Your Next Move

The following is a transcript from Eimear Byrne's presentation at ‘Your Next Move’. 
Your Next Move is a partnership between Dance World and Dance Ireland to help young dancers in the next stage in pursuing a career in dance. 
This year's panel was Zoe Ashe-Browne, Sibeal Davitt, Eimear Byrne and Chris Furlong

Eimear Byrne  6.30PM-8pm @ Dance World Ranelagh store, Dublin.

Hello, everyone! I’m Eimear a contemporary dancer and I’m going to share with you some information this evening that I hope helps you all with your next move! For any recent dance graduates that are here tonight and wondering what to do next this information is for you in particular

I’m going to talk to you briefly about my experience of this. Along with some things that I found really helpful along the way.
From graduation to working professionally in the dance industry under the umbrella of 3 headings teaching, performance and choreography- I will share with you some experiences and tips!

The time upon graduation can be a very daunting transitional period. Going from being a hard working dance student to becoming employed as a professional in the dance industry is huge! And how do we take this first step?! A conversation I always remember, that took place with fellow dance peers and friends of mine was on a drive from college back to our student accommodation after we had all just performed our very last dance assessment on our course.

My friend Charlotte said guys what’s our status now? We’re no longer students and not yet working as professionals so we’re unemployed right? …And we no longer have our student cards to get discounts. We all laughed but for me this was a realization and the penny had just dropped. I needed to begin looking for dance work.

  • this was a very important reality to accept and I encourage all dance graduates to do this as I believe it made me become responsible and accountable for kickstarting a career in dance

Firstly, knowing where you want to be based and researching your area

One thing I knew was that I wanted to come back to Ireland, this was very important to me. Family and friends at the time thought I was mad and thought I’d have better opportunities in the UK. I appreciated their thoughts but was determined to return to Ireland and start building a dance career here.
And so that’s what I did!

  • as a dance graduate it’s good to check in with yourself and find out where it is you want to be based

Once you decide on where you want to be then you can begin looking for work.

Some practicalities required for this process were:

  • Researching all arts and dance hubs in your area
  • Emailing dance schools, associations, institutions with a cv, professional portfolio and show reel
  • Attending auditions and open calls
  • Maintaining your physicality taking dance classes and keeping conditioned Applying for dance teaching posts
  • Offering and Making yourself available to cover dance classes -These were some of the positive steps that I took
  • Setting up a beginners dance class in a local community Centre (this was not so positive in this process for the reasons that my public liability insurance cost me more than what I was earning in this weekly class)

Another not so positive move was

  • agreeing to work for a very low hourly wage for a company - and with this I felt under appreciated and used when I knew these individuals were making a lot of money out of the particular event
  • the message here is to work hard, be brave do try your ideas even if they fail and more importantly always listen to your gut feeling in situations that don’t feel right.

Secondly, Making time to be proactive and available if you get contacted for work

So, at the time I was sending off all of these applications, auditioning, covering classes, etc I was also working as a receptionist in the radiology department at St. Vincent’s hospital. However, I soon realized that if I was going to give this my full attention and my best shot then I needed to give up this job and dedicate all of my time to just dance and nothing else.

So, that’s what I did.....and from doing this emails, letters and calls started to come in and I was getting auditions, interviews, covering and teaching classes etc

  • dance graduates , give yourself the time and space to ful -fill your search for work and have integrity about any job no matter how big or small it may seem, you never know what will come out of it.

Thirdly, Meeting with artistic directors and choreographers

Loretta Yurick and Robert Connor of DTI played a huge role in the development of my career in dance.
I auditioned and interviewed with them for teaching work to begin with and from this I got work teaching on their outreach programme, this then lead to teaching a weekly intermediate contemporary dance class at their center along with summer intensives. Which later on then lead to being invited to audition for a performance role that I ended up touring nationally with the company.

  • my point here is to know that through teaching practice you may be observed, analyzed and invited to auditions leading to performance work.

Prepping for interviews at colleges and institutions

An experienced creative individual had given me great advice before I interviewed for the post of contemporary dance tutor at the Bray Institute of Further Education . She told me not to shy away from the fact I was a recent graduate but to really confidently emphasize this! She told me this was a strength not a weakness as I would have new, fresh, innovative eyes in dance and dance training. This helped me so much in my interview and might even be the reason I got the job! Who knows?

  • the tip here is not to get disheartened from seeing the two words ‘experience needed’ on every application form or audition you apply for. Trust in your training and abilities and know the value they carry. How does somebody get experience?.. somebody needs to believe in you and give you a chance! So how do you make them believe? First thing here is you have to believe in yourself and your own potential! It can be that simple!

Getting your first big break

For me this was getting the teaching post at the college. I was delighted and couldn’t wait to start. Although I may have been a younger member of staff on the dance course at the time this did not matter. In fact because of the incredible and experienced dance teachers delivering the course at the college these being Annette Hynes and Alison Doherty they almost mentored me and had a huge interest in wanting to get to know what I was about and what I could bring to the dance course . They were inspiring and supported my ideas and visions at the time. I learned so much from them.

  • the message here is to hopefully come into contact with great dance practitioners but when you do don’t take it for granted really seize that opportunity to learn as much as you can. Being a dance professional is one thing but being a dance professional that’s in a constant state of learning is simply powerful.

That leads me onto CPD

In 2015 I decided to take a career break from my teaching post at the college because it was time for some change. I undertook a masters in contemporary dance performance at the Universoty of Limerick. This introduced me to even more choreographers opening new doors for me and spring boarded me into the contemporary dance performance industry in a much greater way.

  • dance graduates , any time you begin to get too comfortable in what you’re doing take this as a sign that it is usually time to undertake a period of cpd and this may lead you to new opportunities

Working as a dancer in other choreographers work

This can be one of the greatest things, to be involved in the choreographic process and production of a new work. However, it can be challenging. I remember having 2 rehearsals back to back in the one day with different choreographers and believe me these choreographers were completely different from each other and in how they chose to work. I knew deep down at the time that I had to be learning something from this experience as the diversity of each one was so vast.

  • dance graduates, working with choreographers can be a demanding role for any dancer. Each choreographer has their own way of working and so you must learn to adapt to their artistic process. From working with a range of choreographers this allows you to experience these different styles and approaches which later enables you to grow and develop and become a more well rounded dancer.

Being a choreographer and touring your work

This is another great gift and through building professional relationships with dance hubs, associations, institutes, theatres, dance companies, fringe festivals etc support can be there to help you with this process. Touring my own work was a huge learning curve for me. I completely underestimated the amount of time and planning of every tiny little thing that needed to be done in order for it all to come together and work. If I was to do it again I would do a summer tour not a winter/spring one. Mostly because I teach less in the summertime.

  • touring your work requires a lot of time and careful planning. Filling out applications, ensuring your dancers are ok, writing proposals, auditioning dancers,
  • hiring musicians, videographers, photographers, etc. Promotion work is also a huge factor to ensure a good turn out at your venue.
  • Jeanette you actually gave me great advice and direction in relation to some promo materials for ‘Renewal’, thank you for this.

Juggling and organizing a healthy schedule for you

As we all know working in the dance industry can involve rehearsing till late, working weekends, intensive rehearsal periods, etc

There was a time I was working a 7 day week, this included teaching, intensive rehearsals and a national tour. This lead to burn out. My body was fatigued, my leg muscles were exhausted. My physio informed me that what I was doing was unsustainable. I knew it myself but at the time felt I couldn’t turn down these opportunities. I really wanted to do everything. I feel when there is work offered to us as dancers we tend to grab it. I still struggle with this but I do think I’ve gotten better . Although maybe you should ask my boyfriend if he’d agree with that.

  • it comes down to prioritizing what it is you want to do, organizing enough time to do it, but ensuring you have your own time to unwind and relax.

I really hope you can take something away from this information and the most important thing is to.....

  • Keep yourselves motivated and inspired while knowing your own creative potential and always going beyond your limits!

Thank you for listening!

Eimear Byrne (Speaker 3) 6.30PM-8pm @ Dance World Ranelagh store, Dublin.