Before you start life on tour, let me clear up one misconception: This is not a cushy life.
“Of course not!” You may be thinking. “I know I”ll have to dance and be in shape and work hard to give my best performance day in and day out!”
All of that is true. But what I mean is, this is not a life of mid-morning rehearsals, early curtain calls, brightly lit dressing rooms, and standing ovations. You may have some of that, some of the time, but you’re going to have some less-than-glamorous days on tour.
That being said, I wouldn’t give up my touring years for anything. They were some of the best years of my life and hold some of my fondest memories.
I do have a couple regrets, though, and they stem from being unprepared. Here’s what I wish I’d known before I left home on my first contract:
Money Needs a Purpose
It’s so exciting to be setting off on what might be your dream job — who can hate traveling the world, dancing, and getting paid for it?
Just because the job is unconventional, though, doesn’t mean your budgeting should be. Approach your tour paycheck with the same seriousness you would if you were living at home and working in an office. My first touring season, I walked away with almost nothing saved and barely had money to make it until I could find an interim job.
I didn’t make that mistake twice. In subsequent seasons, I learned to treat my money practically and developed healthy money habits. I also know more about taxes now than I thought I could!
The distractions of new experience can eat a paycheck faster than you may think, but being smart about your money while touring can help you come out on top without sacrificing experiences along the way.
There Is No Normal
It’s easy, and even helpfully enlightening, to read “A Day in the Life” articles or to ask the tour recruiter what a typical day looks like. While the articles may be more true to form, remember that your recruiter is selling you a career and may give you an ideal day rather than a typical day.
There are ideal days and a general structure, but flexibility is paramount. Travel arrangements, especially with a group of people, may go awry. Flights can be delayed or connecting flights missed, cars and buses break down, and transit schedules or traffic accidents can all throw a wrench into your company’s itinerary.
When things go wrong, or even when they don’t, you may find yourself arriving late to a venue or hotel. Sleep schedules may be interrupted by time zone changes and unfortunately, no two stages are created the same.
The good news, though, is that with a little practice and some planning, you can work that uncertainty into a system that lets you
survive thrive while living your life on the road. A little inconsistency is a small price to pay for everything you stand to gain, from master classes across the country to the invaluable things you learn about yourself.
Packing Is the Worst
How do you pack for months on end without becoming a Queen Diva, complete with matching luggage set?
It’s not easy. I don’t think I ever perfected it, but it does get easier.
My goal while I was on tour was to confine myself to one large suitcase and a carry-on. For the most part, I was successful — unless I got little too excited shopping. My suitcase was constantly in flux between what I needed, what I wanted, what I bought along the way and what I ditched on short stops at home (or the post office).
If you’re staring down the barrel of a six-month stint of living out of your suitcase, explore my tips and tricks for effective packing.
Hit the Road
Now that your bag is packed, it’s time to get going.
The most important part of touring is the dancing. The second most important part of touring is experiencing everything you can.
Get out in the city you’re visiting and feel it. Revel in the city and meet it’s people, see it’s sights, and taste it’s food. The energy of a city will grow your art and grow you as a person. Take too many cheesy pictures with friends and indulge when you can afford to.
Love your days on the road, because every tour comes to an end eventually, and trust me when I say, there is never enough time.
Alyssa Robinson is a lover of words and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. She started dancing at 19 when the ballroom (and latin) bug bit her, and she hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not writing about food, fitness, and dance, she’s in the studio training for her next ballroom competition.
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