For my second internship in the contemporary arts at the School for Contemporary Arts (SCA), I was part of plastic orchid factory’s performance/installation Digital Folk.
Truthfully, I heard about this internship at the last minute. It was a balmy day in May, and I was sitting on the steps of the Woodward’s complex eating lunch when I received an email informing me that applications to be an intern with the Vancouver dance company in their upcoming show were due almost immediately. The opportunity was too good to pass up, so I decided to throw together an application. A couple weeks later, when I found out that I had been accepted, I danced around the kitchen.
Along with four other interns, I was given the amazing opportunity to collaborate with professional dancers in the three-month process of creating the show Digital Folk throughout the summer, and then perform in fifteen sweaty, exhausting, and fulfilling performances in September 2016. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to create with professionals and perform alongside them in a work I felt like I had ownership of. The process was full of priceless behind-the-scenes moments, which I was able to archive through the blog hard drive. I made some great personal connections and learned tons about the professional dance community in Vancouver.
After our string of performances, I decided to conduct informational interviews with a couple of inspiring colleagues from the project to glean some career wisdom from them. One of these was with the Vancouver-based dancer Bevin Poole. The questions I asked her are:
What kind of work do you do?
What kind of educational/work related background do you have that prepared you for this career?
What were the stepping-stones that led you to where you are now?
What kind of volunteer commitments do you have?
What kind of obstacles does one face in this career?
What tips do you have to overcome them?
What recommendations do you have for someone planning a career in this field?
I chose to interview Bevin because she was a pleasure to work with in Digital Folk. During the process, I really respected her attitude towards her work and her commitment to the project. Also, she is well established as an independent dance artist and seems quite comfortable in her career as a dancer in Vancouver. Hearing about Bevin’s experience— specifically herself a graduate from SFU’s dance program—was a great window into the dance community and how a dancer goes from university student to professional. She talked me through her career journey and gave some great advice for emerging dancers or recent graduates. I’ve summarized her answers below.
My Interview with Bevin Poole
Bevin Poole works professionally as a dancer and Pilates teacher in Vancouver. She is privileged to take dance jobs that “peak her interest,” and says she needs to be intellectually stimulated by her work to feel like she has a reason to be there. Bevin explains that getting dance jobs in Vancouver starts with a personal relationship to the choreographer.
Bevin’s four-year degree in dance from SFU prepared her physically to start out in her dance career, but she maintains her physical practice every day through taking class and Pilates, which she calls her “ongoing training.” Interestingly, Bevin prefers to be a dancer in other people’s work than to choreograph her own, which means she has more time to take class. However, this comes with upsides and downsides: she says, “I don’t have to do the scheduling and grant writing and so forth. [But] this means I’m at the mercy of what other people want to do.”
Getting connected in the professional dance community in Vancouver, according to Bevin, requires a lot of networking, being present, going to shows and being supportive of other artists. She did a good deal of free “volunteer” dance at the start, where someone wants to make a piece but doesn’t have the financing. She also understudied and danced as an apprentice. During this time, she notes that she worked part-time at a Health Club in order to make ends meet.
In terms of current volunteering, Bevin is part of the not-for-profit organization TSV (Training Society of Vancouver). She also does “light-walking” for Ballet BC, which means spending time onstage walking through their lighting cue-to-cues in exchange for tickets. In the past, she has taught Pilates for free to dancers in exchange for studio space as well.
The major obstacles she has faced in her career are scheduling issues (contracts too far apart, or overlapping), and physical and emotional exhaustion. She also notes self-doubt is common in such a vulnerable practice as dance. In order to overcome these things, it is important to “be really clear with self-care and self-love,” allowing the mental space for rest, family and food.
Her recommendations for someone just starting out are “go to class,” “bring everything you have” to everything you do and be committed to personal relationships. She also says strive for versatility by learning a specific body patterning that makes sense to you individually. If you prioritize your body and your range of technique, then you will have more facility and tools to bring to projects.
After my interview with Bevin, I realized how important it is to have connections in the arts community, and people to call on for advice. More than anything, this gift from my internship experience is priceless.