The differences between dancing in Europe and New York City

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Pre-professional dancer Jennifer Kohli writes from New York where she’s travelled from Switzerland for ballet training and shares her experience of the two countries.

Growing up in Switzerland with frequent travels to New York City to visit family and further my ballet training, I have noticed that many things are the same, but not everything…

One of the most striking characteristics about dancers in NYC is their passion and dedication to their art form. Each day they bring an energy and eagerness to learn into the studio which is amazing to me and very inspiring! There seems to be an incredible level of energy in the capital city, which is on another level to my hometown in Switzerland.

I don’t exactly know why this is, perhaps it’s just the big apple, the extra competitiveness in the city that never sleeps, where dancers have to fight harder for contracts that don’t seem to be as secure as some offered in Europe.

Another difference I’ve felt is the amount of (paid and unpaid) dance opportunities, projects, gigs and training available. I don’t know how it is in all of the different European cities, but definitely in Switzerland the dance scene is pretty small. It’s hard to even find professional level ballet classes.

Ballet New York
Photo: Jennifer Kohli

In Bern, the capital of Switzerland and the closest city to my hometown, there are no regular professional open classes – one has to travel as far as Zürich, Lausanne or Basel to find them.

I know this isn’t the case for every city in Europe, because places like London and Berlin certainly have a lot more to offer. But from my experience, I think nothing quite compares to the diversity of New York City.

In NYC there are great teachers, opportunities and classes around every corner. This is why a lot of dancers move to NYC to pursue a freelance career, which on the flip side makes the job search a very competitive one.

It is definitely great for a dancer to experience the excitement and inspiration of NYC once in their career, but perhaps that kind of day-to-day competition isn’t for everyone.

As you can see, there are some differences between the big US dance capital and a smaller European city. But because the dance world is fairly small and connected I think it is easier to adapt and share our views and experiences across the borders. And besides, as dancers we are pretty ‘flexible’ anyway, aren’t we?! ????