You’re a performer and thinking of hanging up those dancing shoes but not sure if it’s the right time or if you did, where to even start looking, here’s my story and how I made my decision, hopefully it will help you with yours ….
From a young age I always knew I wanted to be a performer; whether it was on the playground creating dances to the spice girls with my friends to forcing my parents to watch me and my best friend re-enacting the whole film, Annie; word for word & playing a variety of characters (sorry dad). Other kids were out playing in the streets whilst I was spending my time after school and on weekends in dance classes learning to be the best at my craft. And I loved it, it was my passion!
Next steps were getting through the 3 years at performing arts college; it wasn’t easy, you went from an environment where you were the best at your local dance school but now you were training with the best of the best. Constant criticism from the way you look to how you perform, building your stamina and self-discipline was a must but I did it because I knew it was going to make me the best performer I could be. But it wasn’t all tough you got exposed to some incredible opportunities, given creative freedom, and made friends for life. You were a community exploring your potential together.
Audition time … Now this is where all those resilient skills of not giving up and not taking things personally came into play. I will never forget there was one audition: it was for Disneyland Tokyo to be a Beauxbatons Academy ballerina and I have got down to the final 12 out of hundreds that turned up that day. After 3 hours of performing, the routines over and over again it came to the final decision making. We stood in a line as they spoke between themselves about us, I kept telling myself you’ve got this. You’ve made it this far. They needed 8 girls and I unfortunately ended up being one of those 4 girls that got cut. What it came down to, I was too short and didn’t match height with any of the other girls… Although I was gutted at the time this taught me that things happen that are completely out of your control, and I am firm believer that things happen for a reason. The skills you learn as a performer gave me the ability to get through the rejection and go to the next audition 2 days later and start all over again with confidence. This happened to be the audition where I got my first cruise contract.
Performing on the cruise ships was an incredible experience, travelling around the world getting to do the thing you loved the most. I mean who wouldn’t want to do that? The training beforehand definitely made me the fittest I had ever been, 30 degree’s heat performing 2 x 45-minute show runs, doesn’t sound like much but that will do it to you. That feeling at the end of the run being exhausted but knowing you had given it you’re all, pushing your body to the max. We also had to completedvan STCW course which included learning First Aid, firefighting and then learning to turn over an upside-down life raft in a deep pool; all skills that I’m SURE will come handy at some point in the future!
The thing with travelling though is you do end up missing out on key moment in your friends and families’ lives; the weddings, birthdays, babies being born. It’s hard to be away for them. There was one year that I was only in the country for 3 months, being a homebird I came to the conclusion on my final ship that I needed to try to make it work in London.
My fiancé had moved to London so I as soon as I came back, I moved too. A new chapter in a new city. I had saved some money from working on the ships so didn’t need to rush into finding a job I could go straight into auditioning again. What I found was that everything I was auditioning and getting was going to take me abroad again or were just one-off gigs nothing long term. I had to be honest with myself I wasn’t an actress or a particularly great singer, dancing was my thing and found a lot of London roles now you had to be that triple threat.
At this time, I was in my late-twenties and starting to think about purchasing our first home. Which was looking increasingly harder being both self-employed and not earning much. I had those thoughts of, is now the right time? am I giving up too easily? Have I done enough in my career? I had spent so much of my life being a dancer and literally had no idea what I would even want to do when if I wasn’t performing. I mean I had no qualifications just the skills I had learnt through my career. It was scary to not know what the right decision is. Many dancers combine their performance work with part-time teaching, but I had done this earlier on in career between jobs and found it wasn’t for me. So, what next …
I managed to get a job as a trainee estate agent, telling myself right if I’m going to stop, I need to go cold turkey and throw myself into a new career and leave my past one behind me. I loved it at first, driving around showing people fabulous houses, getting to chat to new people every day and learn about their lives. But I quickly began to miss moving my body, I was used to being so active. I’d gone from dancing every day to a 9-5 office job and the most movement I had was driving around and walking around someone’s house. This job was not the one for me.
I decided to give myself a deadline. I updated my showreel, started going to more classes and said to myself if by a certain point if I am still in the same position then I need to hang up those dancing shoes. As a career that is …you’ll never take the jazz hands out of me.
My housemate Lizzie (an actress) worked at Virgin Active HO and told me there was a reception role at Chiswick Park near me which would give me the flexibility to do classes around my shifts but also keep active at the gym. I thought what the hell. Let’s give this ago. I had my interview with Andy who also happened to be a performer himself, it went well we hit it off straight away and I got the job! I found it strange at first but the more staff I got to know I realised that there were a lot of people in the same situation as me. In our site alone we had; 2 receptionists, me, a membership manager, a PT, Assistant General Manager, and many part-time instructors who were all performers.
Having not gone to university I always had the doubts that I wasn’t qualified enough or wasn’t clever enough to amount to anything after performing but what I found working at VA was that through performing I had actually gained a lot of transferrable skills along the way:
- Quick thinking
- Desire to want to be better
- Customer service skills (the need to please)
- Attention to detail
- Resilient to failure or rejection
Eventually I worked myself up to AGM for my first club Chiswick Park, and my deadline had arrived. This was for me the moment I had to make my decision. Although I could do my own rota, I am the type of person who needs to throw myself fully into what I am doing, and I wasn’t doing that with performing anymore. I was going to classes once in a blue moon and couldn’t remember the last time I auditioned. I realised it was time to officially stop. As sad as I was to give up that career, I was also super excited to see where this next chapter was going to take me.
Many people I know are still performers whilst also having a career in fitness, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the end but a support to your career. If you do choose to stop, it doesn’t mean your life is over and you have to start all over again. As I said before you learn many transferrable skills and there are so many opportunities and avenues within the fitness industry for you to choose from:
- Go into Teaching/Instructing
- Become a Personal Training
- Work in Customer Service
- Use your confidence in Sales/memberships
- Train to work in Operations
- Work your way up to Management
Throughout working at different companies from Commercial to Boutique over the years it really made me realise when you look around the fitness industry and where people started their journey, you’ll be surprised how many people have some sort of performing background. Although I felt like I was leaving a community within the performance industry and joining a completely new one, I realised it was the actually the same community. Full of creativity, ambition and lots of fun and laughter.
If you’re struggling to decide when the right time is for you, I am always here to listen. It’s not an easy decision to make and only YOU know when it’s’ the right time. Just remember there is a fitness community out there that is ready to take you and your jazz hands in.