Monday, June 10, 2013

It's important to be professional

Sometimes I can't find a picture to go with the topic of my opinion pieces, so I made my own. Graphic designer I am not.

It's important to always be professional. Note that I didn't say A professional; it is perfectly awesome to be an amateur dancer for your entire dance life. But even if you never want to dance for money, you should still always have a professional attitude. It makes everything flow more smoothly, from class to haflas to traveling to events with your fellow dancers.

One of the best things about a professional attitude is that unlike pro costuming, nice props, and weekend intensives, it doesn't cost you anything. The most inexperienced, broke dancer can still be the nicest, most helpful person backstage and thus make a better impression than the professional in a custom dress from Egypt and the diva attitude. When you respect your fellow dancers, event coordinators, helpers and audience, people remember you and want to work with you in the future. By the same token, getting snotty about some minor problem at a student showcase can leave a sour taste that will linger well into your career.

So how do you develop a professional attitude? The first step is to always be polite! Don't trash-talk your fellow performers (if you do need to complain about something, save it for later). Be gracious when giving and receiving compliments. Don't take up more than your fair share of the dressing room or mirror. Be willing to help your fellow dancers make last-minute costume adjustments. Thank people for allowing you to be part of their show, for dancing with you, for taking pictures, for coming to the show, whatever. Smile, or maintain a pleasantly neutral face.

The second step is to always be reliable. Be the one who sends her music on time, shows up early, stays after to help, promotes the event, is willing to carpool, always comes to class, etc etc etc. When people see that you are dedicated and can be counted on, they tend to take notice of you.

The third step is to be positive. This was a struggle for me and still is on some days! Being positive means not complaining when something in class is difficult (or if you do complain, make it good-natured, "Oh, I'm going to feel this tomorrow! At least I burned off that pizza I ate for dinner!"). Being positive means that when you show up for a gig and there's only three people in the audience, you put as much energy into it as if there were three hundred. Being positive means that your social media presence is always upbeat, that you post nice comments on others' wall posts and YouTube videos. Being positive means that if you have a problem with a teacher, student, venue, event organizer or workshop instructor, you take it up with them privately rather than airing it on Facebook.

The fourth step is treating every gig like a professional gig. No more "Oh, it's just a student hafla, I'll just wear these old things and not bother with lipstick." You do full hair and makeup for every show, and you wear the nicest costume possible within your budget. And when you step out onto the stage (which is actually just a little empty spot in the dining area of a coffee shop), you turn on your mega-watt personality and you dance with your whole heart and soul.
The fifth step is to own up to it when you fail. Everyone has off days. Sometimes you get some bad news right before a gig, or you just feel cruddy in class, or something else in life is bothering you and you slip up and say or do something mean. When this happens, apologize. Don't make a huge big deal that draws more attention to it, but contact the people affected and say "I realize that I was really off last night and I was pretty rude backstage. I feel awful about it and if I hurt or offend anyone, I sincerely apologize."

There are other steps you need to take when you want to be an actual professional, but I'm still learning those as I go so I don't feel qualified to give much advice on them. For now, start with the things in this post, and I have a feeling you'll find yourself very popular at your local events, and as a bonus, the more positive you act in class and on stage, the more positive you feel inside. And that comes from a card carrying sarcastic cynic, so you know I'm not just making it up.


  1. There's a saying my dad gave me back before I entered the working world and I think it applies to a number of areas, feel free to borrow:
    "The greatest ability is dependability." His point being, even if you're only so-so at something, even if someone else is much much better than you, if you're the dependable one, you're the one they will call on. Every. Single. Time.

    1. Sometimes dad wisdom is the best wisdom!


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