Brooke Barlow is both a singularly skilled dancer and choreographer as well as a Creative Manager. She has built a long-lasting professional relationship with Celebrity Cruises Entertainment, for whom she has worked as a Dance Captain and Associate Choreographer on many occasions, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Barlow.
In contrast to a subset of professional dancers, Barlow doesn’t limit her passion for performance to her native Australia or any other country. She has performed internationally for much of her career, taking on the challenge of wowing audiences from many different cultural backgrounds.
As with so many creative industries, professional dance is fiercely competitive and if a career is standing still, it could spell disaster for the performer. It’s not too surprising, then, that Barlow has pushed herself to be more as a dancer and do more with her career.
In our recent interview with Barlow, she shared some very valuable advice, not just for dancers, but for musicians and all sorts of other performing artists as well.
Welcome to Vents! First up, we’d like to hear about the first dance job that allowed you to perform internationally. Were you excited about the opportunity? Maybe a little nervous?
Thank you for having me! My first international job was for Celebrity Cruises. I had graduated from my full-time dance course two months prior to receiving the offer and was beyond excited. That being said, it was also the first time I would be living away from home, so that part of it made me a little nervous. I feel like sometimes when you finally get something you have wanted so badly and have dreamt about for years, excitement and nervousness come hand in hand!
Do you think young dancers should avoid specializing in a specific style of dance? Are there advantages to sticking to one style of dance?
There are advantages to being exceptional in a specific style. You would definitely be giving yourself the tools to stand out in an audition for that specific genre if you concentrate all your time and energy there. However, in my opinion, it is much smarter to develop skills in a variety of genres. By doing so, you make yourself much more marketable and open yourself up to a wider variety of jobs. I call myself a ‘jack of all trades’ and that has served me well in my career thus far.
If a dancer at the student level is interested in choreography as well, how soon should they actually try to choreograph a routine?
Choreography comes to people in different ways. Some people see a routine in their head when they listen to a piece of music, others are inspired by the energy of others when in a studio. My advice would be to start playing around with a variety of different things as soon as you feel the desire to do so. Start by working on some stuff on your own and then you can progress by asking friends to come and learn some combinations you’ve put together. Sometimes things end up looking different from the vision you had in your head so it’s important to be adaptable and willing to try different things.
What do you think was the biggest benefit of your formal dance training?
There were so many benefits, I’m not sure I could distinguish which was the biggest! Firstly, after two years of full-time dancing where I dedicated all my time and energy, my body was exceptionally conditioned and ready to walk out straight into the industry and begin working. I was lucky that all of the teachers I had during my formal course had their own professional industry experience, and they had imparted so much of their wisdom and experience on us throughout those two years. To circle back to the previous question about versatility, I feel my formal dance training really focused on that. We had classes in so many different dance styles that it was impossible not to become well versed in everything.
What has it been like to work with Celebrity Cruises? Has it been a good way to showcase your range of dance skills?
It has been absolutely incredible. I love the fact that one night I am performing a rock and roll show and the next night I have to put my flare leg pants on for a 70s disco show. Each show I have performed has showcased so many different styles, which has helped me to maintain skills and even improve in each genre. The travel aspect of waking up each morning in a different place is obviously a very welcome bonus, too.
You’re also skilled as a Creative Manager. When exactly did you start looking into that side of professional dance?
I began assistant teaching dance while I was growing up and learned from an early age that I had a fierce passion for leading a team. When I began work with Celebrity Cruises I expressed interest in leadership positions immediately and was given the role of Dance Captain on my first contract. From there I began developing my leadership style and skills as a Creative Manager.
What’s one of the best things a young dancer can do to help launch their professional career?
Be proactive. In this industry, jobs are not going to come knocking on your door! Go to classes, as many as possible, and meet people. Always introduce yourself to whoever is leading the class and be present and active in the class. You never know who is going to be in a class and you may find you can make connections and gain contacts with people who know people which leads to exciting opportunities. Self-motivation is a dancer’s greatest tool, so never stop pushing yourself to be better and put yourself out there for any opportunity that you can find.
by Giorgio Chang