The dance industry in Nigeria is very unpredictable. It’s a risky choice for dancers, who are not very popular, to solely depend on performances for their livelihood. If you do get performances often, the pay is not very good. In most cases, you’d end up a backup dancer along with 5-10 other dancers who are also depending on that performance for their livelihood. Jobs like that don’t pay very well. The money given is basically a token, it’s not a paid gig. So I steer clear from situations like that.
The most reasonable thing to do would be to teach dance. I know a lot of successful dance teachers who prefer to teach dance in Nigerian schools than perform in Nigeria. It is reliable and sometimes, it pays more than a performance would. So for the past year, I’ve been accommodating two jobs. Two jobs as a dance teacher. In two different states. Kaduna state and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I would spend my time in Kaduna teaching ballet and a little bit of contemporary dance in schools and then on Wednesday mornings, I would get on the train to Abuja so that I can teach a 2pm class and spend the rest of the week in Abuja.
The consequence of having two jobs in two different states was that I wasn’t getting a lot of time to train and improve. I would get too involved with teaching and travelling that I would forget that I had to train. Time went by so fast. I was barely present. Goals that I would set for the month were left unattended to and unaccomplished.
Now, this would not have been a problem if I didn’t have the goal of being a professional contemporary dancer. If all I wanted to do was teach dance, it would have been fine. But I wanted to do more than teach, I wanted to become the most prominent contemporary dancer in Africa. And as I saw the decline in my progress, I was worried. Especially since I was already dealing with the stigma of being an adult dancer who started late. It would kill me to find out that despite the fact that I was barely executing routines and techniques but I was also not improving.
So, with that fear in mind, I started playing with the idea of letting go of my job in Kaduna state. The pay was okay. It was even better than my job in Abuja. But I thought about all the benefits of my job in Abuja. I got a studio to practice. It was fully equipped with mirrors and ballet barres, plus I would have more time on my hands to really train and work on stuff that I needed to work on. I spoke to a few people about it and most of them supported me, thinking I was looking for a better job. They brought up suggestions about how Abuja was a bigger and more developed city. They were even confident that I could get paid way more for teaching full time here because I would have more clients. When I told them that I didn’t plan on looking for another teaching job, they were skeptical. A few of them understood but they were insistent on me advertising and promoting myself more. I just wasn’t interested in another teaching job.
The decision to start all over again came with an enormous amount of responsibility and dedication. It needed hours and hours of hard work in the studio. And at that point, I didn’t have the hours that I needed. I wanted to focus on that and improve myself for the future I see myself in.
So I did it. I quit my second job in Kaduna state. It was hard because more than half of my financial earnings were coming from this job. But was it worth it? Was it worth the decline in my improvement? I knew it had to be done. I spent my nights thinking about the next step, praying for a big break or something. I don’t remember if I cried, but I know that I was scared. What if I made a mistake? Can I still get the job back? What if the training doesn’t pay off? Was I stupid to take such a big risk? What if I never become a professional dancer? What if I stuck as a mediocre dancer?
My mind was boggled with all these questions. I couldn’t sleep. I was conflicted. I was torn. Did I make the right decision?