Dallas — My name is Danielle Georgiou and I’m a professional dancer.
Or am I?
I’ve never really doubted my position and safety in calling myself one, until recently. In a previous column, I discussed the inconsistencies that I have seen in resumes and c.v. coming across my desk, both as an educator and as a choreographer, and one of the most challenging statements that I noticed is performers with little or no dance training calling themselves “professional dancers.”
Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time. Maybe years of training, continued education in movement, professional development classes as a dance teacher, and years on stage doesn’t equal to being a professional. Maybe, to be a professional, all one has to do is say it. Believe it. And then it will be fact. “I dance…therefore I am…I think…therefore I must be!”
A few months ago, I posted something on Facebook to open a dialogue on this topic and I found that the potential root of this problem is a misunderstanding of the differences between the phrases, “I am a dancer” and “I am someone who dances,” and the misuse of the terms “professional dancer” and “dancer.” The differences between these phrases and terms are slight; yet massive. To better demonstrate my thesis, I call forward responses to my post.
Some of the people who responded considered themselves “dancers” because they love to dance, anywhere and at any time. Some of them took dance classes here and there growing up; others, had never had any formal training, but they love to dance, so, therefore, they said they were dancers.
I then posed a follow-up question: “If I were to ask you what you do with your life, how would you respond?”
Not a one wrote “dancer.” Because, when you think about what you do with your life, you think about your profession.
So, dear Facebook friends, while I accept your love of dance and I fully support you living your truths, you are not dancers. You are someone who dances, and that is a beautiful thing—but you are not a dancer. You do not claim it as your role in life. It is not something that you do every day or something that contributes to your livelihood. Dance is a hobby for you.
But for me, dance is what I do with my life. I am a dancer. Dance is a part of my daily workload, it contributes to my salary, it pays my bills, it is my profession.
Merriam Webster defines a professional as someone “who takes on the characteristics of a profession” and a profession is a “calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” The Oxford Dictionary defines a professional as someone who is “engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” But in the simplest of terms, a professional is someone who is paid regularly for something.
Now, I’m not naïve enough to say that to be a professional dancer you must earn 100 percent of your salary from dance, that’s an absurd statement in our current economic state, but if dance contributes to funding your basic needs—access to food, shelter, warmth, security, a sense of belonging—and you use your specialized knowledge of a dance technique to provide a service in which you accept money in exchange for the execution of your craft, then I think it’s safe to call yourself a professional dancer.
But being a professional is not just about receiving payment, it represents a state of “being,” of “self-actualization.” It represents your expertise in the field, your journey to continued education, meeting the highest standards of behavior (moral and ethical), and personal conduct. It’s not a term to be thrown around lightly. It carries weight, a heavy burden. It comes with responsibilities and expectations. If you misrepresent yourself, you’re only hurting yourself.
My name is Danielle Georgiou and I am a professional dancer.
» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears on the third Friday of the month on TheaterJones.com.
- February 2014: Cash Choreography
- March 2014: Make the Fringe Your Future
- April 2014: Don't Freak Out, It's Just an Audition
- May 2014: You Love Dance. You're Not Alone
- June 2014: Persevering Through Movement
- July 2014: Sharing in Success
- August 2014: To the Barre
- September 2014: Method Act
- October 2014: Fear of Flying
- December 2014: The Editor Dance
- January 2015: Community Relations
- February 2015: The Fabric of Movement
- March 2015: State of the Dance
- April 2015: The Dance Mom Complex
- May 2015: Who Wants to Date a Dancer?
- June 2015: Figuring How Men Fit In
- August 2015: Creative Economy
- September 2015: Dancing to Learn
- October 2015: Whose Idea Is It Anyway?
- December 2015: '15 Going on '16
- January 2016: In Memoriam
- Februrary 2016: The Politics of Dancing
- March 2016: No column
- April 2016: Defining Dance Theatre
- May 2016: No column
- June 2016: Dancing for Change
- July/August 2016: No column
- September 2016: Sweat the Details, Not the Consequences
- October/November 2016: No column
- December 2016: Louder Than Tweets
- January 2016: Making and Moving
- February 2016: Don't Fudge the Truth
- March 2016: The Collective Unconsciousness of Creating