Dance Talk: How I Combined My Passion for Travel & Dance to Fuel My Career

*This post was originally published on My Dance Dreams in association with Gerber Tours*

After spending my adolescence in a dance studio I had itchy feet to get out of my hometown and experience something new. Motivated by fierce wanderlust and a love for dance, I asked myself:

“How can I dance and see the world?”

dance pointe shoes

When I heard that many dancers go on to perform aboard cruise ships, the answer was clear–I had to have this globe-trotting job.

I arrived at my first cruise ship dancer audition with a bare resume and a homemade headshot. I had only my training and a few recital performances under my belt. I remember throwing all of my energy into dancing for the casting directors—kicking high and throwing myself off balance, and winding up my pirouette in a novice effort to impress.

Needless to say, that was not the day I booked my first cruise ship.

cruise ship in fjords

But after many more cruise ship auditions spent watching, observing, dancing and learning—I finally found myself with a contract in hand. I was headed out to sea to perform aboard ships sailing to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and more.

Though I was still young and inexperienced on stage, I started learning fast upon arriving at rehearsals. I dove into learning five shows over the course of six weeks. I thought my brain might explode from agonizing over retaining hours worth of choreography.

Thankfully, I remembered my choreography (most of the time). And I went on to perform with cruise ships for the next three years, growing smarter, stronger, and more professional with each contract.

Here’s why that cruise ship contract was one of the smartest moves for me at the beginning of my career and all of the opportunities it presented me to grow.

Opportunity to Hone and Practice

I was not brand new to the stage when I accepted my first cruise ship contract, but I still had a lot to learn. Once onboard, I quickly became familiar with performing. I had no choice—I was on stage over four times a week. Keeping this routine over a six-month contract got me comfortable with the stage. I soon found my pre-show rituals, warm-ups, and quick-change short-cuts to help me perform consistently and efficiently. I used the opportunity to hone my practice, perfect my art, and maintain my technique.

Princess Cruises “Stardust”

Opportunity to Learn Multiple Styles

I will be the first to admit that I was the “bun-head” at auditions. With a heavy foundation in classical ballet, I was insecure in styles of dance that made me flex my feet or dance parallel. Luckily my technique has never left me, but I’ve gained versatility in movement as a result of performing styles from folk, to jazz, to contemporary and even ballroom. Learning a package of cruise ships shows expanded my repertoire and made me a versatile dancer.

“Moments to Remember” Production Show

Opportunity to Work As A Team

As a cruise ship performer not only was I a part of a cast, I was part of something bigger. The cast is a division of the ship’s whole entertainment team, which can include anything from jugglers, divers, ice-skaters, musicians, hosts, DJ’s, and aerialists. Delivering a high-quality product to passengers is a group effort made possible by support and teamwork. I did not learn these workplace skills in school, they were a result of the job.

Aerial silks

Me in “Marquee” produced by RWS & Associates

Opportunity to Network

As part of the entertainment department onboard, I had the opportunity to meet and work with performers of all types. From visiting guest entertainers to my very own cast members, cruise ships are full of opportunities to network in the industry. For example, a former cruise ship cast mate of mine is now running her own casting agency while dancing on the West End. Another cruise ship friend is producing his own shows that perform worldwide. I never would’ve thought I’d know people achieving such things, and I am so glad I do! They continue to be an inspiration and forever-friends.

“British Invasion” Production Show

Opportunity to Save Money

In addition to the perks of cruise ship performing, I also got to pocket my paycheck. I was getting paid to

  • become a better performer
  • work as a team
  • learn new styles
  • And expand my industry network.

I also got to travel and seeing the world, my dream from the start. I’ve used my cruise ship money to support me in the moments in-between jobs.

Matilda Selfie_______________________________________________________________________

Dancing and performing aboard cruise ships was an excellent opportunity for me. The auditions alone were worth attending, just to practice versatility and learn from my peers. I recommend any young aspiring dancer to seek out a cruise ship audition, or a veteran cruise ship performer to learn from and inspire you as you step out into your career.

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About Kelsey

Kelsey is a dancer, wandering this world as performing artist and writing about it. She's skilled at forgetting her umbrella, getting lost, and eating too much cheese. Wend is her platform to share her nomadic lifestyle, and all the moments of beauty, grace, and hilarity that happen along the way. Join her as she finds her place in the world while dancing whenever she can.

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