DIY Dance Series with Bianca Paige Smith

DIY Dance Series with Bianca Paige Smith

How can we maintain a sustainable career as an independent artist?

Interview with Bianca Paige Smith

How can we maintain a sustainable career as an Independent Artist? Get inspired by the words of Bianca Paige Smith, a multi-artist from New Jersey who works across choreography, yoga, writing and painting to express the values of community and support. Since 2017, she has been touring her duet, “Two Can Do”, and currently she is creating a new platform – B. Create. – dedicated to the performing and the healing arts.

“I think that we can make dance more accessible by reminding everybody that it’s already a universal language. And for us artists, I feel that it’s our responsibility to avoid monopolizing the language.”

Who are you?

My name is Bianca Paige Smith and I am from New Jersey, which is in the United States. I am 29-years old and I am a Scorpio – I love being a Scorpio!

What is your contribution to your local contemporary dance scene?

There are so many of us travelling to New York to be part of the dance scene there, but I think my contribution is different because when I think about “Two Can Do”, my biggest creation right now, most of that happens here in New Jersey – where we have rehearsals, where we have our galas, where we’ve performed. But when I think about my artistic contribution as a dancer, I do most of my work in New York. I also work between here and Ireland with Two Can Do. I’ve been giving opportunities to people in this scene, not only in this area but even in other countries through an internship program… Yeah, I didn’t think about it until now, but I think it’s a pretty big contribution to the scene – and not only my local scene. I’m always trying to give opportunities to others, which is a big part of my contribution.

What is the most positive point of working in two different countries and with two different cultures?

It’s about how much it requires me to listen. I think that being part of two completely different communities requires me to listen because things are constantly changing in the arts field and trying to keep up with what’s happening in two different places requires me to be paying attention to what’s on now and how I can relate to it. Also, to understand how I can continue contributing while maintaining my integrity as an artist or in a way that is valuable and appropriate to what’s happening – wherever I am and where I’m engaging.

How do you keep a sustainable career as an independent artist in the New York Metropolitan Area?

What has helped me to do it is to believe that it doesn’t have to be hard. There are a lot of stories saying that once you decide to become an artist, there’s only one way to do it and that way is hard and you’re gonna starve or you will get zero recognition – well, that’s not true! So, I would say that how I sustain my career is by focusing 95% on what goes on inside of me and then 5% on what’s going on outside. I’m constantly going back to my beliefs and questioning them which is allowing me to continue. I used to believe that taking a job like babysitting or going to work at a restaurant was like the ultimate killer of the soul and that I was only an artist if everything I was doing was arts-related. And there was a time when everything I was doing was arts-related: in Ireland, I was teaching dance, I was working on “Two Can Do”, I was teaching at the university… But when I moved back home, I had to question my beliefs again. Everyone believes that there are so many opportunities in New York and you can do anything you want in America – but it’s not exactly like that! For me, this is the land of “how the hell do you do these things?” So, I had to question my beliefs once again and that story of the starving artist… Was that true? Is it true for me? And once I started working my way through it, I brought “Two Can Do” back into my life and within months we were performing in New York City on Broadway, we were having a Gala and going back on tour in Ireland. And now we have this internship program and we’re turning it into something even bigger! Nothing about my external circumstances changed until I did.

To me, that is the biggest piece of advice I can give through my experience is just be willing to constantly examine your beliefs and choose the best one. Give yourself that opportunity because you deserve that, you deserve to believe that you can have a beautiful successful career and it doesn’t matter how you make your art as long as you, inside, feel like ‘I am an artist, I’m a creative’. And you are!


In which ways does your work ‘Two Can Do’ reveal what it means to be an independent artist?

I’ve been making choreography since 2012 and I made Two Can Do in 2017. From the beginning, I wanted to tell stories through true movement. And that’s how I’ve started. There are so many things we can talk about as human beings, things that we’ve done in this life, things that we’ve all experienced. I felt that dance was such a powerful language to express those stories. WhenI got the opportunity to make “Two Can Do” I realized I didn’t need to tell the story. I realized that everybody has their own story and maybe I can provide a place for people to see their own stories. So there’s no common experience. Even though we’re all there at the same time, we can honour our different perceptions of it. And I think that reveals a lot about being an independent artist because that’s how we are. Each independent artist is unique and I think “Two Can Do” holds the space for people to be there as themselves and to take whatever they wanna take from it and leave the rest.

Do you’ve any advice for emerging artists?

This is my advice: get clear about what you believe but also about how you work and what you need to support your journey. When it comes to dancing specifically, I think believing is huge because you need to get clear on what you believe about yourself. If you want to succeed in achieving things that you want to experience in your career, you have to be the biggest supporter of yourself.

In your opinion, how does dance become a more accessible language for everyone?

Honestly, I think it’s by the way that we talk about dance. Does the way we talk about dance turn people off? Some of the things that we say about what dance is or what they might experience in a show or what a performance is like… Does that make people feel like ‘oh I don’t understand that language and this isn’t for me?’. I think that we can make dance more accessible by reminding everybody that it’s already a universal language. And for us artists, I feel that it’s our responsibility to avoid monopolizing the language. Of course, I understand that it takes a level of skill and expertise to be working in dance and we deserve to be accredited and respected for that. But the purpose of art is to be experienced, shared in community. So dance becomes more accessible by the way that we set the tone, the example – how we talk about it, how we allow ourselves to experience it and how we express that experience to other people.


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Written by Ines Carvalho

Ines advocates contemporary dance in different forms. She strives to create a more accessible language for dance by working as a marketing communications coordinator.

Posted June 8, 2020

Listed in: Interviews


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