This article focuses on the amazing support I have received from Dance organisations set up specifically to help dancers who are ill, injured or experiencing the transition of ‘being a dancer’ into ‘something else’, rather than the woes of having cancer. Being diagnosed with Breast Cancer at the age of 35 was certainly not in my life plan. As a freelance dancer, having cancer has certainly added complications and it has challenged me in ways I thought not possible; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financial. I would like to mention here that the love and support I have gained from the dance community in my own area of Bath and the South West has been incredibly touching and life affirming.
During my time of illness, which began last August 2017 my Macmillan nurse recommended I contact the Dancer’s Professional Fund (DPF). It it a fund for professional dancers of all ages who are ill or injured and need some financial support to assist with everyday living and to help you get back on your feet (in more ways than one)!
“The Dance Professionals Fund aims to support people in the dance world throughout their lives. We are the leading UK charity offering financial assistance for individuals during their dance careers and into retirement. We help professional dancers, choreographers and choreologists, as well as dance teachers. It does not matter whether you have worked for a major dance company or as an independent dancer, we are here to help”. (Dance Professionals Fund). http://www.dancefund.org.uk
The DPF have been incredibly generous to me and their gift has allowed me to have some peace of mind about money whilst I have endured chemotherapy, two operations, radiotherapy and multiple stays in hospital. It will also allow me to have some time to re- build my body’s strength and have some re-training. The DPF was not an organisation I had come across before, I guess because I had not really needed to…. It was founded by Dame Ninette De Valois over 80 years ago and it has always been there to support dancers. Many dancers face the difficulty of injury and it can leave you feeling lost, isolated and redundant. The DPF offers support in cases they feel they can help with in difficult life changing situations. The next round of application deadlines is 22nd May.
Secondly I have been in touch with the Dancers’ Career Development organisation based in London.
“Dancer’s Career Development is a registered charity and the only organisation of its kind in the UK to support dancers to successfully transition into alternative careers after retiring from professional performance” (DCD, https://thedcd.org.uk).
They have offered career coaching with an experienced mentor, a previously successful dancer who has been through the transition herself into a new career path. They also offer workshops to meet other dancers going through similar experiences to help you cope with the life change, emotionally and strategically. Additionally they can offer advice and funding for re-training into another career path. This fantastic organisation are friendly, helpful and you feel as if you can give them a call anytime you have a question or need some advice. I have also been to one of their career workshops called EVOLVE, held at Sadlers Wells. This day was fantastically supportive and gave the opportunity for many dancers to come together to share their experiences, fears and worries about the future in a positive and supportive environment.
It sounds obvious but relying completely on your body being well and healthy is crucial when your job is a professional dancer and artist. This is something I completely underestimated and it is easy to take for granted, especially when you are young. As a young, self employed Dance Artist I did not have any back up if I was ill or injured. This was my mistake and not from the lack of my partner nudging me to maybe look into some kind of insurance, just incase… It can be difficult to imagine being ill or injured when you are at the peak of fitness and creativity. Unfortunately it does happen no matter how fit and active you are. Being prepared for this can help to take the pressure off from not working and alleviates feeling anxious about returning to work before you are ready.
So my advice to you if you are a dancer in the tricky situation of being ill or injured are:
1. Contact your local dance agency to see if they can be of any assistance or know of any funding and grants that can help you.
2. Join a personal health care plan offered by organisations such as Benenden. They can offer assistance with funding for physiotherapy, diagnosis, travel money to and from the hospital, grants, a lump sum to help you with buying specific items during your illness or injury. https://www.benenden.co.uk
3. Contact the Dancer’s Professional Fund. You will need to complete a form, send in a CV to prove your career and contribution to the dance industry and name a Referee who can help in your application. https://www.dancefund.org.uk
4. Contact Dancers’ Career Development (DCD) who can put you in touch with career coaches, sign post you to workshops helping you to transition from a dance career into another line of work, assist with funding for retraining and so much more. https://thedcd.org.uk
5. Look into Health Insurance options – if you go on moneysupermarket.com you can shop around for different health insurance options that suit you best and your working lifestyle.
I had no idea that there was so much amazing support and help out there for dancers when times get tough. As dancers we dedicate our whole lives, quite often our childhoods to dance and when that becomes threatened and taken away from us, it is very difficult to deal with emotionally, let alone cope with practical tasks such as paying the electric bill. I am thankful that my Breast Surgeon, my Breast Care Nurse, Oncologists, Doctors and Nurses at the RUH in Bath and at my local GP surgery are outstanding. I am in complete awe of the NHS and the work they do. I am fortunate to have them as they and the organisations in the dance world have saved my life.
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