Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dance vs. Education

A friend of mine is writing a college paper about choosing college or dance and today she asked me to answer a few questions as a source for her research (hah). I actually included her in an article I wrote recently on a similar topic, and given that my final semester of grad school will end in under a month (yesss) the topic has been of consideration lately.

I thought I'd share my answers...I'm interested to hear other people's opinions or experiences!

1. How long did/have you dance(d)? (Including training and etc…)

I started dancing when I was about 2 1/2 (haha) and then started really training in ballet when I was 7 at Boston Ballet. I've been a bunhead ever since, so I guess officially it's like 12 years of training and a year and a half of being "professional."

2. Why did you keep with dance, was there something specific that kept you motivated?

When I was younger I stuck with dance just because it was something I've always done. It was me. It was what I did every single day. As I got older I think the quest for perfection and the desire to perform kept me motivated during the hard times. Nowadays, I dance because I love it - even just taking class. If a day goes by and I don't work 100% in class or onstage I feel unfulfilled. My current teacher also keeps me extremely motivated.

3. Did you choose University or Company? Why?

You know I'm a weird case. This fork in the road came early for me because I graduated high school at 16, so I first chose to go to college. However I did not major in dance (for various reasons...). My initial reason for deciding on college was to have more time to train professionally, which I did for my first 2 college years at Ballet Academy East. In my third, senior year, I did dance professionally with a few smaller companies while completing my academics and moving on to graduate school. I have the incessant need to be ridiculously busy and it really worked for me to be on two career paths at once. I wouldn't give up either one for the other.

4. What are your ultimate goals with dance?

I've learned that my dance goals have to be rather broad. I grew up in ballet-land where the common goal ingrained in students' minds is to be the prima ballerina of one of the few major dance companies in the world. The thing is, that goal is unrealistic and not worth beating your head against the wall in frustration. There are so many options to pursue in the dance field and many opportunities are so unexpected. My goal was never to dance in the Radio City Christmas Show, but now that I'm here I found it's exactly what I never knew I wanted. So my ultimate goal with dance is to do it for as long as I can, take advantage of every and any performing opportunity, to constantly improve, and to treasure the joy I find in it.

5. What do you plan on going once you've stopped dancing?

After next month I will have my Masters Degree in Publishing, and I already have my BA in Communication Arts. I've done several internships and I currently write for various publications. Once I stop dancing professionally, I hope to continue pursuing my writing career and finding ways to work dance into that somehow. I don't think I can ever "stop dancing" completely, though, no matter how deteriorated my body becomes.

6. Have you ever taught?

My family owns a small jazz/musical theater dance studio in my small hometown, so I grew up helping them teach the younger kids while I still lived at home. In New York, I was an assistant teacher for the primary levels at Ballet Academy East back in '06-'07. I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge with them, and the teachers I worked with often commented on my teaching instincts, which surprised me. Also, last spring I taught and choreographed for a NYC public high school dance program. It was my first time being fully in charge of a studio full of kids, and I loved it. I found myself turning into my own teachers who have influenced me.

7. What do you feel the benefits/disadvantages are to choosing university or company?

There are goods and bads of both.

College advantages: In college, you get to explore so many options and fields and there is such a vast opportunity to learn. If you go in with an open mind there are no limits to the possibilities you can create for yourself. You also get to me a whole different world of people than the dancers. You develop skills and habits and knowledge that can enhance your dancing.

College disadvantages: You know, I can't think of one. I guess you can say it delays your professional career for four years...but it really doesn't have to. You can still perform while earning your degree. The only downside is that it is a TON of work and can be taxing on the mind and body. But the advantages outweigh that, for sure.

Company advantages: A dream come true!? For most of us, dancing with a company is what we've waited our whole lives for - what we've worked ourselves to death for. Working with choreographers, the opportunity to perform, touring, etc

Company disadvantages: I think dancers who choose to dance with a company and remain strictly to that only are doing themselves a great disservice. Of course the first few years with a company are tough and understandably busy, but once they are settled and comfortable with their position I can't see a reason not to take a college course or two towards a degree. The obvious disadvantage of a company is the instability and lack of preparation for the future. Another is that if a dancer chooses a company before they are physically ready they may be injured a lot. Low pay is a big disadvantage too, depending on the company.

1 comment:

Evan said...

Thanks for sharing your responses, Taylor. Back in June I wrote about the struggle that many dancers face - choosing college or a conservatory/pre-professional track. Interestingly, I was going to tell the dancer to choose college so she had options, but my former dance professor wisely told me that "dance is perishable, whereas the mind is not. Or, it's less perishable". Here's the link to the post: