- My name is Amy Josh and I am a 21 year old professional contemporary dancer based in Europe. I spent my teenage years living in Vancouver, Canada completing my training at Arts Umbrella Dance school in Granville Island thanks to the SPARTS program at Magee Secondary School. Upon graduation from the Arts Umbrella/VCC Dance Diploma Program in June 2011, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue an apprenticeship with Noord Nederlands Dans company. After my year with the company,which finished in June 2012, I decided to stay in Europe. Since then, I continiously traveled in order to work for different choreographers, attend workshops around the continent, visit companies with the overall goal to understand the ins and outsof the European dance world. Additionally, I auditioned for projects as well as companies within Europe. I am now back in the Netherlands and currently working with Club Guy and Roni.
Looking back to my day of Graduation in June 2011, I am in awe at how much I have learnt and of how much has changed. On that day you are filled with young hopes, dreams and ambitions, yet terrified of all the uncertainty they bring. Taking that first leap into the professional world, in any profession, is daunting. You have your student achievements, support from your parents and/or teachers, and your potential as a rock that you now stand upon. You look out encountering this big grey cloud of uncertainty, realizing you are alone. It is now up to you to turn this potential, this support, into action. It is the time for you to make what you want out of your life. So your first question will be: how?
I managed to acquire my apprenticeship with Noord Nederlands Dans Company through the incredible network of my school. We, as second year graduate students, did a collaboration with the company allowing the director to see us. When arriving in the Netherlands for the first time, I was initially shocked at the cultural difference. Speaking in terms of the art world in particular, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the European value for the arts and how much higher it was than that of North America. You are constantly surrounded by performances, art openings, exhibits or music festivals. However, I then came to realise that Europeans think that this is not the case. All I could respond is, “well, you should go to North America!” More than anything, it was greater eyeopener for me that North American artists should continue to fight for a value in the arts and greater government funding. As a result of this artistic support, the dancers are taken care of and treated like any other professional in another career discipline.
When it came to language barrier, I wasgrateful (and still am!) for the fact how easyit is to get around with only speakingEnglish. In the Netherlands, as well as most of Europe, you can get by without speaking the language as the majority of people are educated in English. In saying that, it still is a definite benefit if you do speak the language of the country you are in as it is very appreciated by the citizens. Due to the combination of so many nationalities within any dance company, the spoken language in the work environment will always be English.
The transition between student to professional was bigger than I ever anticipated. My first year as an apprentice was a huge struggle as every day came with so much learning. Coming out of this year oftransition and navigating, the biggest advice I can give to younger dancers is to be patient with yourself, aware of your surroundings and support, be observing more experienced people around you and last but not least being open to learn and change. The transition requires you to dropstudent habits you have acquired to support your success as a student. For example, looking for approval from others outside of yourself and waiting for direction from the person at the front of the room. These are two aspects of student mentality that helpyou be a ‘good student’ which don’t reallywork in the real world. A choreographer is looking for an individual who is able to take their own initiative. In the professional world it is your responsibility to make sure you produce high quality art. In the past as a student you have had a handful of great teachers working alongside you, pulling outevery ounce of greatness they see in you. They follow you on your journey and will often guide you back if you stray away into inevitable teenage confusion. However, in the professional world no one will be following your journey and on your back for improvement. You are treated as an adult and as an employee. They employ you for your work and it is then your responsibility to produce at the highest standard possible. You are responsible for your own success. No one will hand you a job, an audition, or tell you what to do next in your career path. It becomes part of your journey to take your career out of your teacher’s hands into your own. You must push yourself every day to become better and research your workphysically as well as mentally.
After this year of transition, one of the best things I could do to further my own career was to gain even more experiences, professionally and personally, by travelling. Coming to Europe I knew very little aboutthe European dance world. By just being here and meeting people I managed to expand my knowledge immensely as it is correct what they say: the dance world is very small! Becoming familiar with the companies and projects out there, refines your artistic beliefs. In other words, it clarifies with what work you connect more with and what kind of work you wish to be involved in. By doing different workshops you meet other artists that can guide you and lead you to your next place. In my experiences over the past eight months of travel, I would plan one thing to be in a certain place for a specific reason during the period of an approximate five days. After that, I did not know, yet something always came. Once you get the ball rolling, one thing will present itself after another. All you have to do is trust yourself and always be open for opportunities. The more you put yourself out there in the dance world, the more you will be seen.
In all these adventures I have had pursuing a dance career away from home, I have encountered many positive and negative aspects of this choice. Some negative aspects have been mostly involved with being brave enough to step into a greater unknown than that of if you were at home. By moving away, you are given the opportunity to recreate yourself but this also comes with having to start from the beginning and create your network almost from scratch. It allows much freedom coming to a place where you are more or less unknown yet you must work much harder to create opportunities for yourself. It is also requires a great deal of strength as your support system is now miles away. You are then forced to gain strength and belief in yourself entirely as you are your greatest support system. In comparison, if you stay where you grew up and/or trained you have your friends, teachers, or parents to pick you back up during those inevitable weak moments.
Some positive aspects however of working away from home, in my case Vancouver vs Europe, you are presented with more opportunities for employment here and more value given to the art form. In Europe everything is close and accessible with short plane rides and constant trains travelling between European cities. You are exposed to so many performances from different dance genres and art exhibits. Ultimately, it has been impossible for me to feelartistically uninspired here.
Blog made possible by http://www.daniellelgardner.com & Impact Dance Productions