An Inside Look At Life As A Professional Dancer

Dance Culture

An Inside Look At Life As A Professional Dancer

Charise Roberts
January 25, 2021
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How many of you reading this are pursuing a career as a professional dancer? And how many of you are simply enjoying it as a side hobby?

No doubt there are plenty of those in our community who have either objective, but most likely, the answer is not so black and white.

When it comes to our involvement and commitment to dance, there's a whole spectrum dancers find themselves in.

A place that moves in fluxx, according to our changing interests and goals.

Some of us wanted to dance for a living and ended up finding passion for a completely different industry.

Some tried out for a collegiate team on a whim, in their freshman year of college, and graduated as dance majors.

Some find a career path related to dance through their contributions to their teams, (such as graphic design, videography, social media marketing, etc.) that opens their eyes to a different future that still stems from, or gives back to dance.

Can you imagine, though, if you were to commit to a life of being a professional dancer?

Not only the demand it would have on your body (and mind!), but the lifestyle, the culture, the amount of dedication it would require?

ODC, based in the San Francisco's Mission District, is a contemporary dance company that was formed in 1971 by Artistic Director Brenda Way at Oberlin College in Ohio (hence the name, Oberlin Dance Collective).

We love our pals at ODC for continually finding creative, innovative, and effective ways to make an impact on the Bay Area dance community – for over 45 years strong!

They make their moves (with their moves) through their world-class dance company, a professional, pre-professional, and recreational dance training program, a Healthy Dancer’s Clinic, and a nationally regarded presenting venue – all which live at the beautiful ODC campus of eight studios, 2 performance venues and several office suites.

A relatively newer member to ODC's family, Alec Guthrie, has a background in tap, jazz, and ballet from an early age.

He was introduced to hip hop through The Company in the Bay Area, and when he moved down to Southern California to attend UC Irvine (for a BFA in Dance), he joined the community team CADC, for which he was a captain his second year.

Alec auditioned for and joined ODC last September, and has since been relishing in the journey as a professional dancer. His two cents on the community / professional lyfe? Read on to find out.

"Being on hip hop teams like CADC or The Company's junior team, APT, were amazing experiences. Dancing full time in a contemporary company, however, is very different." - Alec

Community Dancer / Professional Dancer

Stage Time:

ODC is able to create entire evenings of work, and the dancers must be able to perform an hour's worth of dancing.

On a hip hop team, typically you rehearse for nearly the same amount of time, but your performance is usually capped around 6-10 minutes.


On CADC, we would rehearse in parking garages, on the cement, from around 9 pm to as late as 6 or 7 am. Of course, on ODC, we have our nice sprung floors.

The Purpose:

On CADC, We did not dance for a paycheck. In fact, we often had to spend money to contribute to costumes, travel fees, competition entrance fees, etc.

We danced because we loved doing it and we love the people we are doing it with.

At ODC, I still love dancing, and I love the people I get to dance with, but there is a formality there.

Hip hop has truly strengthened my knowledge and skills as a dancer in ways that many other forms don't teach as well.

See Related Article: How to Transition into the Dance Community As A Trained Dancer

What The Hip-Hop Community Can Learn From Professional Dancers

"I think that the hip hop community should try to create more shows that are not competitions.

Hip hop has always been a very community driven dance style, much more so than ballet or contemporary, and so I think if different teams can work together to put on amazing showcases like Urban Paradise, not only can the teams grow tremendously, but they will further propel the hip hop scene."

What Professional Dancers Can Learn From The Hip-Hop Community

"I actually think the professional concert dance world could learn a lot more from the hip hop community than people realize.

The hip hop community is extremely good at utilizing social media and self-branding in a way that the professional concert world is afraid of investigating for a variety of reasons.

Times are going to change though, and I hope we can get to a point where concert dance and hip hop can be considered equals in every way."

See Related Article: 5 Ways A Contemporary Dance Class Can Make You Better

ODC's Downtown Gala

Every year, ODC celebrates the new season with a dinner, performance, and after party. Check below and the event page for more details!"It's going to be like one big party that celebrates dance as an art and helps demonstrate the importance of dance in our community." - Alec


Friday, March 18, 2016 | St. Regis Hotel & YBCA

Celebrate the new season of fearless and exuberant artistry with a sensational dinner at the St. Regis followed by an exhilarating performance of world premieres at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, featuring Brenda Way’s Walk Back the Cat,  KT Nelson’s new work Going Solo for the exceptional Private Freeman, and Kimi Okada’s humorous I look vacantly at the Pacific… though regret.

Afterwards join ODC dancers, choreographers, collaborating dancers, and fellow art enthusiasts at a glamorous After-Party in the St. Regis.

5:15 pm Cocktails

6:00 pm Dinner8:00 pm Performance

9:30 pm After-Party

Tickets start at $150

ODC has been nice enough to give us 2 tickets for the show and afterparty! If you're free this Friday, enter your email below for a chance to win!

Enter your email for a chance to win!

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