My Life in Pennies

Kat Sullivan_small

I met Kat J. Sullivan through meetings for thINKingDANCE, where we are both writers. She has performed with Trio C, SKI BALL, Antonia & Artists, and Anne-Marie Mulgrew & Dancers Co, in addition to working with independent artists such as Sean Thomas Boyt, Meredith Stapleton, and Evalina Carbonell. Kat’s work has been shown throughout Pennsylvania and New York, including the Come Together Festival (PHL) and the Triskelion Arts Comedy in Dance Festival (NYC). I am deeply appreciative of the insightful week of content she has curated, culminating in her oddly poetic ledger, below.

-Julius Ferraro, co-founder

I’ve been having the “money talk” with many different people in my life for a while now. I’ve asked my friends how they make ends meet as an artist without selling their souls. I’ve asked them what they do to make a livable amount, yet have enough “free” time for rehearsals, projects, workshops, etc. I’ve asked them how they do their taxes.

From what I’ve gathered from others and certainly in my own experience, performing artists do not hold down one 9 to 5 day job that covers their bills while they rehearse and perform in the evening. Rather, income is made by cobbling together odd jobs that cover not only essentials like rent, food, and transportation, but also classes, performance application fees, production fees for the self-producing, and perhaps paying your dancers/actors/etc. (Funding and grants are another beast entirely.) At the moment, I hold three consistent jobs that pay; these do not include a week of intensive rehearsals I attend once a month, writing and working on the communications team for thINKingDANCE, or other “random” sources of income. No two weeks look the same for me, and oftentimes rehearsals and other plans are scheduled at the last-ish minute. It can be exciting and it certainly keeps you on your toes (ha), but I don’t know many who scoff at the idea of some sort of financial predictability and stability. I’m currently searching for jobs that afford me decent pay but don’t require me to physically be in a place for a long time; I’ve started collecting figure modeling gigs as a result.

I love being a freelance modern dancer/choreographer, but when it comes to money, I don’t really know what I’m doing. How do we maximize our “money making time” so that we may take full advantage of our “art making time”? Let’s talk about it.

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Today was my first collaborative session with photographer Paul Taylor. I was connected with him through a dancer-friend who has been collaborating with him on dance/movement images for about a year now. In addition to being a gifted capturer-of-movement-on-film, he’s very sympathetic to the financial situation of performing artists; he pays me a bit over the regular hourly fee. Paul lives about an hour and a half away in New Jersey, and I have to stop for gas on the way back to Philly. I also hit a Starbucks for sustenance (although Paul also provided me with a few mini-Snickers and a banana for the trip).

+$: Photography session
-$: Gas, coffee and a sandwich, yoga class in the evening

Friday, February 12th, 2016

I start my day with the mid-shift at Gryphon Coffee in Kensington. This is my “non-art day job” where I make part-time hourly wage. We the employees are a scrappy little crew who are as dedicated to honing our coffee craft as we are making weird slow-motion videos of leftover soup being poured over a gourd. When we’re not serving customers or maintaining the general upkeep of the shop, I spend my shift throwing lattes. They taste great but I’m still working on my designs (though I’m told, “at least it’s all in the cup now”).

After I sign out of my shift, I head to Temple University to pick up some of my students. I teach the Philadelphia Dance Experience, a gen-ed course for non-dance majors. The crux of the class is taking the students to see four shows in the Philly dance scene; tonight, I am escorting them to FringeArts to see Raphael Xavier’s The Unofficial Audience Guide to Watching Performance. My students seem to enjoy the performance much more than the ballet we saw last weekend. I leave to bring a few of them back to campus, thinking about how I will direct our class discussion on Tuesday.

+$: Working at the café, working for Temple University
-$: SEPTA fare to and from the venue

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

A slow day. I visit a few thrift shops in search of a sweater or two. Insomnia Cookies are purchased.

+$: Nothing
-$: A sweater, some gloves, warm cookies

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I had planned on spending a few hours wandering around Longwood Gardens. However, it’s fucking freezing. We reassess how much we’re dying to see the “Orchid Extravaganza” and end up pivoting directions entirely. We find ourselves in the long, long line into Build-A-Bear Workshop at the mall. Less sheepishly than you might imagine, we emerge with two new Pikachus, clad in garish dinosaur and Star Wars costumes. (Ben named his “Pokémon Kenobi” and, yes, that is why I’m dating him.)

+$: Nothing
-$: Breakfast, tea, dinner, ibuprofen at RiteAid

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Another shift at the Gryphon. I head to Conshohocken’s Yoga Home in the evening for their Power Flow class. Yoga has become central in my life in two ways: 1) as essential cross-training for dance, and 2) as something I gift to myself to maintain my sanity. I stay for yin afterwards.

+$: Working at the café
-$: Yoga classes

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

The opening shift at the Gryphon is peaceful, even though I’m not one for waking up that early in the morning. I yawn and manage to make a few drinks. After getting off at noon, I rush to Temple for my 12:30 class. We are discussing the historical and cultural context of hip hop today . My evening contains a Vinyasa class and a glass of wine.

+$: Working at the café, teaching at Temple University
-$: Yoga class

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Wednesdays start at The Iron Factory in Kensington, where I create and rehearse my own material. I split a monthly membership here with my friend and collaborator Meredith. I futz around with some movement for a new work before Meredith meets me to rehearse Reign, a piece of mine that we will be performing this weekend at the Ruby Slipper Fringe Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s been a while but we find that the entirely-synchronized duet comes back into our bodies with relative ease.

From there, I am back at the Gryphon. I don’t normally work three days in a row, but since I’ll be leaving to head south on Friday, I need to squeeze my shifts in earlier in the week. Ordinarily, I would rehearse a work in progress by my friend Sean Thomas Boyt on Wednesday afternoons, but we are off this week. In the interest of the topic of this article, I will say that I do not get paid to dance for Sean, but I don’t expect to. I’m happy to help make my friend’s work a reality with as little cost to him as possible, and I know he would do the same for me.

+$: Working at the café
-$: Paying for rented rehearsal space

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

I arrive at Temple at 12:30 to teach. My students discuss the commercialization of hip hop and whether or not it ultimately benefits the form. The conversation is lively and I make a mental note to incorporate the topic into their upcoming quiz. Another evening at yoga—I attempt to fine tune my headstand.

+$: Teaching at Temple
-$: Yoga class, delivered dinner because I’m too busy packing to cook

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Meredith and I leave Philly for North Carolina in the morning and make it to our Airbnb after ten hours of driving (and several stops for gas and coffee). We will tech in the theater tomorrow morning and perform in the evening. The festival does not pay us to participate but their application did not require a fee, which is a plus.

+$: Nothing
-$: Gas, food and drinks, lodgings for the weekend

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Meredith and I meet up with my friends Gwen and Nicole to tech at 11am. Afterwards, I explore Winston-Salem with Meredith for a few hours. We visit different venues in the city for their Art-o-Mats: refurbished cigarette dispensers that now relinquish a small piece of hand-made art at the insert of a coin. In the evening, we all reconvene at the theater to perform. The show runs smoothly, though by the time we reach the talk-back afterwards, I am exhausted.

+$: Nothing
-$: Food, coffee, small pieces of art, more gas

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

We begin the trek back to Philly. We take a more scenic route, hoping to stop in a national park on the way, but the rain is too strong. We reach home by nightfall.

+$: Nothing
-$: Food, coffee, gas

Photo by Kat J. Sullivan.

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