Ballet Dancer to Delivery Lead

head and shoulders portrait
Mariana Rodrigues

Tonic’s Mariana Rodrigues reflects on pivotal moments and her shift in career.

Transitioning from a career as a Ballet dancer into something else felt scary. Ballet training normally starts at a young age, and the commitment to the art form often goes beyond the hours spent training and performing. Ballet influenced what I did in my spare time (no risky activities like skiing, constantly keeping up with body maintenance), it meant moving away from loved ones and missing out on big life events like friend’s weddings and big family birthdays… I found this difficult a lot of the time, but worth it to pursue a career doing something I really loved. Moments of performing on stage and being completely present and connected to everything around me, however rare, were extremely hard to beat. 

I was always conscious that my body wasn’t designed to do Ballet forever and I saw the prospect of a new and potentially completely different career quite exciting. In spite of this, once I got to a stage in my ballet career where I felt like it was time to start planning for the next chapter, this also coincided with a time where I was finally feeling comfortable and confident in my work as a dancer. I joined Northern Ballet when I was 19 years old and danced there for 10 years. It can be daunting to step out of a career in a place you know so well. Nevertheless, events in the past couple of years, such as COVID but also a big injury I had in 2019 before the pandemic hit, sent me off into a period of deep reflection that allowed space for my next path to emerge. 

Following the heightened awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world, in August 2020, Northern Ballet formed its first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Panel. I had always strived to create positive change through my work, whether it was through fostering a good environment in the studio and empowering fellow colleagues, or through some of the work I did as a choreographer. However, becoming a part of this panel felt like a pivotal moment for me, a real chance to dive deeper into change-making work. We were incredibly fortunate to work with Tonic, who provided us with the necessary tools, framework, and resources to carry this out. I learned an incredible deal from Tonic’s in depth and nuanced approach to the matter, as we took time to listen and reflect before diving into action. 

When I found out there was an opening for a Delivery Lead at Tonic in April 2021, I thought, this is it, this is the job I would love to do next. Despite my insecurities in terms of being experienced enough for this role, I went for it and decided to send through my application. This was my first time applying for a job in this way, as auditioning for a Ballet company is an entirely different experience. I was quite nervous navigating this completely new territory, however, Tonic’s recruitment process was really inclusive and made things feel less intimidating. I remember they held a webinar explaining what the role was about, which was very helpful. It also made me feel like there was scope within the job requirements for people without previous experience in a similar role to apply. The Delivery Lead role is quite a unique one and made up of many different elements, with room for people to bring their own skills and expertise to the table. It was clear that there was room for learning and growing in the job, which I felt opened this opportunity up to people like me. 

Nine months into the job now, I can say I am incredibly happy to have joined the Tonic team. It was a huge transition from my job as a dancer but I felt supported every step of the way by everyone at Tonic. The learning on the job has been constant and stimulating. But I am also able to bring a lot of my own experience as a dancer into my current work and that to me feels really important.

The delivering aspect of the job, which was probably the scariest for me at first, is one of my favourites now. Connecting to people and witnessing their thinking and actions in shaping a more equitable and diverse art sector has been truly special. Driving change isn’t always easy but experiencing those moments of connection gives me hope for the future. 

I look forward to what the future brings for Tonic and am thrilled to play a part in their meaningful work. 

Written by Mariana Rodrigues
April 2022

Tonic – For greater equality, diversity and inclusion in the arts