Have you ever been in a dance class or simulated audition situation where your teacher told you that your level of performance mattered because whether or not you landed the job depended on how crisp your technique is and how bold your performance was?
Well, that's an incomplete part of the story. The audition-to-contract tradition and world in which that is the norm is a narrow part of the dance industry that (I'm pretty sure) is phasing out. Will auditions still happen? Certainly! They're just not the only things that really matter.
It is always good to strive for a high standard. Sometimes your own excellence won't fit a cookie cutter type of excellence someone else is looking for, and that's okay. Securing work with a full time company from an audition isn't the only way to confirm whether or not you are a Professional Dancer.
The dream of becoming a Professional Dancer still comes true outside of what a company contract has to offer.
The independent dance artist is equally qualified as the contracted company dancer. The experience of performing as different projects come and go along with self producing in your region and local artistic community is just as valid. If you are finished with your training, don't beat yourself up if you haven't been offered a company contract. Organizations aren't the only ones with vision and artistry that you can grow from. Your brilliant and like minded peers are within your grasp.
"Professional Dancer" doesn't mean you work full time for a ballet, modern, or contemporary company. Professional Dancer means that art is your life and that you maintain your craft across a spectrum of ongoing and seasonal assignments, projects, and causes; and that you are true to your artistic vision. Does your what you are working towards reflect the kind of art you believe in?
My peers and I are living proof that new initiatives and projects spring up right and left. We are putting our skills to work. We're developing quality performance and honing our administrative skills. We self produce. We perform for each other. We actually gain a more diverse skill set than someone who dances full time for a ballet company.
Most of us aren't contracted full time, but we have degrees, conservatory training, and the capacity to create programs and move our artistry forward. What constitutes our professionalism is our commitment to innovation backed by our entrepreneurial skills.