A Week In NYC On A Dancer’s $36,000 Salary

A recently graduated dancer living in Manhattan, juggling a part-time job at the opera and a hostess gig at a restaurant.

Industry: Dance. I specialize in contemporary dance, but I have trained in ballet, modern, pointe, and various other dance styles. My days are spent dancing at the opera and working as a hostess at a restaurant a couple nights a week. I would ideally like to join a contemporary dance company, but for now I am enjoying the unpredictability of freelancing in New York City.
Age: 22
Location: Subletting a family friend’s apartment in Soho
Salary: It varies, but roughly $36,000.
Paycheck Amount (weekly): Current dance job $60 an hour. I rehearse anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week. Hostess job: $12 and hour plus 6% of sales from the shift. I average 3 to 5 shifts a week for 3 to 4 hours at a time. I average around $3,000 a month with both jobs combined.
# of roommates: 0

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,000
Loan Payments: $0 (Thank you, Mom and Dad, truly.)
Utilities: Around $70 for utilities and Wi-Fi.
Transportation: $116.50, unlimited monthly MetroCard
Phone Bill: $0 (still on family plan)
Health Insurance: $0 (still under parents’ insurance)
Spotify: $9.99
Gym Membership: $25 for the whole year with the youth membership
Savings: Each week, depending on the size of my paycheck, I will usually put anywhere from $100 to $200 in savings.

Day 1

7:30 a.m. — Start my day as I always do: catching up with the internet and blogs while drinking French press coffee with soy milk, followed by oatmeal with sunflower seeds and lots (emphasis on a lot) of peanut butter. I also take a vegetarian women’s multivitamin, fish oil, and a probiotic all from Whole Foods.

9 a.m. — Hop on the subway (with unlimited MetroCard) to take ballet class where I work. They offer class for free, which is a tremendous perk. One class in the city usually rings in at around $20.

11:40 a.m. — Buy a stamp at the post office so I can send in my ballot! Rock the vote! $1.15

12 p.m. — Buy all of the essentials at Trader Joe’s. I am generally diligent about making food at home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week and slacken on the weekend. I buy tempeh, kale, Brussels sprouts, avocado, apples, bananas, kombucha, soy milk, peanut butter, Larabars, dry toasted almonds, and chickpeas. $38.64

12:30 p.m. — It’s raining heavily, so I head home. Make a salad with spinach, tempeh, avocado, roasted acorn squash, chickpeas, and hummus. Spend the afternoon getting some computer work done and relaxing before my show.

4 p.m. — Drink my Gingerade Kombucha. Snack on an apple and lots of almonds.

5 p.m. — Head to the theater to get my makeup, wig, and costume on. It is a process.

7:30 p.m. — Eat the dinner I packed after Act 1 of the show, since I don’t have to be on stage again until Act 3. Dinner is two hardboiled eggs over some sautéed kale and cauliflower rice. It’s okay, but I’m left somewhat dissatisfied after the meal. It’s best not to have a huge dinner mid-show, anyway.

11 p.m. — Head to a Mexican restaurant with some of my cast members after the show for drinks. I happily have two of the house margaritas on the rocks. I don’t feel super hungry, so I don’t order food, but get to benefit by nibbling on the chips and salsa brought to the table, and some of my friends’ fajitas and nachos. The total for the drinks with tip is $23.13.

1 a.m. — Resist the urge to take a cab, so I get on the 1 train.

Daily Total: $62.92

Day 2

9 a.m. — My usual coffee with soy milk. Even though it’s chilly, I opt for a smoothie since I feel like something light after drinking. The smoothie includes spinach, banana, blueberries, dark chocolate vegan protein powder, almond milk, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Also, my vitamins (trying to stay in the habit).

11 a.m. — Walk from my apartment to the Union Square farmers’ market. All of the produce looks so beautiful, and I walk away with four apples. I love the fall season for its fruits and vegetables, and I always try to take advantage of the apples especially. $2.75

11:45 a.m. — I pop into Whole Foods to buy a half-dozen eggs, since I am almost out of them at home. It seems crazy to buy a dozen organic eggs for about $8, so I trick myself by buying half. $3.67

12:15 p.m. — It’s raining by the time I get outside, so I take the train back downtown and stop at Gourmet Garage to buy a vegetarian chili for lunch. I feel like I need something warming. $5.43

4 p.m. — Feeling like I’ve lazed around my apartment enough, I decide to walk around the neighborhood and head to Third Rail Coffee Shop for an afternoon pick-me-up before I perform tonight. I get a café au lait with whole milk. $3 plus tip. $4

5:30 p.m. — I do my makeup and hair at my apartment and make something simple for dinner: a two-egg omelet with stir-fry broccoli and cauliflower rice on the side. I’ve been working at the restaurant so much lately and eating out, so when I make food at home I want something super simple.

6:15 p.m. — Take the subway to Times Square, which is a nightmare at this hour on a Saturday night. I’m not sure what the plan is going to be after the show, so I didn’t bring my water bottle. I head to a deli across from the building to buy seltzer. $2

10 p.m. — The show is at a tango studio my friend dances at, and he choreographed a trio for myself, him, and another friend. This gig is not paid, but there is a party in the studio after the show with free drinks for the dancers. The drinks make everything worth it. I have two margaritas and a glass of prosecco; the bartender says it is truly not necessary, but I leave a very small tip in their tip jar. $2

1 a.m. — We end up staying at the studio the rest of the night, and it turned into a huge ballroom dance party. I somehow unearth knowledge from ballroom class freshman year of college and dance with two extremely skilled partners. I once again resist taking a cab home.

Daily Total: $19.85

Day 3

8:30 a.m. — Wake up and drink my coffee slowly while I look at the internet. Another night of drinking and staying up late, oy. My stomach doesn’t feel great, so I have oatmeal with almonds and peanut butter (plus vitamins) for breakfast before I head out to rehearsal for a friend’s project.

11 a.m. — It’s not rainy this morning, so I decide to walk to the studio in the Financial District. The sun is out but it is crazy windy. I stand in the sun to capture much-needed vitamin D.

2 p.m. — I walk back uptown and try to decide what I want to have for lunch. The only thing that sounds good to me is Sweetgreen. I order the Shroomami warm bowl, which is extremely delicious. It’s a bit expensive, but when I have a weekend rehearsal I don’t mind treating myself. $11.81

3 p.m. — My hair is starting to get wild and dead at the end. I walk to two different Dramatics NYC locations to see if I can get a walk-in appointment, but it’s Sunday, so they are naturally all booked.

4 p.m. — I take the train to Midtown so I can go to the Capezio dance store. I have an audition coming up and I am tired of all of the leotards that I own. I find a really beautiful light-blue version with cap sleeves and pretty detailing on the back. $41.50

4:30 p.m. — Head home so I can rest before I have to hostess tonight. I would love to take a nice long nap, but all I can squeeze in is a 20-minute power nap.

6:20 p.m. — I’ll get to eat dinner at the end of my shift, so I have an apple, carrots and hummus, and some almonds as a snack before I leave for work.

10:30 p.m. — Work is busy but not too overwhelming. I order the green curry with tofu and brown rice as my staff meal while I sip on ginger tea.

Daily Total: $53.31

Day 4

9 a.m. — I don’t have any rehearsals or ballet class today so I don’t set an alarm (yay!) and wake up at 9. I have the usual coffee, oatmeal, and vitamins.

11 a.m. — I head to the Chelsea Recreation Center, which is part of the NYC Parks Department gyms. Their young adult membership is $25 for the entire year and you can use your card at any of the locations (great deal!!).

1 p.m. — I stop in at Trader Joe’s after the gym so I can purchase more old-fashioned oats, since I ran out this morning. I also buy a thank you card for a friend at work since we have gotten really close through the rehearsal process. $3.57

1:30 p.m. — All I can hope for in New York is a simple bench to sit on in peace to eat lunch and relax, but that is not easy to come by. There are tables outside the Flatiron building; I walk over and eat the lunch I packed: spinach, tempeh, roasted Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, avocado, and hummus.

2 p.m. — It’s been about three months since my last haircut and I’m able to get a walk-in at a Dramatics salon. My request is always the same: Take the dead off, fix up the layers, frame the face, thin out the bottom. It’s pretty straightforward, so I don’t feel as if I need to go to a fancy salon. The cut is $29.26, $34.26 with tip.

3 p.m. — I’m feeling a little under the weather and tired from multiple nights of drinking and staying out late. I could really go for a coffee but I want to sleep well tonight so I decide to forgo the caffeine. I make a Women’s Energy tea when I get home instead to soothe my throat.

3:30 p.m. — I am incredibly thankful there is both an elevator and laundry in the building I’m staying in. I do a large load and tackle some work on the computer. $4.25

4 p.m. — Already hungry for a snack so I eat an apple and a spoonful (or three) of peanut butter.

5:30 p.m. — I try to start reading a new book, but a nap sounds more appetizing so I pass out for 30 minutes.

6:30 p.m. — Another simple (boring) dinner at home: two eggs with a broccoli and cauliflower rice stir-fry.

9:30 p.m. — I try to go to sleep early, but I don’t think I fall asleep until midnight. Womp womp.

Daily Total: $42.08

Day 5

7:30 a.m. — I wake up and my throat is still sore so I make my coffee extra warm hoping it will be soothing, and eat oatmeal for breakfast. I’m hoping that my diligence with my vitamins will help curb whatever sickness I’m harboring.

9 a.m. — Take the train for ballet class at work.

12 p.m. — I have a performance later but no rehearsal or other commitments during the day. One of the perks to freelance dancing is that I’ll often have extra free time. I head to Whole Foods. I could really do some damage here but I am primarily here to get nude nail polish that I can wear during the show. I find some by Pacifica that might be too pink but I buy it anyway. ($9) I also get a Japanese sweet potato, because they are delicious, and I try a Bragg’s “Spicy Ginger” apple cider vinegar drink. It was on sale for $2.50, which is cheaper than the kombucha I thought about buying. $14.43

1 p.m. — I decide that I don’t want to eat eggs for dinner again, so I throw together a big pot of kitchari with mung beans, chickpeas, brown rice, garlic, ginger, sweet potato, carrots, and spices that I have on hand. I rest and work on the computer for the afternoon while I sip on the Spicy Ginger drink, which is pretty good.

4 p.m. — I eat an apple and multiple spoonfuls of kitchari as I’m packing it away. It is deeply warm and satisfying for some reason. I want to move a little before I get to the theater, so I walk a bit before getting on the train.

7:30 p.m. — My stomach feels a little off during Act 1, but I eat the kitchari I packed for dinner during my break anyway and feel okay after.

11 p.m. — I decide it’s too late for a snack when I get home and instead get ready for bed.

Daily Total: $14.43

Day 6

7 a.m. — Extremely reluctant to get out of bed, but alas, I must. I have the same coffee and breakfast while I do my hair and makeup for a music video I am shooting today for a photographer friend.

9 a.m. — I walk to Kaffe 1668, a coffee shop in Tribeca, where I wait for my friend. I don’t order anything so I feel a little guilty sitting there.

11:30 a.m. — We take a cab to Soho and shoot in his friend’s gorgeous loft that she is moving out of. It is truly a dream apartment with huge windows and natural light. She is pregnant and has half a case of rosé she wants to get rid of so we each (gladly) take a bottle. The photographer gets the cab as a business expense.

2 p.m. — After shooting outside for a couple hours in the freezing wind, we decide we need some food so we head to Rabbits. I have the three-egg omelet with kale, and avocado with multigrain toast. My friend knows the people who work there, and they give us some delicious tater tots on the house. He picks up the check.

4 p.m. — I head home and all I want is a nap to warm up.

6 p.m. — Eat an apple and a couple of bites of kitchari before I head to work.

10:30 p.m. — I sip on a Pellegrino and then ginger tea while I work. For my staff meal, I get edamame, a green papaya salad, and sautéed Chinese broccoli that I intended to take home for Thursday, but I end up finishing it.

Daily Total: $0

Day 7

7:15 a.m. — I drink coffee and catch up on the internet before I talk on the phone with my boyfriend whom I’m “on a break” from. The conversation leaves me a bit upset. I don’t have much of an appetite but I have class and rehearsal so I eat my usual breakfast anyway.

9 a.m. — Take the train to ballet class.

11:45 a.m. — Eat an apple after class and before rehearsal starts.

2:30 p.m. — Eat the lunch I packed in the dressing room. It is a salad with massaged kale, roasted Brussels sprouts, avocado, tempeh, chickpeas, hummus, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

3 p.m. — My parents are coming to visit this weekend to see my show so I need to clean up the apartment. I stop by Duane Reade for some cleaning wipes, which are on sale. $4.34

3:30 p.m. — Take the train home and stop at a charming coffee shop, Once Upon a Tart, near my apartment for a café au lait with whole milk. $2.75

4 p.m. — Sip on the coffee while I clean the apartment and register for auditions.

6 p.m. — My friend is choreographing a show in her hometown, so I send some money to her GoFundMe page. I would hope my friends would do the same for me. $15

6:30 p.m. — I eat a Larabar at home before going to work.

10:30 p.m. — I order a coconut milk soup with tofu, and a green papaya salad as my staff meal. As usual, I sip on a Pellegrino while I work.

Daily Total: $22.09

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