and passionate dancers is effected by these very things. Would the ballet we are seeing be better if programs to train dancers were not born by the whims of finances, but the discrepancies in art quality that result from the very hungriest of dancers not having any opportunity to dance, or to learn ballet.
It does nothing to tell someone who dances that they may not if they really want to-one only has to watch a Gene Kelly movie, Stormy Weather (1943), the disabled, or my daughter-and many others like her. But the considerations to a middle-class family are just as numerous and devastating for someone who has been told, “No.” There is self-promotion, but many ‘sensitive artist’ types, and good dancers, just do not have the ability to do that-or the time. Many personalities would just not have been as successful without an alpha in the mix, like Diaghilev, or Mysylph, etc…it doesn’t have to be a big manager, but it needs and advocate, and without places to go to obtain funds, even advocates are useless. It does not help that services exist, such as gofundme, which take some of that funding, lose the rest of it and common business/money-making principles apply-and they should not, in donations or in dance. An attorney once told me, never pay a fee to cash a check. Your employer should cash it for you-you have to find a way to cash it, preferably without a fee, and sometime bank accounts cost money, too. Even simple things like this can eat away at the incentive a dancer has to put toward what they do, the fabric of everyday life. But we have to teach them to survive, and for some students it is a continuing series of disappointments resulting in being forced, or causing them to hate what they do, their parents for making them love this thing, and themselves, for not being able to surmount the difficulties associated with continuing it.