I’ve met a number of people who have told myself, my friends, and my fellow dancers, “Dance is a short lived career, you might wanna just keep it as a hobby”. I’ve had friends give up on their dreams of being a professional dance because they thought it “wasn’t realistic”. But then again, I’ve also had friends who have chased this dream.
“Do the thing you think cannot do”, Eleanor Roosevelt once said. My Mom used to tell me this when I was a child. However, it wasn’t until recently that this really struck a chord with me. As someone who has not had too much dance training, but has a strong passion for dance itself, I am constantly torn between my desire to do something and the limitations holding me back. I thought of making some sort of career in dance, but always told myself, “You don’t have the technique, the experience, or the training to”. That’s true. I don’t have the technique, or the experience that other dancers have, but I do have the passion. That’s why I decided while maybe majoring in Dance wouldn’t be for me, minoring would be a good idea. I decided that with my Major in Business Management, Minor in International Business and Minor in Dance, I can give myself a number of opportunities. I can travel, make connections, and learn new cultures all I want, and when I think it’s the right time, open my own dance studio with my best friend. My best friend took a different approach.
Her name is Cassandra, and she’s been studying dance since she was three. She’s done every type of dance, from ballet to hip hop, and is one of the best dancers I know. She loves it, and you can see that in her expression every time she performs. She went through a very difficult internal debate her senior year. She would be graduating from her dance studio, and she was undecided if dancing was something she should continue doing as a profession or as a past time. She told me that she was scared of the uncertainty that comes with being a dancer, and she thought maybe she should just become a doctor, to ensure her finances and her future. But then she realized that her life wouldn’t be the same without her feet hitting the dance floor everyday, and that convinced her to take on two majors; one in dance, one in biology. For now, she works towards being a professional dancer, but she knows she always has biology in her back pocket.
Now, there will be dancers who choose not to go to college, either to continue their training, or because of job offers, and it’s not entirely necessary. However, studies have shown that dancers tend to need some type of extended education after their dance career ends. This is why I encourage all dancers out there to consider college. It’s important to chase your dreams, most definitely. However, don’t do so recklessly. Having a back up option does not mean having no faith in your initial plan, it just means you’re prepared for whatever the first plan throws at you. And always remember that preparation is key.
You can do other things besides formal education. Health and fitness are extremely beneficial. Keeping your body flexible and strong can help reduce the risk of an injury that postpones or ends your dance career. Eating right keeps your body active and in shape, which is important for any lifestyle, but especially for dancing. However, there’s other steps you can take as well.
Being involved in the dance community can show great promise in prolonging your dance career. That’s how Bonnie Homsey was able to do so. In an interview with her for the Back Stage East in 2007, Homsey says “‘There were many more-talented dancers than me out there, but lots of them didn’t sustain careers in dance because they didn’t have what was needed to live the artist’s life.’ A model for anyone interested in a lifelong career in dance, Homsey not only sustained a longer-than-usual career as a performer but also extended her work into nonperforming areas, allowing her to remain active in the professional dance world far longer than the average terp.” So yes, while this article does say it’s difficult to sustain a long dance career, it is not impossible, as Bonnie Homsey proves. She founded a dance company, which helped her to stay in the dance world longer, as well as kept herself in shape and got an understanding of both Business and Dance.
I have to give a forewarning that the dance career can be really difficult. There’s no promises in it, and it can be a hard fall before you really even get up. Even so, you’ll never know until you try. This isn’t a career you can wish your way into, it takes hard work and sacrifice, but this career can be fun and leave you feeling fulfilled.
So, I encourage all that wish to, to chase your dreams of being a dancer, no matter how much you might convince yourself to do otherwise. Make sure to prepare yourself, either physically, with healthy living and exercise, or mentally, with education in a different field. There’s no such thing as too much preparation, so take any steps you think might be beneficial in securing your future and supporting your dream.