Managing Free Time

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Arthur Stashak | @stayshak | Photo by: Gert Weigelt | Dusseldorf, Germany | January 2019 | 3 minute read

As a professional dancer, I have always had to deal with free time. I come from a classical ballet school and am used to following the plan that’s been given to me. In fact, I depend (even thrive) on the structure as a way of getting stronger and bettering myself as an artist. But the reality is that sometimes in company life, a dancer can have more free time than usual. For me, I was always ready to dance, but sometimes there were no rehearsals or shows to perform. 

My first professional experience was in Poland at a dance company called Grand Theater Łódź; here, we had lots of free time. It was a complete change from my usual school day rhythm of being so busy (in fact, keeping up with my schedule was often a challenge!). I would usually finish at 2pm most days and then have the rest of the day free to do whatever I wanted. You might think I was lucky to have so much free time. But not me! I didn’t spend fourteen years of my life training six hours a day to become a professional and not have consistent work. I quickly became anxious and felt like my life wasn’t as fulfilling as it should be. I wanted to move and dance but the company that I depended on wasn’t fulfilling this need and desire.

Before long, I realized I had two choices: I could either accept that I wouldn’t be dancing as much as I thought and audition for another company, or I could be creative and find a way to use my free time to move the way I wanted to. 

I chose the second option. It was by far the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far in my dance career. In life, not just in a dance company, we will always be given the freedom of time. But with this freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. 

I found an outlet which allowed me to explore dance the way I wanted: YouTube. I was always interested in the hip-hop style of  ‘popping’ growing up, but I only enjoyed watching it – and occasionally trying it out when I was at a party. With all this free time I realized I had a wonderful opportunity to develop this interest and even had the entire internet as an audience with which to share my growth and ideas!

At first, I admit that I didn’t post anything because I felt like I wasn’t good enough. But I practiced every moment I could, and watched videos to try and emulate others’ techniques. Once I felt I was good enough, I used my laptop and filmed my first video. After this the whole world became my stage! I didn’t need only a studio to train in or a stage to perform on: I could dance anywhere at any time – and with this new style! WithYouTube I had a platform where I could truly express myself – it was such creative freedom! But again, with that freedom came responsibility. 

For video ideas, I had to discipline myself to practice and develop them choreographically. And if I wanted to grow my technique, I had to practice every day just as in my ballet class. 

It was revolutionary for me. This free time turned out to be a blessing in disguise; it helped me develop myself from a trained dancer into the artist that is me. Now I feel like I have the tools to express any idea or emotion with the possibility of it becoming something real and affecting other people’s lives. I’m no longer just waiting around to be inspired…I’m making my own opportunities! This could include performing on stage with my company or making a video out on the street for my YouTube channel. 

Next season, I plan to go full-time on YouTube and try my best to make a living at it. That will be another adventure entirely! We’ll see what the future has in store…so check me out! And please, like, comment, and subscribe!  

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