Careers Clinic: What should I do when I stop dancing?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I’ll be seeing yet another new year in as a dancer on a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean. I know that some performers get lonely away from home on these occasions but I am definitely not one of them.

I discovered cruise work a little later in my dance career, but for the past few years I have loved being part of this world. Although I don’t look it, I am usually the oldest member of most dance troupes I am in. While I can still keep up the pace with the best of them, I’m starting to feel the twinges that tell me this part of my career can’t go on forever.

I’ll be starting another year-long contract this spring, but it’s common sense to start looking beyond 2018 to non-dancing roles in the near future. I’d still be gutted to leave the entertainment business altogether. What would you suggest I do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Wherever we are on December 31, whether on dry land or in the middle of the ocean, the new year always turns up on schedule.

For many people, this reminder of the passage of time can throw up a wide variety of emotions. In our own business, which can often seem to be all about ‘youth and energy’, it is not unusual if doubt and apprehension are among those feelings.

Of course, youth and energy are not always intrinsically connected. I certainly know some older members of this profession who could power a whole cruise liner by themselves if their sheer passion and star power could be channelled through a set of jump leads.

As a dancer, you are in a branch of the industry where, from a performing point of view, peak physical fitness is inescapably a major factor. Depending on the kind of dance you specialise in, you may well have to scale down the performance side of your career earlier than if you were a singer or an actor.

As with most other challenges that come our way – in our career or life in general – accepting the facts rather than ignoring them puts us in the best position to do something positive about them. Better news is that, as a dancer, you are also in a profession that, in my experience, offers one of the most effective launch pads for transitioning into a range of other creatively satisfying jobs in the cruise industry and in the theatrical world as a whole.

From event organisers, to agents and publicists, to company managers, some of the most successful and impressive people I meet in my day-to-day work originally come from a dance background.

This may well be the case with senior company members of your current show – or the one you will be embarking on next year. You should definitely make a few enquiries.

When considering your career options in future, one of the very best ways to see what is out there – and what you might need to learn to take advantage of it – is to engage with people who have already made the transition successfully. Once you have decided which career areas you would like to explore and know what skills you need to add to succeed in those areas, brushing up on them, perhaps through online courses during your downtime, can be a good way of getting ready to make the leap.

I wish you a very happy new year and success for your career journey – not just on your cruise work but in whatever new destinations your research opens up.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne