I was a dance major in college, and now I'm a professional freelance dance artist in New York City. My major wasn't in ballet, which the majority of America has actually heard of. I studied modern/contemporary dance. This style touched me. I craved for my dancing to be graceful, yet grounded. Precise, yet pedestrian. Free, raw, unconventional, responsive, open. I had never even heard of modern dance until ninth grade, when I enrolled in a performing arts high school. I was hooked immediately, and knew this was IT.
I have supportive family, friends, teachers, and a growing network of fellow artists in New York. This tremendously makes up for how unsupportive the government is of dance. Dance is woefully underfunded. New York based artists have stressed to me the importance of additional income. They are right. I spend too much of my spare time scrambling around Manhattan to babysit, rehearse in extra (unpaid) projects, fulfill odd jobs, and apply for grants, in order to live life comfortably. This will be my life. This was a significant change for me, after growing up in a lifestyle where I was never hungry, never forced to leave the AC off in the summertime, never looked down upon as a youth who should just start shopping for a rich husband now before I run out of savings.
Life is not meant to be lived comfortably. Not 100% of the time. That was a fact I knew when I decided to be a dancer. But I didn't "decide" to be a dancer...it wasn't a choice. How could I NOT dance, when I knew this career would leave me stimulated, fulfilled, and capable of making a difference in the lives of others? I want to use dance to contribute to a more positive America. It is a tragedy that modern dance is inaccessible to parts of our nation. There are prolixity and economic issues with live performances and classes. Dance, and the arts, should be a right, rather than a privilege.
I've never made $3,000 in one week as a dancer. But I've never felt like a cog in a machine. I'm not able to buy however much I want from Whole Foods. But I'm just as healthy as the clientele shopping there. I'm not curing cancer, fighting crime or programming computers. But modern dance also contributes to a better world. Modern dance is not meant to discriminate. It lifts people up, throws emotions around, and slams an audience with conversation and contemplation. I do what I love, and dance makes a difference.
New York, NY
Kristen is a dance artist based in New York, NY. While modern dance has her heart, Kristen also loves ballet, jazz, creative writing, painting, nature, and dogs. She has major respect for desk jobs, but could never do it.