The truth? Dance is great but can feel like an “expensive hobby,” even when working at a professional level. The competition for work in dance is steep. It’s easy — and valid — to complain (preferably over a favorite beverage), but let’s talk solutions right now.
From teen celebrity, to art school dropout, loser misfit, and rebel-clown choreographer; my dance talents, for better or worse, have yanked me through life.
PART 1: Blame the 1980s
As a shy little Oregon boy, literally living on a dead end, in the middle of a forest, just off a pissant town, I was completely hidden from the world. When not quietly making friends with local trees, I was hungrily consuming movies that dared me to live large... by performing.
These films weren't just entertaining. Their greasy hands reached through the screen, pressed into my soft skull, and told me that performance (especially dance) could...
...make me the life of the party.
...help me find love.
...get me into a good school.
...gift me with a career.
...rescue a god-fearing town, through my angry dancing in a warehouse.
Funny, as I put this together, I see that they were almost right, if you get super loose on what "career" means (and ok the warehouse thing was a joke, though if only...).
When you can't fully invest in dance classes, gyms, unions, head shots, and a completely flexible, good paying day-job, you're immediately screwed. And even if you do manage all that, you're hoping to book gigs that still pay less than most professions. Insult to injury, it's best to get in sync with some cult of dance style by your mid-twenties, because you're already getting over that proverbial hill. Do most early twenty-somethings have anything figured out? I sure as hell didn't.
Click the title of this post to read the full article, see some hilarious GIFs, and contribute your thoughts. Thanks.
Our skin is scorched, peeling off. A set of divisions woven into the founding of a nation, and remnants of a civil war clearly without closure, the friction created by the U.S. melting pot is boiling over once again. A torrent of toxic tribalism splashes down, burning and re-blistering old scars. The most current facade of American altruism is crumbling, a scaffolding built on racism and misogyny unmasked. With painful, high definition clarity, this new-old reality is seen in the rise of modern day white nationalism/nazism and a crushing wave of sexual abuse stories starring some of the world's most visible and powerful men. We can hope that these dirtbag demonstrations are dramatizing a near-final gasp of wasted privilege. We can hope that we live in a world that's -finally- growing too tired to tolerate asshole-ism. I'm personally old enough to know better. Considering this, I'm proposing that those of you reading this, while cussing aloud in solidarity, join me in some creative group therapy.
Click the title of this post to read my full proposition for you.
Moons and moons ago, while adrift in a sea of gay men at Seattle’s Timberline bar, I tripped into the city’s first lube wrestling championship, and won. That night, lonely exhibitionists were given the chance to be lathered up in KY Jelly and slammed against the floor of an inflatable, lube-loaded pool. What did I win again… um prestige maybe? A story for the grand-kids? I certainly didn’t get a trophy for my efforts. That being typed, it was a stellar night. As I get older, dredging up more and more fodder for #ThrowbackThursdays, I find myself reflecting on lesson’s learned. Here’s some stuff I learned that’ll likely help you too.
1) Free Is A Price Too
That fated evening, a swelling number of Timberline staff and regulars were courting me into doing some real damage as one of Seattle’s first lube wrestling warriors. Was I trading free drinks to “more seriously consider” their requests? Ab-so-lutely. In fact, I milked it for all it’s worth. I was being resourceful, resourcefulness is a virtue, and lord knows I was devout after years of poverty. But resourcefulness, like anything, has limitations. A reckoning was coming for me that night. Free has a price, even among friends.
We all take mental notes on the actions of those around us and tally those results annually. You’ll be held accountable for what you’re doing and not doing, eventually, even if passive aggressively so. And those boys had me right where they wanted me; Drunk-ish and semi-hard, I mean semi-obligated (both).
CLICK HERE for full article (and images) at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News
As part of this month’s series on dancers who facilitate their own dance practice outside of a major institution, New York based Jamie Benson attempts to make sense of his dance practice, how he keeps the wheels turning, and the “why” that drives it all.
How often and in what kind of situations do you perform?
Boy every day of this wild existence is so different, but I seem to have one or two performances/screenings a quarter on average. That being typed, I’ve had three separate performances within the same week before too. In the past, performances mainly occurred in black box theaters, but in recent years I’ve adjusted to performing site-specific work almost entirely (invading streets, piers, parks, museums, bathrooms, bars, etc.). Theater performances are a bit too removed from the guts of my work, which conjures situations and themes experienced in daily life. I’m also transitioning from doing more live work to more film work in order to access a larger online audience.
When and where do you rehearse?
I find myself using the space rental pimp that is SpaceFinder NYC often. In terms of time, I make some concessions based on who’s involved with each project and what their availability is. Evenings tend to be the best time for me to rehearsal. Chez Bushwick and Chrystie Street Ballet Academy tend to be recurring characters in the movie that is my life. Each performance is its own case-study though, each yielding varied results.
Do you take classes or do a personal practice?
Both. Finding a way to deal with this body is a near constant pre-occupation. Do I have a clear regiment? No. Do I wish I had one? Yes. Ultimately, I take some form of both Pilates and yoga two times per week (so four classes total). When I take dance class it’s usually ballet in an attempt to keep some semblance of my “lines” intact. This usually happens at the Mark Morris School or Brooklyn Ballet, but I’m kind of a dance class tourist so I like to mix it up. As a self-absorbed person functioning within a labyrinth-esque schedule, I also turn to YouTube videos to supplement my dance conditioning. A conditioning channel called Fitness-Blender certainly gets some action from me on a near weekly basis too.
How do you fund your work as an individual artist?
What are the benefits to working on your own (as opposed to working within a company or institution)? What are the drawbacks?
You are (terrifyingly) free when working outside of a company or institution. Nothing is diffused. You get all the credit and/or the blame for your creative convictions and how they’re executed.
CLICK HERE for full interview at Stance on Dance.
Lights come up on a lone ballerina, innocently perched on stage. You recognize the scene, from one of the many Nutcrackers we inevitably endure, but this time it’s different somehow. After leaving her lofty throne, you see an elegant pointe shoe flush what was a toilet all along. And then, IT happens. A dancer, dressed as dung (head-to-pointed-toe), claws his way to the ballet beauty and incites a dance battle for the ages. This satire-drenched ballet, called Bowel Movement, was part of my first show as a choreographer. The whole thing, called Bathroom Follies, remains a seminal part of my strange dance revolution. Below, I’ll set the stage (pun intended) for how such a thing came to pass (also pun intended).
Fine Art vs. The Entertainment Industry
I’ve struggled to find a cozy spot within either the fine art or entertainment dominions of dance. I went from high school dance team celebrity to modern dancer at Seattle’s Cornish College of Art to post-modern dancer with the Rudy Perez Ensemble in LA. Being clueless, young, and living in LA, there were plenty of auditions for commercials, music videos and their ilk too. Despite almost getting a Target commercial once a year, nothing happened there but being too cute for the dork roles, too goofy to play a heart-throb and too skinny for any of the near-naked roles male dancers usually get. I dipped in and out of these cults of performance but never really drank the Kool-Aid (never fully assimilated). Often out of place and always broke, I spent my prime physical years blowing off dance to live the sordid existence of a lost LA youth.
Pretense for Pennies
After some aimless years and peer pressure, I dove head first into dancing again. I mean, what else was I going to do (common dancer problem)? I managed to scrounge up some steady and relatively depressing work under choreographers with semi-legitimate backgrounds. During one performance in particular, I was paid (sort of) to dance as if I were water (in a very LITERALLY choreographed way). Feeling silly flailing my arms around to 1980's acid jazz, I realized if these hot shots were choreographing then I damn well could be too.
Dance can be easily rife with pretense. OK yeah you’re performing so pretending is part of the deal, but pretending can become pretentious real quick. In the fine art realm of modern dance, I see people present how profound and high-minded they can be to the point of sometimes bewildering their audience. With music video styles of jazz and hip hop dance, I see people pretend really hard to be the coolest, hottest, sexiest beasts imaginable. Is there something deeply wrong with any of this? No, sometimes it kicks ass, but I think it can lack authenticity when (often) presented in an exaggerated way. Those profound/sexy asses were on a toilet seat an hour before they were showing us how transcendent they could be (foreshadowing). My experience during these years left me feeling too ugly and low-rent to compete in the dance world, as is.
The Ultimate Equalizer / The Last Taboo
Frustrated with the pretense of hot moves and high art, I conspired to create a dance event to end all dance events. The mission, slice through the pretense of both art and entertainment, explore real human drama, while avoiding the choreographer’s plight of taking himself waaay too seriously.
CLICK HERE to read the full article on Medium.
Lights come up on a lone figure, the one burdened with putting a trance over a packed house of smart phones. It’s a tall order to be sure. You don’t just have to dazzle, you have to captivate, ooze an indisputable it-factor that dares an audience of TV brains to look away, as if they could. The best/worst part is that you probably put yourself in the position to be this dance mystic. It’s your fault.
It’s your solo after all.
CLICK HERE to read the full article at 4dancers.org
Thanks for your inquiry. You asked a more profound question than you may realize. I relate, as a male dancer who takes ballet class but has no intention of performing it. Stepping into the, very specific, realm of ballet can be intimidating for anyone but especially for men. Sadly, even in the 21st century, ballet can challenge our ideas about what masculinity should look like.
CLICK HERE to read the full response on Ballet to the People
I know. I totally get it. You work too much. You’re getting up too early, eating lunch at your desk, and getting home too late for any sort of extra-curricular excursions. Maybe you’ve got kids. THEY are you’re life now. You would feel silly taking dance seriously at your age. You’re too fat, too lazy, too burdened with too many responsibilities. It’s just too much, too hard, too crazy, too scary. You, and much of the modern world, suffer from The Terrible Toos. Even I, as a dancer, suffer (daily) from this affliction and, after 19 years of dancing (yikes), still fall prey to the intimidation of taking a dance class. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try it. Maybe you loved it as a child but thought it was only for children. Read on to discover how dance can replace your physical and psychological burdens (both chemically and emotionally) with pure joy.
CLICK HERE to read the full article on Thought Catalog
As an aspiring or even established dance instructor, you’ll likely be hired at some point to take on the task of inspiring the less then serious student. It’s blasphemous I know, but many of your students are casually exploring a hobby while in your class. Heck, with the economy the way it is, dance can even be seen as frivolous (gasp) to the more recreational dancer. In this article, you’ll find a few proven methods to increase student retention while becoming a more formidable instructor.
CLICK HERE to read the full article on Dance Advantage
"I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jamie Benson, a former Los Angeles-based choreographer and dancer making a new home within the New York dance scene. Benson is presenting a dynamic new work entitled Bowel Movement, a self-stylized “satirical ballet” meant to blend both technicality and tradition with a heavy dose of humor and irreverence."