Forward and Interview by DancerMusic’s Kristi Licera:
When I was in college, the announcement board outside of the dance studios was covered in audition flyers for companies all over the country and beyond. Like many college students, I envisioned myself as part of a renowned dance ensemble, busily creating new works and touring around the globe. The vision I had of myself was so clear that I did not take much time to think of another, incredibly viable career alternative: being a freelance artist. While freelancing may not provide the stability that a full-time company can, it has a world of benefits all its own that many professional dancers will experience at some point in their career. For dance artist Brandon Coleman, the transition from full-time company dancer to freelance artist also came with a change of environment – a move from Chicago to New York City. I caught up with Brandon as he and fellow former Visceral Dance Chicago dancer Owen Scarlett toured the states on a self-booked teaching tour. Read on to learn more about Brandon’s journey and how some big changes have ignited a new chapter in his career:
Kristi: What prompted your move to Chicago? How did you get involved in your first full-time dance company?
Brandon: Back in 2015 I was just about to graduate from the University of Arizona and planning my next steps. I was in Chicago for my spring break and saw Visceral Dance Chicago in their Spring Two performance at the Harris. That was the moment I fell in love with the company, their repertory, and their incredible dancers. I auditioned during Visceral’s week long summer intensive and started as a full company member the following week.
Kristi: What are the pros of working for a full time company? What are the cons?
One of the greatest things about working with a full time company is the consistency. I could wake up every day, go to morning class, spend a day in rehearsals, and get a check every two weeks.
Brandon: One of the greatest things about working with a full time company is the consistency. I could wake up every day, go to morning class, spend a day in rehearsals, and get a check every two weeks. The hard part about my experience was the desire to do more work. I loved having new artistic voices and creating new work while in the company but had interests outside of work in the company as well.
Kristi: What sparked your decision to move from Chicago? Was it a difficult decision to make? How did you end up choosing NYC?
Brandon: I’ve always wanted to work in NYC. There were a few companies I was interested in working with but struggled to make the jump. My decision to move was connected to a message I received from Larry Keigwin about an upcoming project with his company. I performed one of his works in college and attended the KEIGWIN + COMPANY Winter Intensive in 2015. After those two experiences I knew I liked his work and enjoyed working with Larry, which was enough to accept and start figuring out how to make a career happen in NYC.
At this point in my career I felt a sort of “now or never” feeling and wanted to take advantage of a new adventure and opportunities in New York.
The decision was a difficult one to make. I love Chicago and feel grateful for the opportunities that the people in that city gave me. By moving, I was giving up teaching jobs that I loved and a handful of other opportunities. At this point in my career I felt a sort of “now or never” feeling and wanted to take advantage of a new adventure and opportunities in New York.
Kristi: For many aspiring professional dancers, a full-time position in a company is the ‘dream’. Being a freelance artist is not often the first thing that comes to mind as a career option, but can provide just as much, if not more, success and career growth. What are the pros and cons of managing your own career and freelancing?
What I’m really enjoying about being a freelance artist is the uncertainty of the path. I have to step out of my comfort zone more often and take more initiative to go to class and auditions.
Brandon: What I’m really enjoying about being a freelance artist is the uncertainty of the path. I have to step out of my comfort zone more often and take more initiative to go to class and auditions. I have to be more creative with my time which is both exciting and terrifying. How do I continue to grow as an artist? How do I pay my bills this month? What am I doing three months from now? There’s a new challenge every day but I feel like I’m growing in a ways I couldn’t have without the changes I’ve made this past year.
Kristi: Through all of your experiences, what is your most valuable takeaway? What advice would you give other dancers who are getting ready to make a career transition of this nature?
Brandon: I’m trying to embrace the idea that everything works out perfectly (EWOP. Pronounced Eee- Wop). It’s an idea my family practices during times of change. The idea is not so much about everything being perfect, problem-free, and ideal, but more about making decisions with clear intention and working with the outcome. Through EWOP you embrace failure, recognize success, and continue the hustle.
I’m trying to embrace the idea that everything works out perfectly. The idea is not so much about everything being perfect, problem-free, and ideal, but more about making decisions with clear intention and working with the outcome.
My advice for dancers, including myself, is to make confident decisions. Whether it’s a freelance path or that full company life, it’s important to be upfront with people and make thoughtful choices about your career.
Starting at the end of January, Brandon will be touring K+C Celebrates Bernstein, which features two KIEGWIN + COMPANY favorites, Episodes and Waterfront, as well as two new works by Larry. He also looks forward to creating some new work in 2018 and investing more time in New York.
Follow Brandon on Social Media (IG: @itsbrandoncoleman). Learn more at www.brandoncolemandance.com.