The top ten things that I have learned, journeying through the past four years in a college dance conservatory.
1: Be YOURSELF:
I know it’s cliche, and everyone gives that advice, and you don’t believe it and you do not want to believe it cause you may think you are a little weird or different and you think you won’t fit in if you don’t act like “everyone else”- but that is a journey down a spiraling, yellow slide with bumps and corners that you don’t expect to find, and then don’t know how to handle if you are trying to be like someone else. Guaranteed, it will become easier to find friends and feel comfortable if you stay true to yourself. Pretending or convincing yourself otherwise is only fun for oh so long. Even if you are a naturally quiet person (like me) you can still find your own way more easily if you just embrace that is how you are. You are you. Stay true to yourself and don’t let others waver your beliefs. College is a place to learn and grow into the adult you will be. Become someone that you are proud of.
2: You don’t always have to follow the rules:
As a wee little Freshman, I was still caught up in being a good student. Never missing a class even if I was feeling really sick, always on time, staying up all night to finish an assignment to the nearest level of perfection if need be, and not questioning what my teachers told me. –But now, four years later, I realize that all of these things were not all that was important. I’m not saying that I no longer do my homework or go to class, because I certainly do. I still care about good grades and learning because that is just ingrained in me, however sometimes your health or state of mind and taking care of your body is more important. Especially as dancers, if we abuse our bodies and don’t get enough rest eventually they will retaliate and become injured. So, taking care of yourself is important, even if that means missing a class. It is not the end of the world and in the end only you know how much you can handle and how to best take care of yourself.
3: It is not a CrImE to have fun:
Over the years I have realized that you’ve got to make some time for fun. Otherwise, life is just stress + work + classes+ stress… and everything piles up onto you until you suddenly combust (a.k.a. bursting into tears). Going out on the weekend is not actually a crime, nor will it turn you into a careless or irresponsible person. Hanging out with friends and meeting new people is all part of the college experience and environment that you won’t easily find the same way later in life. You have to appreciate the network of students that surrounds you while you are immersed within it.
4: Being injured is not (really) the end of the world:
Towards the beginning of my Senior year I ended up dislocating me knee in Graham class and sitting out of classes for four weeks. At first hearing the words “no dancing” literally felt like the end of the world, and during the process of no dancing I became super antsy watching my classmates working each day and not being able to join them. However, I did come to realize that there is quite a learning opportunity to take away from observing in technique classes. I can only recall one prior time that I had observed one of my classes due to feeling ill, so I never really experienced how great a tool observation in class was. In addition, I became so inspired watching my classmates dance that when I was able to participate again, I was super motivated and eager to utilize the elements I had observed.
5: Smile at everyone:
A simple smile can make a person’s day. Whether you have ever met the person before or interacted with them, smiling at them will never cause any harm. It shows how negative the world is in general when people respond to a smile by giving me a strange look, as if nobody has ever randomly smiled at them before. I think that is pretty sad. However, when people do respond back with a smile, it is a beautiful thing and will make both parties involved feel joy in the moment. When in doubt, smile it out!
6: Everybody is struggling:
Sometimes things get crazy, and the struggle bus comes to town. There can get to be so much on your plate-too many papers, assignments, group projects, choreography, etc. to do that everything feels like it is imploding. But, that also means that you can get fairly absorbed in your own dilemmas and get tunnel vision of sorts. There have been points during finals week or around the time that a big project is due that I feel like I haven’t looked another person in the eye or therefore communicated fully with anyone for a while. -That’s crazy! So somehow you have to remind yourself that everyone else around you is struggling too. This would be a good time to put #5 ↑ to good use. 🙂
7: Alone time is good time:
Freshman year and even Sophomore year I thought that when I had to eat alone or attend an event alone, or if I was just spending time alone in my room that I was missing out, and that people would judge me and think that I was a loser with no friends or something along those lines. It was a bit of an accurate worry, as I was still finding my way and trying to make social connections, but I realize it really was not a big deal. Now, sometimes I crave alone time and need it to refresh and organize my thoughts. When I am alone nowadays, I never worry that I am a loser, and later find that the time spent with friends and classmates is much more enjoyable after having that time by myself.
8: Be a “real” person occasionally:
As dancers, we are used to going everywhere with warm up clothes worn over our leotards and tights, hair thrown up in a bun, and always ready to move. Sometimes you just feel like you always look kind of crappy. So, I have found that it is important to take even just one day on the weekend to put some jeans on, maybe get off campus and remember that there is a real world out there full of all kinds of opportunities, and that your label of “dancer” does not always have to be visible.
9: Pleasing that one teacher who “doesn’t like you”:
I think we all can relate to the feeling of having a teacher or professor who we feel just does not like us. We can work our butts off, get good grades, do extra credit, spend extra time in the studio going over corrections, etc. and they still just give off a vibe of dislike. I certainly have felt this, and tried everything I could to turn it around. And do you know what I have discovered? Their opinion does NOT matter!!! If you tried your best, that is all you can do. Maybe you remind them of someone else they have known in their life, maybe they don’t like your personality, but that is on them. Don’t waste time where it will not be of any use. Not everyone has to like you, and not everyone will.
10: Don’t play the comparison game:
The dance world is no doubt competitive, as you are constantly under pressure to be good enough for a certain role, or the right look for a company position or dance style. It is super easy to compare yourself to your peers around you and set standards that way. However, that mindset will not get you very far, is in no way beneficial, and will only result in negative feelings and disappointment. It is super hard to break from this comparison impulse when you are so constantly side by side, but you have to try. Instead, you have got to focus on the fact that you are an individual dancer and can direct your attention towards how to be better than yourself. That is the only way to truly improve and move forward.
So there you have it. Just some things it has practically taken all four years to fully learn, discover, and comprehend in my own way. Hopefully you can take a snippet with you.