Many dancers choose the path of a freelance dancer. I recently checked in Taylor Gordon, a freelance dancer in New York City, to see what it takes to juggle her busy schedule, and how to make it in the dance capital of the world.
What is a typical day like as a dancer in NYC?
My schedule is constantly changing! Sometimes I’ll have a full time contract with a show (like The Radio City Christmas Spectacular) where I’m rehearsing 8 hours a day, 6 days per week or performing up to 4 shows a day. Other seasons my days are spent running around the city between various classes, rehearsals, and teaching. I usually start my days with a stop at Starbucks (gingerbread latte is my favorite!) and maybe ballet class or a personal workout at the Pilates studio. I might have two or more rehearsals at different studios in the afternoon. Most evenings I teach unless it’s a performance week. I’m trying to be better about organizing my crazy calendar but in the past I’ve had days where I’ve worked 7am – 11pm nonstop! I’m finding a better balance now and trying to give myself a day off each week, for my sanity.
Do you have side jobs besides performing and how do you balance them?
As a dancer in expensive New York City it’s almost impossible to have only one job. Right now my main other gig is teaching Pilates and ballet. I am fully certified on all Pilates equipment and I teach privates and group classes. Depending on my clients’ schedules, I teach anywhere from 3-15 Pilates sessions per week. I also teach at the United Nations Ballet Club and children’s classes at Third Street Music School. I love being in the studio and helping other people understand their bodies and feel the joys of movement. I’ve developed great relationships with some of my students and I’m so glad I turned to teaching. It’s hard to find side jobs that are rewarding artistically and emotionally besides just paying the bills.
I also do some freelance writing and publicity work for fellow artists when I have the time. Since I have a BA degree and Master’s degree in Publishing I try to keep using that side of my brain. Dancing always comes first because it’s such a short career, but I find that wearing more than one hat gives me perspective, focus, and drive.
What’s your advice for aspiring dancers wanting to work in NYC?
Be versatile in your training and be willing to work 200% the first few years. NYC has a ton of opportunity for dancers to freelance – but a lot of the work is unpaid. In your first few months or even years here I believe you should say yes to everything, regardless of money. Make connections. Be seen. Get to know the dance spaces in the city and who makes decisions there. The more skills you come to the city with the more opportunities you’ll find. Of course you can fine tune your craft here and maintain your technique with some of the best teachers around, but if you’re already prepared you’ll be able to fully take advantage of audition offerings. Once you’ve built a network here and found ways to support yourself financially and physically you can be more selective with the work you take. It’s the greatest place on earth to dance if you know what you’re doing.
What keeps you inspired?
I think it’s important to always keep things in perspective and to appreciate every single day I get to dance. Life changes fast. I feel so fortunate to do what I love in the city of my dreams. I’ve worked extremely hard along the way to finally get to the point where I am comfortable with the unknown of freelancing, prepared to create my own opportunities, and able to choose what projects I want to tackle. It is very difficult to become a professional dancer and to stay a dancer. The people in my life definitely keep me inspired: my family from afar, a few very close friends, my ballet teacher and the directors I work for, and my students when they make progress. Traveling also refreshes my outlook on NYC when times get tough.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’m excited to say I’ll be dancing in Europe later this year! The past few years I’ve been dreaming of dancing abroad and trying to make that happen. I got a contract with Mein Schiff, the German subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises. I’ll have two months of rehearsals in Berlin before performing 10 different shows aboard the ship. Before I leave though I have several performances with Exit12 Dance Company including tours to California and Oklahoma. I’m also performing the old Stravinsky work, “L’histoire du Soldat” in Pennsylvania later this month and helping produce the “Performing in NY Showcase” with my teacher, Kat Wildish. It’s always busy but I love it that way!
For more on Taylor, check out her website