Selling Yourself Without Selling Out

1000 Pieces Puzzle is a Dance Career Bootcamp ran by renowned dance theatre choreographer and playwright, Cindy Claes. The program covers absolutely every subject you could possibly need to know to carve out a career for yourself in dance.

The first training program was held in Brussels, Belgium, over 5 weekends in January and February 2015.  Supported by Zinnema, the bootcamp was a true success!

In a theatre in Belgium called “Zinnema”, a dozen dance students in the program worked with professional mentors to sculpt a short performance piece over the space of five weekends. They learned choreography, storytelling through dance, creating a character for the stage and… they even studied project management and tools to budget their shows!

Artists of all mediums have never been known to have the best business skills.

Master painter Vincent Van Gogh, the archetype of the starving artist, famously never sold a single painting in his entire lifetime. It’s exactly that mindset that Cindy is trying to change. She believes that the key to becoming successful (whilst your still alive) is a sound business sense.

During the first weekend of the bootcamp, Cindy asked the dancers to stand up in front of the group and describe themselves as an artist in less than 2 minutes. For most of the students this was confronting, they where at a loss for words and found it hard to say more than “……I’m a dancer… and hmmmm…”.

So over the next month Cindy Claes, along with Kate Scanlan (founder of Scanners Inc., UK) and Jan Wallyn (Artistic Director of Zinnema) delivered a series workshops in budgeting, networking, marketing, pitching to funders, considering target audience, amongst many more.

The challenge for the dancers was that just five weeks later they would have to pitch themselves again, but this time, in front of a professional panel of judges who would be awarding one prize to the person and creative project with the most potential.

“A lot of dancers want to put shows together… but if you don’t have the skills to articulate your ideas and vision clearly, funding bodies and theatre venues aren’t going to invest in your potential. That’s why these professional development programs are so important.”  – Cindy Claes

The heat was on, but the dancers held true to their training.  When the final weekend came, all choreographers where able to speak with clarity and confidence about themselves, their artistic vision and their plan to achieve it. Each and everyone of them had a incredible breakthrough!

Zinnema was so impressed by the transformation of the artists, their pitches, and the quality of their final shows, that they decided to award not only one prize (as originally intended) but to triple their entire prize pool!

 

Jenny Onya received a commission of 1500 €, 10 days of rehearsal space in kind and technical support to develop her work.  She created a Dance Theatre piece based on rape and the suffering of women in the Eastern Congo region.  The extract her dancers performed on the night was very moving, bringing many audience members to tears.

Mouss Sarr also received a commission of 1500 €, 10 days of rehearsal space in kind and technical support to develop a creative project he wants to produce.  Based on inter-disciplinary collaborations, Mouss will be producing a one day festival which will result in a mond blowing performance.

Camile and Anissa, two young Hiphop freestyle dancers received logistic support and business mentoring for a project that is close to their heart.  They will run a course and program for young Hiphop freestyle dancers during te winter, providing a wamr and safe space for young people to train as well as workshops in variety of street dance techniques.

 

It goes to show that there is a subtle art to being successful, and with the right mindset and the right mentor it is something anyone can learn. Talent isn’t everything. It’s only one piece of the Puzzle.

And as Will Smith would say”

“Skill is only developed by hours and hours 

and hours of Beating on your craft… 

there’s no easy way around it, 

no matter how talented you are you talent is going to fail you 

if you’re not skilled, 

if you don’t study, 

if you don’t work really hard and dedicate yourself 

to being better every single day

you’ll  never be able to communicate with people with your artistry 

the way that you want.” – Will Smith 

 

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Written by Sara Kerrison

Edited by Cindy Claes

 

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