Things I’ve Learned From Being in a Dance Company (Vol. 2) 6 Month Edition

Hello my wonderful Dancetopians!

First, I must apologize for my lengthy silence and spotty blog posting the last few weeks. I recently started a new job and rearranging my schedule while also learning how to, you know, job, has been a bit tricky. But I think I’m getting the hang of it and the best news is, this job allows me the flexibility to continue dancing with the company I’ve been apprenticing with since September. Yippee! It’s been six, nearly seven months now and the learning and growth haven’t stopped. I’m beyond excited to share with you what I’ve learned from being in a company half a season in.

Don’t make your first performance scarier than it needs to be

Going into our first performance of the season, I was a big ball of nerves. I was so terrified of doing poorly and squandering the beautiful opportunity I was given that I almost neglected to take a moment to appreciate where I was. I was dancing, on a stage with other professional dancers, in a show, and getting paid for the first time ever. How lucky was I? And best of all, the show went without a hitch, so all of my worrying did nothing but waste energy and make what should have been a fun and exhilarating experience kind of a drag when it shouldn’t have been. So I guess a sub-level to this overall theme is to be in the moment when you dance so that it’s just you, the stage and the steps and not a bunch of other crap.

Bad class days really suck

I currently have a blog post about a really rough class day I had sitting in my drafts queue somewhere and when I finally get around to making my thoughts sound coherent, I might post it. Again, I think this is mostly me being too in my head to understand what’s going on around me, but when I have a rough or less than stellar class day, it really really stinks. Like, to the point that it can ruin my whole day after. I put so much pressure on myself to never make mistakes and to always be on, so when I’m not, I feel as though I failed. But I guess there’s no better time than class to fail is there?

Take class at other studios!!

I’m constantly being told that the dance world is small, and I think that’s true. You could probably spend all day playing six-degrees of separation with the dance community of Chicago alone and find some way we are all interconnected. But at the same time, the dance world is huge and varied and one great way to learn that is by taking class at different studios. For the last seven months, I’d been training  at the studio I worked at because classes were free. But once I quit to start my new job and decided to go to other places because I’d have to pay no matter what, it suddenly felt like life had been breathed back into my dancing again. That’s not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy taking class at the studio where I worked (in fact I plan to go there for ballet tomorrow) but taking the same classes with the exact same people every week for months can be limiting and the only way to push yourself in different ways and wake yourself up every once in a while is to broaden your horizons and take class at other studios. I’ve tried classes at a few new places since starting my job and I’m having so much fun experiencing new teachers, new classmates and new energies!

Acknowledgement is nice, but shouldn’t be why you’re dancing

A ballet teacher once said during class that you have to find your endgame during class because it gives you focus. If you lose sight of why you’re dancing or begin to dance purely for approval, eventually dancing won’t be fun for you anymore. Approval, attention and affirmation–even when they are deserved–aren’t always readily available and can’t be your life force as a dancer. As I’ve said before, the only true way to be happy as a dancer is to know that you’re doing all you can to be the best dancer you can be and walk in that truth every day, for yourself and no one else.

Everyone’s Journey is Different

Your training isn’t going to look like the person’s next to you, your career pathway isn’t going to look like the person’s next to you, your a la seconde isn’t going to look like the person’s next to you. Comparing yourself to others will only cause you to not appreciate where you are as a dancer and is ultimately futile, because it is those differences that make the dance world so diverse and so beautiful. Embrace what you do because chances are, very few, or no one else can do it, too. It reminds me of one of my favorite Sex and the City quotes:

“That’s the key to having it all: Stop expecting it to look how you thought it was going to look.”

And lastly….

Maybe I deserve more than I let myself believe

Like I said, I never thought I’d be a professional. And I’d venture to say that even though I was in class and rehearsal religiously and trying so hard not to miss a beat, I’ve spent at  least half of my time thinking that maybe I really don’t deserve to be with this company, maybe I’m not good enough and the AD just hasn’t taken the time to really look at me. But again, knowing your truth is essential to beating these thoughts. I’m finally starting to come to terms with the idea that maybe I do belong here. Maybe I am enough, and maybe just maybe… dance is truly MEANT to be a permanent part of my life.

But these are just my thoughts. What has being a dancer, professional or otherwise, taught you?

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