Finding Work/Life Balance as an Artist

I was supposed to write this post a month ago. I gave myself a deadline of April 9th, 2018. I am late because I am juggling a lot. As Artistic Director, I manage communications, grant writing, artistic projects, internship program and the dance education programming. I also work full-time in the College of Fine Arts at UT-Austin and part-time at Dancers Shape. I am also President of Emerging Arts Leaders of Austin. To top the cake, I begin obtaining my MFA in Dance in less than two months at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In between all of that, I fly home to Florida every two months to hug my family, volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas once a week, and try to maintain a social life. I love bubble baths while binge watching Forensic Files, working out, cooking, baking, hammocking, hiking and basically staying outside 24/7 when the temps are 75 degrees plus.

In the past month, I forgot to pick up thank you cards for Amplify Austin donors and I obviously have delayed writing this blog post. I have bailed on a couple of professional development events I should have been at but decided to take a nap instead. I have a load of laundry sitting on my bedroom floor that needs to be folded and put away but instead it is blending into the dirty clothes pile and I am starting to be unsure of which is which. I don’t have it all together all the time – or rather, any of the time but I do think I have set guidelines for myself to find work/life balance as a practicing artist and arts administrator that have worked well for me. Why is this a priority to me? I want to set myself up for a sustainable arts career and thriving life – one free of burn out in both areas.

If you are looking to find better ways to juggle work and life and/or avoid burnout, I hope you can find the guidelines I use helpful.

People over projects

I strongly offer this advice: Make time for people over your projects. Your projects will come and go but the people in your life will be with you forever. I am not saying all people – your stylist, cashier, or girl scout cookie dealer. I am saying YOUR people – the people that you need quality time or communication with in order to thrive as a person and as an arts professional. For me, that is my immediate family and about three close friends. I can promise you that you will feel more fulfilled and energized in your creative work when you make quality time for your people. Your relationships will feel richer as well.


Know how your personal needs affect your professional needs. Your personal needs will be entirely different than mine and they may even affect your creative practice differently than me. I will share mine as an example.

  1. I need to communicate with and/or see my closest family and friends frequently. I find myself more focused in my artistic work when I am able to flush out my day and ask for advice when needed from my closest family and friends.
  2. I need time outdoors (hiking, hammocking, being at the pool, etc.). I am able to approach my artistic work rejuvenated when I have been under the sun.
  3. I need drive time. I have always found that I am able to think, process, reflect, and create better when I am behind the wheel than anywhere else. I purposefully live about 25 minutes away from work so I can have this time.
  4. I need to cook/bake. It’s therapeutic to me. I also feel healthier. I also save money by cooking myself and therefore, can outsource expenses elsewhere for things that I do not have time to do.

If I am lacking in any of these areas, I find my artistic work suffers for it. I am less creative, less motivated, and actually feel more drained. Either way, we both need to acknowledge our personal needs and the effect they can have on our creative practice.

Say no

We often think that people are going to get hurt if we say no to them, but I find more often people are actually understanding and appreciate your honesty – in fact, they might even look up to you for it.

If you feel you need to say no to a potential obligation, that is enough of a reason. You do not have to reserve “no’s” for when you have other commitments solely. Saying no to an obligation can mean yes to yourself, your relationships, or your personal creative practice if you have been spending your time elsewhere.

Set boundaries

  1. Unless it is an emergency, I generally do not respond to emails after 5 PM (from any of my works) OR I read them but respond the next day. I also try to refrain from responding on the weekends if possible.
  2. If I have company in town or if I am planning a trip, I notify everyone that I am “out-of-office” – even if I plan on working a bit so that no one is expecting anything from me.
  3.     Have many hats but only wear one at a time. I am the daughter of two real estate owners. I grew up around dinners of not just casual “here’s how my day went” talk, but actual work meetings. If boundaries are not set and met, at least within moderation, it can lead to burnout of either work or relationships – sometimes even both. When hanging socially with Dance Waterloo colleagues, I generally try to not bring up business. Small talk about DW is bound to happen, but if any of us needs to start pulling out a notepad and pen, that’s when it is time to save it for a meeting.

I hope you find these guidelines helpful in your quest to practice work/life balance in the arts. If you are an arts leader, I hope you will also encourage your employees to implement modes of work/life balance. We are not art making machines. We are humans with souls, desires, and goals both within our craft and out – both must be fostered. Dance Waterloo experiences a higher retention rate among hired artists when they are free and encouraged to communicate and implement modes of work/life balance.

Most importantly, keep in mind that your work/life balance will not always be a true equal balance of all your time – and it shouldn’t be! But setting boundaries, saying no when needed, prioritizing personal needs, and remembering to make time for your people over your projects can help you determine where your time should be spent and when.


morgan modern dance event austin

Morgan Teel

Artistic Director & Founder

Dance Waterloo

2017-2018 Season Audition FAQ’s

How many dancers are you looking for?

We generally cast around five to six dancers. We like to keep it a bit flexible.

How much will dancers be compensated?

We are doing something new this season. Dancers are compensated hourly for rehearsals and performance. Hourly amount is based on a combination of experience and seniority.

What is required in the contract?

Dancers are required to take at least 50% of our technique classes and at least 50% of our community program classes. Dancers are required to attend all rehearsals on time. Dancers are allowed one absence per dance they are casted in. Dancers must be available for all performances.

When are the rehearsals and performances?

We are doing something new this season. Auditions and Company Members will be Announced in August. Technique classes are September-December. Rehearsals are January-May. Our rehearsal calendar will be set around October. The calendar will be based off of company members casted. Performances are May 17-20, 2018.

What will the audition be like?

For starters, you should submit your audition materials (headshot and resume). They are due to by August 26th at 6 PM. That is a firm deadline. We like to thoroughly read through materials beforehand so we can see you actually dance at the audition. We will start with an introduction of Dance Waterloo followed by a warmup, directional pattern, technique, improvisational task, phrase work, and end with a Q & A where you can ask us anything (& we mean anything!)

I do not see the answer to my question. Who can I contact?

Us, duh! Shoot us an email at We’re pretty fast at responses.

Small Organizations, Big Impact

Amplify Austin starts tomorrow, and we couldn’t be more excited! If you are new to Austin or just now hearing about the big day, Amplify Austin is a 24-hour period dedicated to citizens giving back to organizations & charities that make our city a better place. Whether you have attended one of our performances or been to one of our programs, we hope we have made an impact on the way you view and live in this city! Amplifying Dance Waterloo means we can continue to produce unconventional dance performance and programming for the Austin community.

In addition to education, public space, and collaboration, community is also a vital tenet to Dance Waterloo. We believe that the Austin community is brought together through art and as citizens we should continue foster the creative growth of Austin. We also believe in the community supporting small organizations. If you’re also looking for other organizations to check out and support during Amplify Austin, here are our top picks – they are small organizations with big hearts and an even bigger impact on the city.

  1. Something for Nothing Theater

Who they are:

Something for Nothing Theater is a theater company founded in 2012. The company operates on a shoestring budget and produces Shakespeare plays in Austin’s own Ramsey Park.

What they’re about:

The Shakespeare plays Something for Nothing produces are available to members of the Austin community and are family-friendly. The company transforms the plays into creative experiences by using original music and dynamic staging.

Why we love them:

Something for Nothing focuses on improvisation and collaboration. At Dance Waterloo, we value these aspects as essential parts of the creative process and encourage the Austin community to support all forms of collaborative art.


  1. Austin Emerging Arts Leaders

Who they are:

The Austin Emerging Arts Leaders is the local chapter of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network.

What they’re about:

Austin EAL strives to support and cultivate Austin’s artists who are just getting started in their careers. The organization helps different types of art professionals by providing both networking and knowledge sharing opportunities for members. The Austin EAL supports the Austin early-career art community by focusing on professional development throughout all art professions and disciplines.

Why we love them:

Dance Waterloo aims to educate the Austin community through different types of dance programming. We believe that education is an enlightening experience that is essential for the creative process. Education of early-career art professionals is key for Austin’s artistic community to continue to thrive. Also, our Artistic Director if Vice President of EAL!


  1. Girls Performance and Advocacy

Who they are:

Girls Performance and Advocacy is a performing arts and empowerment program that offers an opportunity for Austin girls to develop creativity by finding their own voice.

What they’re about:

Girl’s Performance and Advocacy strives to teach girls in the Austin community leadership skills, confidence, and assertiveness. The main goal of GPA is to educate each girl about her own value while teaching performers important skills through singing performances.

Why we love them:

Cultivating leadership is an important goal for many artistic disciplines, including dance. At Dance Waterloo, we strive to educate the community and our dancers in leadership, creativity, and self-expression.


Amplifying small organizations goes a really long way. Give back to the city that gives to you and Amplify Austin this week. AMPLIFY DANCE WATERLOO HERE. 

By Jasmine Crowley

Administrative Assistant

Dance Waterloo

4 Things You Need To Know Before Panorama Playground


Dance Waterloo’s upcoming performance will be one of whimsy and play. I had the pleasure of attending one of the final rehearsals before you all get to experience the magic on January 28 and 29. I must tell you, as a person untrained in dance and a curious observer I hadn’t the vaguest idea what I was witnessing. Panorama Playground, the vision brought to life by choreographers Morgan Teel and Rachael Hulse, is a piece performed in collaboration with an exhibition called Hurlyburly, ​on view at 74 Trinity Street, near the Boathouse at the Waller Creek Delta.

To my untrained eye the performance appeared whimsical, challenging, and creative. The type of movement I saw on the hills of Hurlyburly peaked my curiosity about intent, inspiration, and how as an audience member I can absorb everything there is to offer from such an experience. I interviewed the dancers and have shared their answers with you here, so that you too can have the best possible experience with this unique piece.

1. What is Hurlyburly?


Hurlyburly is an installation piece created by Orly Genger, a New York City-based artist and designer, created by hand-knotting hundreds of feet of repurposed lobster rope. But since it also looks like a gallery piece, it can have a confusing effect on viewers. Rachael, upon her first encounter with the installation, was unsure how close is too close when it comes to this massive exhibition. I experienced the same trepidation, initially. But fear not, it was the artist’s intention for Hurlyburly to be interactive and durable art, meant for children and adults alike to play upon if they wish. For choreographers, the texture of the rope, the environment created by the hills, and the topography of the location are what makes the installation interesting as a space for deliberate and choreographed movement. It is not without its own challenges, however. For Paige Edwards, a dancer with DW, ​the biggest challenge with this project has been “the physicality necessary to make the movement look stable yet free at the same time. Rolling hills of crab net is not the easiest on your body while laying on your back, running, or trying to balance.” Experiential learning had to take place quickly once the choreography moved from the studio to the performance location.

2. What can I expect when I get there?

Another unique feature of this performance is the option for each audience member to listen to their own playlist while watching the performance. Modelled after the silent disco, where people dance to music they listen to on wireless headphones, each audience member will be provided a set of multichannel headphones, from which they can choose three different playlists while they watch the show. Or, if you’re not a fan of DJ’ing your own experience, you’re more than welcome to forego the headphones and listen to the music played on the speaker.

3. What are the dancers thinking while they perform?


According to choreographer and executive director Rachael Hulse, she pulls inspiration from the uneven landscape: “when I’m moving through the improvised piece, my body tends to fall different directions based on where I am on each hill. I have to make a choice to either submit to gravity or combat it. Running, sliding, jumping..I am using my body to trace the shapes of what I perceive. I’ll explain it like this: if you were to lay a piece of vellum over Hurlyburly, my goal is to mimic the shapes with my body.” For Paige, her​ inspiration comes from living in Austin and taking in all of the beautiful aspects of the culture, topography, people, art, and architecture. She says “as dancers in the show, we constantly interact together and separately – those moments to me represent the sporadic and sometimes deliberate lengthy or short encounters that happen everyday in Austin. It’s the beautiful quirky randomness that happens everyday here.”

4. What should I hope to get from this performance?

I’ll let Rachael answer this one–“I want the audience to come away with a renewed sense of curiosity; I want them to wonder what the heck is going on, but I want that reaction to transfer to viewing their everyday environments differently. It’s playful, it’s quirky, and it’s a conglomeration of experiences we’ve seen other people have at Hurlyburly. People come to exercise, they come to play–we came up with the name “Panorama Playground” after what we saw from the top of Hurlyburly. If you take a 360 degree twirl at the top you get a view of what Austin really is. We try to capture what we’ve seen both in Hurlyburly and the playground.” We have provided an element for everyone–whether you enjoy music, enjoy the outdoors, watching dance, or just enjoying a hot beverage. This event is family friendly, so don’t feel like you have to stand still; move, talk, sing as you find most comfortable and engaging to you.

So, bring a friend, grab a pair of our headphones, get a drink, relax and prepare for a fun experience at Panorama Playground. We hope you enjoy. You can reserve your headsets in advance here.


Kelsey Hulse

Assistant Blog Editor

Dance Waterloo