Can you remember what your little kid answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I can. Duh, I was going to be an actress and be in movies with Gary Sinise. Yeah, not sure why a kid loved him so much other than Lt. Dan was the coolest.
Anywho…our kid dreams were the coolest, but how many of us stuck with them? I was done with my illustrious acting career by the middle of eighth grade. I am always amazed, though, by the people I knew who grew up and became exactly what they wanted to be when they were kids. Which brings us to Jessica, our career profile for today!
What is your job title? Professional Dancer & Workout Instructor
What is your general job description? I perform (dance/sing) in shows/movies/live events. I also teach a workout class (Barre).
What did you study in college? I got my Bachelors in the Arts in Dance, with a concentration on Jazz.
Why did you decide to pursue that degree? I have been dancing since I was 5 and always wanted to do it professionally. The school I went to was known for producing great talent and giving people the connections they needed for a career after school.
Was there anything about your education that surprised you? It’s much harder when you’re being forced to take certain classes and being graded in dance, than before college, when you just dance because you love it.
How does your education relate to what you do at work? I got a well-rounded knowledge of ALL styles of dance, plus dance history, and kinesiology, etc. My degree just gives me more knowledge and experience, but technically in order to be a professional dancer, you don’t need a degree.
What specific aspects of your education prepared you for your career? We held auditions and put on shows multiple times a year in school. You also have to train every day to stay at the top of your craft. You do the SAME things year round in the professional world.
Was your degree the only path to get this job? What other degrees do your coworkers have that lead to this position? No. LOTS of professional dancers do not have dance degrees. In the end, it’s still all about talent. But my degree gave me more training, and the connections I needed. The dance world is also about who you know.
What are your plans for continuing in your profession? My career is on the downside now because I have a daughter. I occasionally do summer theater shows still. I also dance in the parades at Disneyland. I am there once a month or so. I would love to get back into it more once my kids are in school!
What are some of the challenges of your job? Staying in shape, making sure you network with the right people, and not getting discouraged due to rejection.
What is rewarding about your job? Performing for people is the best feeling!! I love getting on a stage in costume and make-up and showing people how talented I am.
Are there any stereotypes in your field that you have to deal with? I live in Las Vegas and say I’m a dancer. Most people in this city assume a different kind! I always have to explain myself now,“I’m a professional, I have a degree in dance, etc.”
What benefits does your work offer in regards to maternity leave/family needs? Not much. Some shows will allow you the time off. Disney allowed me the time off from when I finally looked too pregnant until whenever I chose to come back. I came back when my daughter was 3 months old.
How do you balance work with your other life obligations/goals? Family comes first for me, and that’s why my career has taken a backseat at the moment. I moved to Las Vegas because of my husband’s work, so I found work here too. I also travel to Disney for work and try to balance time away.
Do you feel like your career is very conducive to balancing those other things? Sometimes. It’s definitely easier if you are single! I won’t even audition for a national tour because I don’t want to be away from my husband and daughter. But dance, you can do pretty much anywhere! It is what it is. Nature of the business.
What advice do you have for other women who are pursuing this field? Be aggressive and go for it!! Always be “happy to be here- easy to work with.”