What is Success in Dance?

Recently Stephen Petronio wrote an article in Dance Magazine, and I loved something he wrote, ‎”A Plie is just an exercise. How you execute it will determine the difference between a mundane career and a magical one.” I loved what he said because I talk a lot about instilling passion in movement, when I teach. I want and insist that my students show me the passion they feel for dance even when they are doing a plie at the barre. As performers its important.

This thought from Mr. Petronio got me to thinking about something slightly different though, “What is success in Dance? What is a magical career? I did not have a magical career by my own standards, my former ballet teacher’s standards, and most likely a lot of other people’s standards either. Was I a good dancer, even a passionate one? Many people tell me so, however, I didn’t make of myself what I could have due to the lack of ability to take rejection with a grain of salt, mostly. That hindered me from going for it, and “making it” into a big name company. I blamed it on my height and slightly bigger more muscular thighs in the past. The reality is that being told I was too short a number of times made my self esteem slip, and the ability to keep going back for more rejection, something I couldn’t do. On the other hand, I did work as a dancer despite myself. I worked mostly as a soloist, and I did get to dance in some fabulous choreography, and I did dance in front of thousands of people at a time. So, some people might say I was a fabulous success, while others might say that because I didn’t have a regular paying job, or dance with ABT or on TV or Broadway, that I was not much of a success.

Here’s my point. Over time our ideas and definitions of success change. I am happy to say that now, nearing my 50th year, I feel like a complete success, and guess what? My success has come in a small town, struggling to stay afloat as a studio owner in a culture and place that doesn’t honor western arts much, and where the poverty level is high. My success has come by way of my teaching, directing, producing, and mentoring teens and young adults in this small town. I have a popular studio, with about 15 boys and men taking ballet along with other forms of dance. When you have that many boys taking ballet in a town of 50,000, THAT is a success. When you run a studio that takes kids off the streets and gives them a cool place to hang out and gives them the chance to fulfill a passion in their lives, THAT is a success. When you give interview after interview for the newspapers in your town, and everyone knows who you are when you go about your business in town, THAT is a success. It is not the success I originally dreamed of when I was 16 for sure, and it may not be the same success that others in the dance world have, but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how you see yourself. If you see yourself as successful, then by all means you are!

Choosing a Good Dance Studio

Students from Center Stage Hawaii It is important to choose a good dance studio for yourself or your child. Some people suppose that dance is frivolous and “just for fun,” so it doesn’t matter what the instruction is like. However although dance is definitely fun, and that should be one of the things you look for in a good dance studio there is a lot more than that involved in dance training. Ask yourself these questions when observing a class: Are the instructors doing a good job of engaging the students in what they are learning? Are the instructors giving corrections and praise to the students? Is what the children are learning seem to be at the correct level for their ages and skill level? Finally, do you know the professional backgrounds of the teachers at the studio? It is important that for ballet and contemporary dance you have instructors who have had an extensive career as a pre-professional or professional performer once you or your child gets to a certain level or age. When children are just beginning or are very young, this is not so important. College degrees in dance or related fields are also a good indicator that the instructors know what they are doing. In Hip Hop and break dancing classes, it is common for instructors to be young and talented, but formal training is not always important, since those styles of dance come from the street. Good teaching and a quality dance studio are important for so many reasons. You would not want your child to grow up with injuries due to bad training. It is so common and sad to see, (especially in small towns) people flocking to little studios opened up by someone with virtually no training. Students and parents who go are often lured in by the idea of doing fancy productions with glittery costumes. This all seems fun and harmless at the time, but the consequences for the long term can be harmful.

What Do You Need If You Want To Dance?

Lots of people just don’t get what goes into being a dancer! Many people including parents of students who want to dance think its just fluff and frivolous. No Way! Dancers, successful dancers anyway, have to be highly committed. When in the professional world, being “there” on time and without fail, is akin to professions like doctors, chefs, and lawyers. The old saying “The Show Must Go On” is right on. People pay good money to see shows, and have every right to expect perfection. So, while learning to dance taking class needs to come first. Not only do you need to become highly skilled, but you need to become a finely tuned athlete. Second, missing a rehearsal, or God Forbid, a performance is the best way to get yourself black listed in an entire dance community. Everyone knows everyone and soon flaky dancers get reputations. Being responsible, committed and professional is more important than having talent! Charm, and charisma on and off the stage is a must. If you are the type of person with a great “Can Do” attitude, people will want to work with you, AND that will translate into how well you come across onstage to the audience. So to recap the traits needed to become a successful dancer: 1. Work hard in class, and get to class on time and every day. 2. Have a good attitude on and off the stage with lots of charisma. 3. Show your commitment and self discipline by being on time to every rehearsal and show without fail.