September 2022 – Being a Dance Artist by Rosy Pigott

For the first time in my career, I recently sat in a group of 20 other freelance dance artists. When invited to attend I agreed, to quench my curiosity to meet people and contribute to evolving research.

When you picture a room of dancers, most people probably conjure up an image of white, middle class, slim women.

But it wasn’t.

I was greeted by a bunch of approachable, intelligent and very diverse people- showing that the dance world does contain a whole host of ethnicities, ages and styles. (So why is it that we only see a small fraction of this represented most of the time?)

I learned three especially notable things:

Everyone feels imposter syndrome, and nobody talks about it.
Whether you create work, perform, teach, take dance to new communities, you are entitled to say you’re an artist. Art IS work, and provides a value beyond the exchange of money connected with it.

Freelancers are excluded from the system.
I’ve never seen Freelance Dance Artist on a drop-down menu, or introduced myself as such to anybody outside the creative world. Why would you, when most people can’t really picture what that job entails? Access to funding is often more limited if you’re a one-person entity, and there’s no support in place to guide artists towards better opportunities. People have been dancing for centuries, it’s human nature to use movement in all sorts of ways, yet the people who provide this in our communities are undervalued and almost completely unsupported.

Collaboration is King.
As a freelancer, it becomes the norm to do everything for yourself and figure it out on the way. If more freelance artists worked together, both in their practice and to instigate change, perhaps there would be a better infrastructure out there.

To have work created by or for all kinds of people, it’s imperative we foster an environment that enables artists to flourish, not flounder.

I gained a sense of belonging from the first group meeting, and felt optimistic to hear that others have the same ambitions for the industry as I do. Moving forward, I hope to be inspired by my fellow artists, and seek to understand the various corners of the dance world that we all come from.

Rosy is a freelance dance artist and teacher based in Bristol. Her work focuses on ballet and contemporary dance, with a particular interest in engaging and inspiring young people.