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Giulia - The Gypsy Dancer

The free life of a dance teacher

Giulia scored her job as 10/10 (with ten being the most fantastic job imaginable).

For one hour during the week, the boathouse on the swan river is Giulia’s workspace and it is here where she teaches salsa as contractor for a local university. Inside, the place looks like a temple: the dance room has no furniture, large windows on both sides of the room allow the sunlight to enter and shine on the dark parquet floor. The room seems to be floating on the river because the house is just built above the water. Giving dance students the impression to be “walking on water” is probably a good start to make them feel confident for a dancing lesson.


Giulia’s current professional situation can be described as portfolio work. That means that she is self-employed and works for multiple clients and organisations[1]. She teaches dance and drama.


Giulia scores her job as a dance teacher a “ten” on a scale out of ten. The “best thing” is knowing how much life can change when people start dancing. She cannot imagine her life without dance, and is proud that she can pass this gift to others. She loves to see how dancing changes the lives of her students: It is those “light-bulb moments” that energize her every day. “I am gifting people to have an outlet for creative expression”, Giulia explains.


Giulia’s credo is that humans dance naturally and she enjoys challenging the assumptions of students who believe that they cannot move properly.

Giulia values having immediate feedback from her students and observing how they develop and grow.


The passion that Giulia describes relates to the idea of having a “calling[2]” – a concept that scholars describe to capture how some people feel 'summoned' towards a meaningful life role that is used to serve others and that orientates people to derive a sense of purpose.


People who view their jobs as a calling show higher levels of well-being in terms of life and job satisfaction than people who do not [3]. For example, research that compared teachers who feel teaching is a calling for them with teachers who saw their work more as a career or job showed that the former teachers are more willing to accept extra duties in their work[4].

Giulia's job can also be challenging, with a distinct lack of job security compared to “normal day jobs”. She previously worked at the health department – a job that she describes as “deeply depressing ” but that nevertheless gave her a sense of security. She holds in for a second and adds: “But I am not missing that – I prefer the gypsy life”. Giulia’s attitude is consistent with research that shows not all individuals react negatively to casual and temporary work, with the effects of job insecurity depending on one’s personality[5] and family situation [6].


Giulia’s students can feel her passion for dance during the class. Even during times when her work demands were high, she says: “You get that happy-tired feeling where your feet are hurting so much, but you are still happy .” Research suggests that Giulia’s optimistic nature, that is, her ability to look at the bright side of things, is a personality trait that protects portfolio workers from work-related strain [1]. And her optimism and energy certainly makes for a vibrant dance class.


[1] Totterdell, P., Wood, S., & Wall, T. (2006). An intra‐individual test of the demands‐control model: A weekly diary study of psychological strain in portfolio workers. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 79(1), 63-84. This study shows that, during times when work demands are particularly high and and when they have little control about their working hours or cannot plan their work ahead of time, portfolio workers with an optimistic personality experience significantly less psychological strain than pessimistic portfolio workers.

[2] Dik, B. J., & Duffy, R. D. (2009). Calling and vocation at work: Definitions and prospects for research and practice. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(3), 424-450.

[3] Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People's relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21-33.

[4] Serow, R. C. (1994). Called to teach: A study of highly motivated preservice teachers. Journal of Research & Development in Education.

[5] Näswall, K., Sverke, M., & Hellgren, J. (2005). The moderating role of personality characteristics on the relationship between job insecurity and strain. Work & Stress, 19(1), 37-49.

[6] Lim, V. K. (1996). Job insecurity and its outcomes: Moderating effects of work-based and nonwork-based social support. Human Relations, 49(2), 171-194.

A little more...

Has the role of technology changed the job of a dance teacher?

Yes, Giulia’s job has changed massively as a result of technology. These days, students are using videos on the internet to teach themselves dance moves. This is somehow upsetting to her because there are lot of teachers who have no experience as an instructor and who teach badly. She also believes that learning more elaborated dance moves is not feasible by simply watching a video. If Giulia had to teach virtually it would take away one the elements away that she loves most about her job: Having immediate feedback from her students and observing how they develop and grow.

Behind the Scenes

The Day I Interviewed My Dance Teacher, by Florian Klonek

We are waiting in front of the boathouse when John (our videographer) notices a group of dolphins in the swan river. The evening sun throws a warm light on us, while we are watching how the dolphins are playing and hunting fish in the stream. From a distance, I can hear the screaming sound of seagulls and my gaze admires the skyline of the city that stretches magically behind the waterfront. A group of rowing boats silently pass by and neither the dolphins nor the rowers seem to be impressed by each others presence. The river is big enough to host space for all of them – including a group of black swans that are nesting just beside the water.

While we are sitting and relaxing on a rowing boat that somebody dumped on the beach near the river, I can hear a voice calling in the background: “The dolphins… they just passed again… have you seen them?” Giulia appears behind one of the cars that were parked at the beach next to the boathouse where we have been waiting for her. She swings her long and thick red hair back and gives me a cordial hug. Giulia is not particularly tall but you can feel her presence the moment she walks into a scene. 

We head to boathouse, which is the place where I started learning Salsa three weeks ago. I had no choice because shortly after meeting Giulia, she said: “I am going to make you a salsa dancer. And if this is the last thing I will do in my life.” I do not know where she got that self-determination but it was useless to argue with her and we had a deal.

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