Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Don't deny who you are. Just find a way to make it work.

The most interesting opportunities come from the most random of places.  I just got home from an incredibly exciting interview/meeting with a woman who has figured out the dance holy grail: making your knowledge of the needs and wants of professional dance companies lucrative.  I'm not going to spill the beans on what she's doing, but let's just say that she gets to keep dancing, choreographing, making connections, and she will get to travel the world doing it.  We'll call her P.

P was looking for a virtual assistant to help with the planning necessary for launching the company's website and its first round of fundraising.  She hopped on Craigslist's resume postings, searched the keyword 'dance', and up popped my resume.  We communicated via email for a bit, then had a great (albeit a bit giggly) phone conversation, and yesterday I met up with her and the president of her board in north Oakland for a face-to-face interview.  The interview quickly turned into a business planning meeting and, suffice it to say, I am incredibly excited.

When I stopped dancing professionally, I first assumed that I was just going to pop into the administrative office at some ballet company and make a new career for myself.  Months later, after leaving a dance performance during intermission for the umpteenth time because I was crying too much, I felt as though it was impossible for me to ever work in the field again.  Watching these companies that were doing work I could no longer do made me feel like a giant (giant meaning both major and obese) failure.  I stopped watching for openings at places like the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and San Francisco Ballet, and went the opposite direction: Silicon Valley tech companies.

If you've been reading my blog, you know how the new goal went.  Not very well.  Not that I failed completely, as the recruitment process is still in motion, but I'm not very optimistic anymore.

What excited me about talking with P yesterday is that she's approaching a new dance venture in the right way: with an entrepreneurial spirit, and with business sense.  My expertise comes in because I've worked with a huge range of dance organizations, including large foundations, schools, established companies imploding on themselves, small companies doing the right thing to become established, and small companies that never should have become anything in the first place.  I know what works, and what doesn't.  Since I consider myself to be rather equal parts 'artist' and 'business mind', I can see both sides of these dance organizations and why they are failing or doing well.  And P was smart enough to be able to see this from my resume.

Perhaps the smartest thing that P is doing is actively playing off of her strengths and weaknesses, and acquiring more people as a result of them.   She has grabbed someone good at all of the legal red tape and the 'corporate speak', someone with great connections for fundraising, people with international connections, people with the necessary language skills, etc.  I've been grabbed for my experience in dance PR, the building of a dance company 'brand', and my almost sickening love for figuring out the logistics of things like events and travel.  I'm not being counted on for operating any of my weaknesses, the most crippling of which being the fact that I'm still mourning the loss of my dance career.

This is a huge opportunity for me, because I'm getting in on the ground level of a venture that I think could actually work.  I'm getting to do what I want and what I'm good at.  I get to work from home, making my own hours, which still allows me to pursue other career interests and eventually my MBA.  The BEST part is that I am removed enough from the actual dancing; this unique situation is going to allow me to get bitten by the entrepreneurial bug while keeping me involved in dance in a way that I can handle it.

What feels so fulfilling right now is that I know that, for a few hours every week, I won't need to deny a huge part of 'me' anymore.


Milena said...

I have a question for you, but didn't find a contact button, here's mine:

Susan said...

Isn't it funny how life works? Call it destiny or fate or whatever...but through some action of your own, something else happens. And, as it is, that something else is usually positive. I'm thrilled that this opportunity has presented itself for you, and wish you the best of luck on your (ad)venture.