So, if you’re a reader of my blog, chances are you’re like me and you have tons of friends who are dancing abroad. I’ve been around a lot of dancers lately and many of them are chatting about all the opportunities beyond the US. I contacted my good friend, Stayce Camparo, soloist with Theater Augsburg in Germany and here’s her advice about things to consider when making the jump. But first, here's more about Stayce.
Raised in Redondo Beach, California, Stayce trained in Santa Monica while participating in prestigious dance programs with School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theater, The Rock School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet where she spent two years on full scholarship in the professional division program. From 2003 to 2012, Stayce danced with the Kansas City Ballet where she worked with noted choreographers including Donald McKayle, Val Caniparolli, Robert Hill, Trey McIntyre, Jessica Lang, and Karol Armitage in various soloist and principal roles. Some of her favorites include Calliope in Balanchine’s “Apollo,” Amelia in José Limon’s “The Moore’s Pavane,” leads in Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” and “Serenade,” Jessica Lang’s “Splendid Isolation III,” and Bruce Mark’s “Lark Ascending.” In 2012, she moved to Germany to dance with Augsburg Ballett performing the lead in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Dangerous Liaisons,” and principal roles in works by Regina Van Berkel and Douglas Lee. Since joining the company she has also worked with Kevin O’Day, Maurice Causey, and Christian Spuck and choreographed on dancers for Augsburg Ballett’s “Destillation 3” evening. Stayce has participated in workshops with Alonzo King of LINES Ballet and in José Limon technique. Her choreographic commissions include pieces for Motion Dance Theater in Asheville, NC and Quixotic Fusion in Kansas City as well as choreographing pieces for Kansas City Ballet’s “In the Wings” evening three years in a row. She is also a co-choreographer for organist, Hans Davidsson choreographing and dancing in organ festivals in Sweden and Denmark. Stayce’s love for the creative process led her to develop the contemporary dance project, Exhibit Sway in 2011, lending opportunities for dancers to choreograph in a collaborative effort with local artists. Stayce continues to dance for Augsburg Ballet while finding more opportunities to choreograph around Europe.
The Ballet world may be small, but everyone seems to carve quite a different path from anyone else. I moved to Europe after 9 years of professional work at the Kansas City Ballet. My career was sustained on a classical and neoclassical repertoire (Balanchine, Robbins, Petipa). I wanted more exposure to European choreography, not only as a dancer, but as an aspiring choreographer as well. I ended up joining Augsburg Ballet; a very contemporary ballet company with nearly 90% “new creation” work/season. I packed my life into two and a half suitcases & made the move that many ballet dancers decide to make. After a year dancing in Germany and a little more German language in my vocab., I can finally reach out to those that are thinking about making the same choice and give a little advice.
Top 10 Things to Consider When Dancing Abroad:
1. Moving to Europe obviously puts you closer to European choreographers and their choreography. What you may not realize though is precisely how small the ballet world is in Europe. Because there are so many freelance choreographers in Europe, many creations are being done, and as choreographers jump around to various companies, your name goes with them once you’ve worked with them. The networking scene is so fantastic in Europe that I not only doubled my C.V, but expanded my circle to include companies in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and across Germany.
2. Moving to Germany seemed pretty exotic and dream-like when I first got the offer. Augsburg happens to be a “fairy tale” city with cobble stoned streets in the heart of Bavaria. Consider the gastronomy, though, when taking up residence in a new city. Bavaria also happens to be the capital of Bretzen and Beer. Carbohydrate temptation is difficult for me to say no to.
3. Keep in mind that regardless what theater you work in, healthcare is most probably going to be better and easier to come by than in the States. I’ve had the experience of walking into an Orthopedic Surgeons office when my neck went out and within 10 minutes had a prescription for muscle relaxers in hand.
4. It may seem pretty obvious, but make sure you really understand the entirety of living in a country where you probably don’t speak the language. Though many dancers get by without taking courses, I would advise at least learning the basics phrases of whatever country you are moving to. Especially in the first couple months you will be looking for a flat, registering for internet, getting a phone, furniture, bank account, work visa, etc. It always helps to know a little of the language.
5. Moving to Europe is very different than moving from one State in the US to another. One thing to be very conscious of is the fact that you will most likely be leaving everything behind. Your blow dryer and electric toothbrush won’t work in Europe unless you buy an adaptor and shipping costs are super expensive, especially US to Europe. I came with my clothes and a few unframed photos, but within a year I had accumulated a few European treasures that will stay with me for a lifetime.
6. It is also good to consider that once you fly over the Atlantic to your destination, you probably won’t be making the trek back for a while. Flights can be very expensive and chances are you won’t have very much time off that justifies the 6-10 hour flight. With that being said, there is a world of experience right at your doorstep if you live in Europe. Most places are incredibly accessible by train and flights within Europe can be very cheap.
7. Remember that Europe is a lot older than the States and some Theaters were built before our Constitution was even created. Though the history is grand and the decoration beautiful, some European stages are raked or incredibly hard. Dancers can easily adapt to this, but know that it may be a bit of a shock and take some time.
8. One fantastic thing about European ballet companies is that they belong to a theater, which houses the Ballet, Opera, Symphony, and in some cases, a theater group. While in the States the Ballet is usually it’s own entity, in Europe you have exposure to the other houses within the Theater. This will give you opportunities to experience other art forms, but also chances to meet other artists and possibly collaborate with them.
9. European companies will most likely have a very diverse ensemble. This is an incredibly rewarding work environment, because if it is direct exposure to other cultures. However, keep in mind, that some of the cultural nuances can seep into how one works with someone else. Tolerance comes in handy while working abroad. Keep in mind that in some companies where English is spoken, you won’t be using a wide range of vocabulary, so keep reading and keeping your English fresh and alive.
10. One last and very important thing to consider when dancing in Europe is that AGMA does not exist here. Depending on where you work, workdays and weeks could be incredibly long. I’ve had to don pointe shoes on a carpeted floor, and though the choreography was modified, I was not happy about it to say the least. It is not as scary as it sounds, but one should definitely be aware of this fact.
With all the positives and negatives I’ve encountered along the way this past year, I have to say that moving to Europe has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and for my career. Europe is rich in Art and with every turn around a corner, you can see it. Europe was the birthplace for many artistic revolutions and styles and is continuing to pave the road in artistic ingenuity. I feel incredibly lucky to not only have front row seats to this progress, but now be a part of it as well.