Blog : Serena MorganWhat I want, What I'm Worth and What I'm Good Enough For..

Published on Saturday, 16 March, 2013 | Comments


My name is Serena Morgan and I am a freelance dancer. After training at London Contemporary Dance School I went to work as an apprentice with Tavaziva dance company before joining the cast of STOMP.

Manifesto?.. Nope, Just a Bad Notion

Sunday, 10 March, 2013

For the most recent Coda Dance Festival in Oslo Ballet de Lorraine from Nancy in France brought a new work from Norwegian dance maker Ingun Bjørnsgaard.

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Jobs are a lot like relationships, when you find the one that you think is perfect for you, you hang onto it forever right? Anything that doesn't challenge you and allow you to grow, anything that doesn't really turn you on and allow you to be yourself you leave. However, when you find something good and it's your first or if you find it whilst you are still so young, you find yourself questioning, is there something better out there?

So, do you take that risk? Do you leave everything you've got in order to pursue something you don't know exists, or something you don't know you will ever have?

And do we, as dancers really know how much we are worth?

So when you decide to deliberately leave your job, you leave with the expectation of finding more, whether it be more money or more challenges or more fulfillment. Should we settle for good if we are searching for great? (and great is different for everybody it could be great money, great movement, great people) but inevitably in our eyes it's something better.

However, one of the sad things is, we have a tendency to define what we have by what it is that's missing, and sometimes we forget how good what we have actually is. But then if what we have is not what we want is it ever going to be good enough? And if we are lucky enough to get what we want... where do we go from there? And is it going to be enough for us in the long run?

I had an audition recently. Lots of fun! I was getting to dance again and try some new things that I had never done before. It was small, only 13 of us were invited and everyone was female which was also something that I had never experienced before. I had read everything clearly on the response to the audition application and all in all it seemed like a good job.

Not only that, honestly, I wasn't expecting to get it. So as time passes and the days go on I am shocked that I received an email asking me if I would like to accept an offer. I called my mum, she was over the moon and screeched down the phone and then they said they would send me the contract to have a look over.

In reading the contract I had more of an understanding of what the job would entail and what would be expected of me and turns out, I managed to apply for something that was close to exactly what I had just left... is it a trait? Is it like a relationship? Am I just looking for the same thing but with more to offer? Not only that, I was being asked a lot for a little in return.

The job is amazing and great if that is what you are looking for, unfortunately it didn't 'turn me on' in a sense that I left my previous job for a reason and the job was very similar to what I had left. Unless I find something to satisfy my needs I don't want to take on the commitment, after all it is not fair on me or my employer. In the end I decided not to take the job. It was a difficult decision, I am unemployed and I have nothing to lose yet in my heart and my head I know what it is that I want and when I find it or it finds me I will embrace it with open arms.

So all in all, I feel a bit like an idiot. I am in an industry where there is a HUGE mix of people. Everything from those dying to get a job, (wanting to be on the stage and perform under the lights and the raucous applause of the audience ) to those who have put in 10 years of hard work, working their way to their dream unwilling to take anything less than anything that makes them happy. I graduated 3 years ago.

When it comes to dance I'm still a baby fish in the ocean and still have so much more to learn, but I have also been in a relationship with myself for 26 years and I want to be happy in life and in work. Why should I settle when I have a dream that resonates so strongly in my heart? I specialised in a field, just as an architect or a doctor would and it is far from easy to get work. Dancers are being mass produced by the hundreds, every year, and I'm competing with people younger but just as hungry as me as well as those who have experience and confidence.

How long can I fight for? And is what I want within reach of the standard I am and the experience I hold?

'A job is a job' my mother says, 'it's tough out there and it's vulgar'. But my job isn't just what I do, it's who I am. It's my way of releasing tension, it's my way of expressing how I feel it's my vocabulary and I cant give anything less than everything I have so when it comes to my job, just like a relationship... if it doesn't work, and it doesn't make my stomach flip. What's the point?

I rather be unhappy and unemployed than unhappy and trapped or am I just a fool?

Jobs (just like relationships). Turns out the ones that will help you learn and grow, challenge you and push you to be better and when you think about make you smile (y' know those ones?) The really good ones... they're really hard to come by...

Or is that only if you're stubborn, following your heart and chasing your dream?

There's a big ocean of opportunity, lots of goldfish, a few whales and then the Megaouth Shark (one of the rarest animals in existence) do we bank on what we catch? or do we dive into the darkness and search for that hidden gem that will truly make us happy?

  • Sally Marie

    I hear what you are saying Margarite, and my policy was never to make work, unless it was funded, baring Choreodrome which was my summer place to meet people, to learn and to be inspired.( Yet obviously usually cost me £2000 each time because i was not working - ha ha!)( Yet the workshops were free, and the people incredible. ) Other than that I have spent most of my free time over the last few years ( after full on days as a dancer) raising the money for every piece I made. I saw this to be my responsibility - that dancers must be paid to develop the right work conditions for our profession. I long to make dance on a daily basis! Only this morning, listening to a piece of music, I was so inspired, I wondered about just asking someone to 'hang out' in the studio with me for free for a week - because there is no space in my current funding schedule to ask for more money.

    You may be relieved I know have decided not to. I must just wait for another commission and spend the next two days writing applications for said commission.

    So the piece I am dreaming of must wait until the money gives it life!

    (slight sad sigh.. )

    I guess its just awareness. A balance of integrity. Working for free when there is absolutely no other way is one thing. Yet the casual expectation of those choreographers who expect everything of people working for no financial another.

    Money may be this invisible energy essentially. But it profoundly affects people's perceptions of others and them selves.

    Its status and its survival. And its tricky.

    If I could work with dancers for free i would be in the studio every day. But instead I will only likely be in the studio for maybe three months this year. And thats ok. Because thats how it is. And all of us are just gonna keep fighting for and heightening the profile of this Dance thing we love and its only going to get better. I feel sure of that. Warmest wishes and love and luck for the dancers that come to you...x Sally Marie

  • I think there's something in here about how dancers and dance artists are treated. There's actually a lot of exploitation within the dance community that I think is endemic within the structure of the profession as a whole. Choreographers and dancers are often expected to do things for free. Theatres run whole seasons of ticketed performances where none of the dancers are being paid, and where often the choreographers are forking out money for studio space, costumes and marketing. I think there needs to be a wider discussion about this. There is a fine line between providing valuable opportunities and being purely exploitative. I sometimes feel that the mere fact that there are so many of us often leads to the "small fry" being treated with very little respect.

    I am a "small fry" choreographer and have worked with dancers who I haven't been able to pay and who felt that they were getting very little out of the "opportunity". As a result they were not very engaged with the work. I have also worked with dancers who I have been able to pay, but who looked at it just as their "money work" and had little or no interest in what I was doing. I think that being honest with yourself is the best way to ensure that the quality of your work and your professionalism does not suffer. So well done you!

  • Elodie

    Serena you have hit the nail on the head. I trained as dancer and worked as such for a couple of years. I am now in events related and still ask myself all these questions!!! Glad to hear I am not alone.

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