I originally wanted to talk about my work with the Virpi Pahkinen Dance Company, whom I tour and perform with as a solo dancer, but then I thought how boring and self-centred.
Instead I would like to talk about this amazing opportunity you get when you are a freelancer: choose your work.

Virpi Pahkinen is for me an inspiration, someone I look up to, someone I respect and someone who inspires me all at the same time. She has seen the world and shared her works as a solo performer literally everywhere. She has also had the chance to create her own company, based in Stockholm, Sweden, composed of a few dancers, which now tours with her. Her language, style and universe are all very uniquely inspired from asian cultures, though she was born and raised in Finland, and there is a little taste of her origins in her personality. But that’s all I can say before speaking for her and entering the privacy of her sphere.
However, I can say that sharing her choreographic bubble has always been a pleasure for me as a dancer. She often presents movement that are not only technically demanding (I thought I was flexible before working with her and I turned out to think wrong), but also have a deep spiritual meaning, which is why her work pleases and inspires wherever she goes.

Monolit Polygon, Virpi Pahkinen, Picture copyrights Jose Figueroa.

Now, I chose to work with her after a first experience when I was a dancer at the Finnish National. We met then as she choreographed a piece for the ensemble and I straight away stole her contacts. When I jumped out the window, towards the freelance scene, I contacted her straight away and voila, we were already discussing about how she could incorporate me in her next productions.
What I mean to say is that I decided to work with her not only because I liked the artist and her creations, but also because I admired the human being. You see, often we see the movements and patterns we have to or wish to perform, and forget about those behind the control panels, just like sometimes dancers’ personalities are put aside and chosen for what they can do technically only. But for me both clicked, so it was a win-win situation.
I assume eventually she could also have chosen someone else, because there are thousands of dancers that are way more talented than I am in Northern Europe, but she chose me, not only for my dancing, but most probably also for my passion and admiration for her work.

You are F-R-E-E

Remember that as a freelancer you are free to work with the artists that you like. I very often feel very frustrated about those who just sign contracts for the sake of paying their bills and then gossip about their co-workers or directors. It not only saddens me, but also confuses me: why dedicate so much time to something that leaves you flat lined. No judgement though, people are clearly free to live their lives the way they want. That being said, I will most probably point this ‘issue’ out in every post I write, so get used to it.
I fully understand the stress of being out of work, and like I stated in my earlier posts, it is a tough life and tough job, especially if you live in the nordic countries because work is rather scarce. But once again (read the article here), as a dancer, there are million other opportunities for you to choose instead of using dance as a regular job, because it is not, and you will end up unhappy and frustrated.
So be wise, see the patterns and directions of your professional life, and just enjoy the freedom of it. It does not mean that you will not have to work your ass off, but it sure means that every fruit of the work you have provided will become yours and therefore will be fully appreciated.

The artists you work with are your visit card

You also have to keep in mind that those you choose to get involved with are those that will appear on your CV, which by extent, tells a bit who you are, what you have gone through, and at what level your career stands.
Those you work with also most probably have a network, and your name might go around, something for you to consider with the way you work and behave (trust me, took a while for me, still a learning process haha).
However, through that aspect, I do not mean to be black and white by talking about only working with top-class / social media famous / company type choreographers only. I only turned down offers when I had to face artists or producers that did not appear and act genuinely, in everybody’s interests and with kindness. Instead I mean that your visit card will speak for itself if you work with passionate, hard working, inspiring and kind people. Trust me, leave the A-holes out of your life, whether they are ready to give you a lot of money, or not at all, because those who will potentially hire you after them will know what and who they are and you do not want to carry any baggage, you want to remain free.

There are many hidden choreographers who just mind working in peace and quiet, and have the most amazing artistry to feed dancers. So pack your bags and go look for them.

Monolit Polygon, Virpi Pahkinen, Picture copyrights Jose Figueroa.

Keep it simple, stay humble

I will write a longer post about this, but I already want to introduce the idea of humility on my blog. You will eventually work with both big and ‘small’ names, though I don’t really like the use of that word because it is so arbitrary, and the dance world is already full of opinions, but also because big names were once ‘small’ ones, and people have their own taste, which is totally legitimate of course. Do remember that whomever you will meet on your road, staying humble and grateful will only bring you upwards to feeling happy and fulfilled. Good energy attracts good energy, make this your mantra and I am sure you will see some changes come around the corner.
You also want to represent the dance scene as a freelancer, and you want to be a vehicle for art, for communication, for inspiring people and allowing them to have windows where to look out to when they face the wall of reality. You want to be a vehicle for life.

If people do not value your time then NO

Very often as a freelancer you will be facing those who take ages to answer to your mails, your calls and your whatever. It happens, we also all forget to answer a message after postponing, we all promise ourselves to consider offer and take time to think about it… In a nutshell: we are all busy. But clearly, someone who does not get back to you after receiving your offer, both lacks respect and has very little value for your time and work.
Fun story: I once sent an email to an acclaimed director of a dance company, who knew me, and whom had already engaged in further conversations. Not only did I not get any answer, I got worse: an empty email, to which, being all naive and sweet, I answered by asking if that person had made a mistake and sent me a draft. I had the thoughtful idea of asking for a delivery confirmation with that email, which was read and therefore acknowledged. Well, needless to say that would that person get back to me now, he/she could wait forever.
But… Remember not to hold any grudges, that one was a tough lesson for me. Little by little, I however discovered that people who thought had some power, were the most blinded and powerless people on earth. Politics and money are unfortunately aspects of our profession that come in the way of who gets the work and who does not. Did I ever benefit from it? Definitely. Did I ever suffer from it? Most probably even more. Yet, I did realise that mighty rulers, those who treat dancers as objects (because choreographers are always well treated and respected) are people I feel sad for, because the extent of their happiness is bound to being rooted in a medieval system of not caring for people and not seing further than the tip of their noses, and there is nothing more depressing than a voice for art that can not speak or speak dishonest words.

Always remember that it only takes only a little breeze to blow a house of card, and that winds always change directions.

So build your castle, be strong, know where you want to go, who you want to become and how you want to be seen. Keep focussed on those you want to work with and those who inspire you. Stay kind and loving, always wish your neighbour the best and laugh out loud from the mistakes you make, from the negative answers you get, and from whatever comes in the way of your happiness, because it is only life, it is only dance, and it is all only way too much fun.

I wish you all love, please I want to hear what you thought about that post. You can send me a message here or at info@thibaultmonnier.com .
Xxx, T