Dancer

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Shaun, Contemporary Dancer

How did you become a dancer?

Currently a contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher at Deakin University's Rusden Campus, Shaun McLeod is one of a rare breed of professional dancers in that he hadn't done any dancing until he got to university.

"I studied arts at uni, and I wanted to try different things, and one of those things was dance," says Shaun. And since then, he hasn't looked back! "I went into dancing knowing that it's a really difficult profession to make a living in, and I didn't aspire to become famous. My expectations were quite realistic."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"People get into this occupation because they thrive on the joy of dancing," says Shaun. "When you consider the number of hours you spend training, it's not a particularly well paid job, and because the work is very sporadic, most dancers have second jobs. The satisfaction you get is a very personal one - you'd be crazy to do it if you didn't love dancing. "And if you do love dancing like Shaun does, it can be an extremely rewarding profession: "It's a lifestyle that others would give their eye-teeth for.

What sort of skills and qualities do you need? 

As a job, it's creative, it's changeable, it keeps you away from a desk, and you get to use your body. Performing is a real kick too, and the people who work in dance are typically very diverse and interesting. "If you're serious about a career in professional dance, Shaun says that you need to be very self-directed and extremely motivated: "You need to be tenacious, disciplined, hard-working, open-minded, creative, and physically very strong, and because dance is a social medium, you'll also require good communication skills."

Any tips for getting a job as a dancer?

It's a highly competitive industry out there, so you need to get your foot in the door any way you can: "Getting work with dance companies can be really difficult given the paucity of companies around, so it can be a good idea to take part in project work. You can try and write grants to attract money from funding bodies such as Arts Victoria, or you might want to travel overseas to work in Europe or the US." However, Shaun reassures that once you've gained some professional experience, it does get a lot easier.

Finally, to all those interested in pursuing a professional career in dance, Shaun says, "It's a lot tougher than when I came out of school, and for some, it's hard to maintain a commitment to dancing because they get tired of the sporadic nature of the work and of not having the money. Ultimately, however, you have to rely on your passion and commitment to the thing that you do. Personally, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky to have a career in dance."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).