Defining My Own Creative Purpose
I’ve had dance in my life for a long time now. Thinking about it makes me feel old, but there’s a reason that dance has been in my life for over 26 years. It’s something that I cannot let go.
Growing up I was one of those dancers that actually enjoyed the “competition life” (you know you’re out there). The pressure and intensity shaped many aspects of my personality and contributed to my addiction to the art. Nevertheless, I chose not to major in dance when I went to college and this is where my split personality began.
My decision not to major in dance was something that I seriously struggled with and it’s something that I often speak about with my students. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to attend a school with an amazing dance team (Shout out to HEAT DANCE TEAM!) which allowed me to major in Psychology & Criminology but still keep dance in my life. It was the perfect balance between exploration / self-discovery and maintaining my identity as a dance artist. Regardless of what happened with my studies, I found myself always looking for new dance opportunities such as choreographing for the team and teaching for a local studio.
After school, life got more complicated. I started a job in PR but also wanted to see what I could do professionally with dance. Although my boss was a nightmare, I felt pressure to build my career and decided to stick it out with her while also auditioning for dance shows and music videos. Having zero personal time, I managed to book a couple of “big gigs”. Today I can proudly point to myself in a couple music videos or tell you about my dance for Carly Rae Jepson (call me, if you want to learn more, maybe?). I even worked with Playtex on a campaign focused around dance. Looking back, I feel like my first year out of school was successful but at the time I felt beat up. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough because I dealt with a lot of rejection from the dance world, and I had to put up with my eccentric boss.
The first time I auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance Canada (SYTYCD) was exciting. Having made it to finals week meant that I got to spend a lot of time with other fun dancers. It also means that I can share some juicy stories about what it’s like to be a part of a reality TV show. Was I disappointed when I eventually got cut? Definitely, but in my mind this show was the way to make it big in the dance world. That is why I applied again the following year. Looking for validation of my dance skills, I eagerly joined the long lines of dancers at 6am to audition but this time the judges weren’t so impressed. They didn’t mention anything about my passion nor my technique when they decided to cut me, instead one judge said I looked like “Chucky” while performing. As a serious lover of the scary movie genre I know my serial killer characters, and being called a short, ugly child murderer was nothing short of crushing. To say I felt embarrassed and bullied would be an understatement.
Thankfully they never aired my second experience so I didn’t have to re-live it more than once but after my second SYTYCD attempt I needed a break from the dance world. I didn’t know how I could face my dance colleagues, friends or students after that experience so I didn't really tell anyone what happened. I stopped auditioning and focused on my day job. At the time I had begun a new job as a marketer for a health and wellness center and I put all my energy into that. It was a welcome distraction but I found myself missing dance after a couple of months. After applying to a few dance studios in the area I got hired to teach in two different schools. This is when my split persona officially developed: marketer by day and dancer by night.
Now I keep a full-time day job and participate in the dance world. I teach and choreograph all over North America, take dance classes and judge competitions. While this tempo, pun intended, is tiring, it’s possible to do it all. I love my marketing job (I am now a Marketing Manager for an awesome software company) and I love my dance jobs. I join dance collectives and produce dance events. No matter how busy my life gets, I can always make time for dance. It’s something I love and a big part of who I am.
As a marketer myself, I struggle with my own personal branding nightmare. Am I a marketer or am I a dancer? The truth is that I am both and it took me a while to be okay with that. It’s important to remember that we can get the self-fulfillment that dance provides without dedicating our entire lives to becoming a “professional dancer”. Hence, I joined the leadership team at the Alumni Dance Collective. In this group I can continue to share my love of dance while also making friends who are crazy enough to also want a split personality. My creative purpose is to keep that fine balance between work and life, growth and passion.
Kristin Mclaughlan Gomez
Photos by Kim Heath