I started working for DCD in March 2018. I had spent the previous 7 years, all my working life in fact, working for the Church of England. I was a verger, a rather unique role in the Church which acts as a sort of stage manager. Much like dance this sort of job is often called vocational – it’s something you are called to do. I would go to work in a 17th century grade 1 listed building, put on my black wool cassock and spend my days whizzing around lofty churches.
Before coming to London and starting work as a verger I did an internship with Communitas, the learning arm of Community Union, a successor to the Steel Workers Trade Union. Communitas was established to retrain the huge numbers of people made redundant from the various steel works across Rotherham, Sheffield and Scunthorpe in the early 1990s. Steel workers faced challenges unique to their circumstances – many of them had walked into jobs from leaving school with no qualifications, all of their neighbours worked in the same factory and their whole social lives revolved around the steel industry in one way or another.
However as workers much of their needs were the same as dancers; they drew their identity from their work, it was the only thing that they knew, many had been forced into early retirement through injury and fundamentally when they were made redundant they were left feeling confused and disorientated.
It wasn’t until starting work at DCD that I reflected on both these experiences, my own ongoing transition and those of steel workers in South Yorkshire. The change for me personally was both practical, like not being on my feet all day or no longer having a ‘uniform’ and less tangible, like leaving behind a piece of who I was.
Each person’s individual transition is different but much of the above will be relatable to dancers reaching the end of their performing lives. It can be unsettling and scary at times but DCD is here every step of the way to help dancers undertake one of the biggest changes in their life. All workers, especially those who have dedicated their lives to a vocation, struggle with adjustment and go through a transition at one time or another. However hard changing careers might seem, the thing that I took away from the above is that transition is achievable, rewarding and a shared experience. The one unique thing about dancers is they have DCD at their disposal.