"You have to build your new career brick by brick"

Rebecca Lee graduated from Doreen Bird College in 2001 and began her dancing career in musical theatre. She was fortunate enough to work on some great shows and meet amazing life-long friends. Her dance career was fairly diverse which led her to work with very interesting, different artists, including shows such as On The Town, Mary Poppins, White Christmas, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Hello Dolly.

"I initially transitioned into working as an agent in a commercial dance agency. I was here for two and a half years and learnt a lot, but I also learnt that this wasn't for me for various reasons.

I had always had a passion for photography and I wanted to be in charge of my new career which led me on to study the art of photography specialising in head shots for performers and actors. This way I could use the knowledge and contacts that I had made throughout my career as a dancer in sculpturing my new career, combining art and business.

There were two main reasons that contributed to my transition from dancer to photographer. One was my age, and a change in life circumstances - I was in my early thirties and about to get married and move to Jersey in the Channel Islands. There is very little work here for professional dancers, but that was alright because I had already made a decision to stop dancing and transition into a new career when I became a dance agent. The second reason was that I was ready to be more in control of my career and I wanted to build a path that combined art with flexibility - and photography was the way for me to do this.

I heard of Dancers' Career Development from friends who had previously benefited from their support so my first point of call was a phone conversation with Ellen Chambers, Grants and Careers Officer, and before long a meeting was arranged for me to talk about my future ideas. The most important benefit I received from these meetings was that it was the first time I had said my ideas out loud to somebody who listened and understood and was prepared to help me in every way they could to make this into a reality. These meetings helped me work out what the next step was.

I started seeing Isabel Mortimer for life coaching sessions through DCD. She is incredible at her job and her sessions mainly gave me the confidence to believe in myself and see the transition as a positive step. Her understanding and support is so valuable.

I was also put in touch with a retired dancer, Tim Cross, who had transitioned into becoming a photographer - this was another very important part of the support I received from DCD. Tim was able to advise me on so many technical attributes involved in becoming a photographer. His knowledge was priceless and I am still in touch with him today, keeping him up to date on my progress and asking his advice.

So along with Ellen, who really helped me put practical steps in place, Tim, the photographer whom the DCD put me in touch with, and Isabel, who really helped me emotionally move forward in a positive way, I felt like I had the support I needed to start my transition. They were all always at the end of a phone or email if I wanted to talk through something.

With the help of Ellen's advice I submitted an application for a Financial Retraining Grant. This was turned down the first time, but again with the positive support and feedback my second application was successful and helped me fund part of the equipment I needed to continue with my photography transition.

The most helpful thing I learnt was that you are not alone in your transition. This really came to light when I attended the EVOLVE workshop. This was full of people who had already transitioned from a dancer into another career, were in the process of transitioning, or at the beginning of their dancing career but wanting to put things in place for their future. The atmosphere here was very relaxed and positive and you left feeling motivated.

The other important thing I learnt was that there is no rush to transition - this process will take as long as it needs to - you have to build your new career brick by brick and the DCD will support you through every step if you need to lean on them."

To discuss how we can support you, please contact Ellen Chambers, Grants and Careers Officer, on ellen@thedcd.org.uk or 020 7831 1449.

You can support a dancer like Rebecca to navigate career transition through the boundless appeal