Until recently, I saw dance as a luxury, a passion, an indulgence, a pasttime, and, sometimes, an annoyance.  I took a look at the choreographers who I feel are successful, and realized that they treat dance as their profession.  Regardless of their "jobs", dance is their work.

Even though football is a game, society places value on the work that goes into playing that game well.  Hence, there are men who get paid millions of dollars to sit on the bench, and trillions of dollars to throw a football into the endzone.  Trillions of dollars to play a game.

Part of the work, and the frustration, in dance is convincing society that what we do is not a luxury, a passion, an indulgence, a pasttime or, sometimes, an annoyance.  That work includes writing grants, raising money, managing personnel, and forging professional relationships.  That's a full-time job in and of itself, but the other part of the job is steeped in the creative process: a consuming, wonderful, convoluted, infuriating beast that is arguably more work than all the other stuff.

I recognize that there probably won't come the day that dancers don't have to wait tables, or become secretaries and pilates instructors.  But take a moment and imagine a world in which our work IS OUR WORK.

The day that I started treating dance like a job was the day that things started to happen.  A great mentor of mine told me that I was standing on the edge of a cliff, waiting for someone to give me a net to jump into.  But sometimes you have to jump and build the net while you are on the way down.

I jumped.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.