Travelling when you are a freelance artist: my childhood dream, my adulthood life. I never even thought I would get to live such a trip. But it would not come as a surprise if I told you that such a lifestyle comes with its pros and cons of course. And while going around for something you love is fun and makes you drunk with life, it does have a few downsides, which one needs to embrace.

The empty time between contracts

This might actually be the most frustrating part, because whether your calendar is filled with artistic project, or with part time work, this “off” time in between often feels like a waste of time.
If you are part of the lucky bunch, then it will just be a matter of a few days or weeks between 2 artistic productions, and in a way it is perfect before starting a new process or rehearsing again an old production: HOLIDAY TIME. This is actually something that is way undervalued by dancers, and especially freelancers, and those who do not understand that live a way shorter career unfortunately. So if you have an empty slot between 2 periods, just breath in, chillax, and take care of yourself and of your body.

Now, if you are part of the less lucky bunch, see this time as an opportunity to do other things, discover new people or places, study and learn about new subjects… In other words, do something you had not had the time to do while you were working really hard on that previous dance project.
I know that the financial pressure is there, and that you will have to pay your bills regardless of what happens in your life. Yet again, it is just a matter of perspective.
To be honest I have had that period at the end of 2018, a year that made me wonder if I should stay in the dance industry in the first place, and financially very stressful, since aI started freelancing full time. So I thought to myself “ok, just try something else, discover new things, even get a new and different job…”. And seriously?! It was more than worth it. I got to work with an awesome shop in Helsinki, met incredibly nice co-workers, and learnt a lot about customer experience and being part of a commercial industry. Point of the story? Well, I learnt about being in direct contact with the people who actually had money and were ready to spend it, I learnt to shape my language and my behaviour for them, and I learnt to solve problems (even when there was none). The barrier between the artist and the crowd disappeared, and though I was not in a dance/artistic situation, I did have to deal with the actual people, the ones that come see my shows and buy my tickets.
Truth is that many dance artists would find it degrading or shameful, because there is this wrong concept of not settling for “less” when you are a dance artist. But one has to live with his time and difficulties and turn them into something useful. So yes, I had no time to train, yet I know my body perfectly, and this period changed nothing in the way I dance and move my body, and on top of that, I had a lot of fun, and got many more ideas about my future and about how to live my life. (Side-note, MERCI Monsieur K).

Keep in mind to see those empty slots coming towards you, it might help planning a trip abroad, or start studying a short term course if you feel like. Arriving in without any plans will make you feel like you have hit the wall and need to turn your career around… So: see it coming with ease and love.

Going from place to place

What’s coming will be controversial. Some of you will ask if I’m kidding, some will fully understand.

By travelling as a freelancer, I mostly mean going from places to places, including changing cities or even countries. And this is exhausting. I love it though, do not get me wrong. But fact is: even if you know what/why/how/whom with… you will work with on the next project, travelling adds a lot of pressure if your work is a big pay check or a huge artistic project.
For example, lately, I had the immense joy of working as a soloist for the Virpi Pahkinen Dance Company, in Stockholm, SE. She created Monolit Polygon (which will be the subject of my next blog), at the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, a full evening program. Well, I know Virpi and her style as a choreographer and her expectations as well. But as usual in the freelance scene, the rehearsing process was very short, and I had about 8 days to learn my solo parts and be ready for the premiere: IT WAS A CREATION!!
Overall, yes, I lived for it, and even though I worked like crazy up until the premiere, I loved every single minute of it, I loved the setting, my coworkers… Everything. But I would lie if I said that I was not exhausted, drained, physically and mentally, and unfortunately I did not have time to enjoy Stockholm although I was there for a month.

So, this part is only here to remind you that even if you get a lot of work, it will be tough. Because most of the time, you will go from one choreographer to another, back and forth, on repeat mode. And even if you know them, and regardless of how long you have worked with them, your body will suffer, because it always needs some time to adapt.
Right now, you could say “But that’s what happens in companies”. Actually no, because when you do travel and you do work mostly on creation processes, it is way more draining energy speaking than when you comfortably come back home at the end of your working day in your usual working place. I have done both, and even when I worked in-house with demanding choreographers, I was never that exhausted, and it has nothing to do with my physical condition as I actually had been training for 3 weeks prior to the process.
So think about it twice, it is not for everybody, and you will go through way more stress and exhaustion than usual at first, because you want to please and prove, but it is more than worth it if you pull yourself through that, and the feelings of living your passion will be multiplied towards the moon.

New friends / New cultures

That one was also a tough one for me, with my first freelance projects going abroad. You see, when I don’t know people, I happen not to be very outgoing or I can lack confidence which is translated into overconfidence by my body language, and I tend to avoid people just for the sake of keeping my safe place, which is also ultra important when your landscape keeps on changing, but this will also be the subject of another blog. Yet, experience makes great spirits and it taught me as much on the human side as on the artistic side.

Anyhow, I now think it really is true luck to have the opportunity to constantly meet new people who come from diverse backgrounds. But here are a few things you should always keep in mind when working as a freelancer, travelling, and changing coworkers on each project. I have had experience in every of the parts below, whether I was active or passive participant:
Remain calm: you will face situations that are very stressful and demanding, both on psychological and physical levels, but just keep a cool mind, after all, it is just dance and you want to be the best of yourself. So stay good in your head and your body will follow.
Stay friendly and polite: though you will work with choreographers you have chosen or vice-versa, you might not end up liking your mates. Well, remember that this is a point that must be out of the picture. When you work for someone, your personal opinions which might be hurtful to others do not matter. Focus on being kind, creative and productive. Keep in mind that the choreographer will be 10 times more stressed than you actually are, and any situation that comes along the road will slow down his/her process.
Compassion: directly linked to the previous part, this one is for you to remember that people come from very various backgrounds and cultures sometimes. You might end up working with people who have either only company or freelance experience, or both, and work codes are very different. Social codes might come in the way as well, and as a French man, I am very often misunderstood, as much as a German, Italian, nordic, Russian (just to quote a few examples, no offense)… might be. So put the ‘oversensitive’ you aside, take away the ego, and accept people for what they have to offer, even if they seem like a pain in the ass at first. Remember that your feelings do not matter, and that dancers get chosen on a project because each of them have something something to bring to it, accept that and embrace it. Compassion is one of the reasons why you do this in the first place, so use it here.
Open-mindedness: remember that those are one time experiences. They are the most enriching and empowering experiences. One never stops learning from those, and it is impossible to grow towards anything else but being a kind hearted human being through these.

All of that takes time, whether you have discipline problem (which I had big time), or are struggling with ego issues and accepting and respecting those who work with/ for you. Just keep it cool, really, once again, it’s just dance, it’s just life.

Voila, just a short glimpse of what it’s like for me to one an artist on the road. One last note: there is a lot of evil happening at the moment around the globe, and I just would like to raise awareness by saying that what we consider as our daily problems very often can be laughed at afterwards. Seriously, just focus on being kind and spreading love…
That being said, I hope you liked that post, which was a bit distant in time from the previous ones. I could do nothing but include non-dance pictures at this very point.

All the best to all of you, stay tuned,
Love, T