A life in dance is a balancing act, just like this dancer balances his partner on his shoulder in BSUDC's WinterDance 2016!
As a young dancer (specifically one in a college dance program), the harder you work and the more talented you become, the more opportunities you are going to be offered. Even if you think you're not professional dancer material, being involved with a dance program is going to take you places, and opportunities are going to come out of nowhere. While this can be a great thing and it all seems very exciting, it can be very hard to manage all of these commitments. Things could run smoothly for you, but if you have luck like mine, you will have 2 tech weeks 2 hours away from each other at the same time, and no car to get you to either place (YIKES). Being a dance major at BSU has come with opportunities and fun memories, but also stress. And- believe it or not- I have a life outside of dance, so it gets hard to schedule everything and make it all work. Nonetheless, I survived that double tech week and continue to balance my life. Here is the best advice I can give to a dance student who is struggling to balance all of his or her commitments...
Buy a planner. Even if you think you can remember everything, just jot it down in your phone, or do without one, buy one anyways...and use it! Having a physical book of your schedule gives you a visual for when you are free and when you are not. Plus, this is a convenient way to pencil in all of your assignments during class time. Things are going to get hectic if you are going to take on multiple projects, but your planner can be your crutch to make sure everything gets done (and make sure things aren't accidentally scheduled at the same time!)
When you're this busy, you are going to have to decide which commitments are more important. For dance students, this would probably mean dance classes take top priority, then other academic classes, work, and any other extracurricular activities. While you are trying to make EVERYTHING work, there are going to be times where you have to choose between spending your time one way or another. For example, I might take more time off of work to make time for rehearsals for an upcoming dance concert. It is important to remember which activities are most important to you, and why. Keep in mind your long term goals, and which opportunities will help you achieve those in the long run. While I am all for having interests and fun off the dance floor, it is important to remember why you are a dance student in the first place; dance is a full time commitment, and all of the work you do in dance now will help you down the road.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
You are going to need help to get through a hectic semester (and quite frankly, a hectic life). Your schedules are probably going to conflict at some point, so it is important to reach out to your superiors for help and guidance to come up with a solution to make everything work...but that's what they're here for! You can even ask your friends and family for help...something as small as a ride home or a snack in between rehearsals can go a long way. Build a support system that is here to SUPPORT you, not stress you out any more than you already are.
Pick and Choose
With great opportunities comes great responsibility; you can't spread yourself too thin, because it is not fair to the people you're working with to not give your best effort. Even if you don't feel busy now, there will come a time where you have to say no to certain things. This is perfectly normal. You just have to decide which opportunities have your heart, and which you can live without.
Enjoy the Little Things
Finding quiet time for yourself is important for any student, but it will seem less and less possible the busier you become. Make your little moments in your day become your quiet time to just collect your thoughts and breathe a little easier. Daily showers and listening to music while walking across campus are two ways I find time to think and be on my own.
It is also important to make fun where you can. Yes, you are busy and need to stay focused, but don't be afraid to have fun during rehearsals and bond with the people you're working with. No opportunity is going to seem worth it if you don't make any happy memories.
As Tim Gunn says...MAKE IT WORK!
Do not pass up opportunities just because you are scared of being busy and stressed. If you push through the hard times and stay focused, you can do it. Believe in yourself, get creative, improvise, and be flexible in order to make magic happen. Throw some granola bars in your backpack, keep an extra leotard in your car, and do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality.
When setting up a busy schedule, note that not everything is going to go exactly according to plan. There are going to be night where you get home from rehearsal at 10pm, have three hours of homework left to do, and class at 9am, but you haven't eaten dinner yet and you desperately need to shower. You have to be aware that not every day is perfect, and not everything you do during this time in your life is going to be perfect, either. You might run late to a rehearsal or forget to bring the right costume, but what matters is that you try your best and know how to cope when things don't go right. In the long run, you learn more from balancing all of your commitments and planning, organizing, doing work for all of your activities than you will in one activity alone.
A career in dance often means working multiple jobs, running around, making things up as you go along, staying organized, squeezing things in, and finding creative solutions. Always remember that at the end of the day, you are doing what you love and working to achieve your goals, so the rest of this chaos doesn't matter. Don't brace yourself for the busyness...just accept it and go with the flow.
Photo from Dance Teacher Finder
Some people are born leaders, while others must learn how to pass their knowledge on to others. Whether you believe it not, teaching is a hard profession. It is a huge commitment and the fate of a teacher's students are in his or her hands at all times. Teaching any subject- especially dance- can be hard at times. It can also be a challenge for students to find the right teacher for them. Some teachers work well with one kind of student, while others struggle under his or her leadership. Teachers set the precedent for what their classrooms will be like through their approaches to teaching: they will either be teacher-centered, or student-centered.
Teacher-centered teachers enter a classroom with one pre-set method of teaching and their own interest in mind. Teacher-centered teachers are going to teach one way and one way only...and they expected their students to either learn from it or fail and find someone else to teach them. Teacher-centered learners are very interested into molding their students into what they want them to be and have them learn from their teaching style. In the dance world, the tell tales sign of these kinds of teachers are ones who only teach choreography one way, teachers who are more interested as using their students as a platform to showcase their own work, rather than give students choreography in which they can learn and grow from, and teachers who are more interested in getting their own names out there, rather than promoting their students.
Student-centered teachers are teachers who are first and foremost interested in their students' growth and learning. Student-centered teachers don't know exactly how their classrooms will be until they enter them...they will adapt their teaching methods and classroom structure to what the students need. Student-centered dance teachers will help all students learn choreography. For example, teaching choreography can be adapted to the three main learning styles. Visual learners will want to see choreography done by someone else so they can copy the movements they see. Auditory learners will benefit from hearing the sequence of steps and/or counts and repeating them either out loud or mentally to then execute the movements. Kinesthetic learners will need to practice the choreography over and over again to get it into their muscle memories. Some choreographers are willing to teach in different ways, while others will teach it one way and expect students to rewire their brains in order to learn. Lastly, student-centered teachers are more interested in their students' success than their own. This is very prominent outside of the four walls of a dance studio. For example, if a student gets the opportunity to dance for a professional company, go to an elite training program, or have any other opportunity to further his or her dance education, a student-centered dance teacher will not feel betrayed that the student is seeking an opportunity that is not from said teacher...the teacher will be happy that the student will have the chance to grow and learn in a new way.
While some students have found success in teacher-centered classrooms, it is hard to guarantee that self-centered teachers will truly be the best fit for a student. Student-centered teachers will not be perfect, but they can be trusted because you know that they always have their students' best interest at heart. For dance teachers, it is important to realize why you are teaching dance in the first place: do you want to watch your students succeed, or are you just interested in making a name for yourself? For dancers/parents of dancers, it is important to look for qualities in a dance teacher that prove to you that the teacher's priorities are in fact their students. When looking for a teacher, don't focus on how many trophies they have won or how many shows they've danced in...look for the time, attention, and love that the students have received from their teacher. They may not always get it right, but they will do their best to help their students succeed and help preserve their love of dance. And that is what matters.
I would like to thank all of the student-centered teachers I have had in my life (both dance and other subjects). You have truly made a difference.
For a friend
A few days ago I tweeted some opinion of mine about who knows what and one of my favorite teachers replied and said that I was very wise. While I don't consider myself to be any wiser than anyone else, I do believe I have gone through enough life crises to gives words of encouragement to others. As an aspiring dance teacher, I take pride in inspiring others and encouraging them to follow their dreams. So if you are feeling down, hopeless, or unsure of your next move (pun intended)...please keep reading.
People suck. There is no professional or classier way to spell that out. People are going to tear you down, discourage you, try to make you become something you're not, and worst of all, lead you to hate dance. Well let me tell you the one thing that keeps me motivated every damn day... you can't let anyone take your love of dance away from you. Whether you lose a competition, don't get the role you were hoping for (does playing the role of "water" sound appealing to you?), don't get into the program you dreamed of being in, failed an exam, are stuck in choreographer's block, or are told you're not good enough, you're not wanted, or you're simply never going to make it, you cannot forget why you're putting yourself through this in the first place. Ballet is hard. All dance is hard. Any art form is hard. Quite frankly, living is hard when chasing your dream becomes less possible as the days go on and the NEA gets unfunded and your knees start to give out again. You are dancing for a reason. You need an outlet to express yourself. You need to feel beautiful. You need to create art. You need to be happy. You need to be alive. You need to dance. Y o u n e e d t o l i v e.
Your love of dance is what is going to get you through this life. Life is going to be hard no matter what path you take. But that passion, that drive, that love for your art is what is going to be that light off in the distance, that firefly you try to capture in a jar in hopes to keep some of its beauty for yourself for a little while longer. There is nothing more beautiful than a young artist chasing his dream because he knows it's his purpose in life. There's this line from this musical that goes, "the opposite of war isn't peace; it's creation". In this world full of student loans and heartbreaks and hurricanes and political unrest and inequality and abuse and struggle and fear and pain, we need art. We need art to make the world beautiful when it's falling apart. We need art to express our pain and joy. We need art to l i v e.
What you're doing is important. It is as important as doctors and lawyers and educators and police officers and soldiers and dare I say politicians. Whatever criticism you receive and whatever struggles you may be facing in your dance career will one day be a distant memory of that one time you went over a speed bump in that parking lot you'll never remember.
The last quote which I can't post on the internet enough times is from a song by this band that goes, "you are what you love, not who loves you". No matter what opportunities and adorations you do or do not receive, you are your love of dance. It is a beautiful poem written on your soul that cannot be erased from your soul. People and life are going to try to erase it but it's engraved so deeply it just can't be. Whenever this happens, I simply grande battement life in the ass when it tries to tell me dance isn't going to work out or isn't what I should be doing. Dance is my l i f e and I don't mean it in the sense that I'm going to get a cheesy shirt from Delia's that says it but in the sense that it is the reason I am alive, and it is when I am alive.
Live to dance another day.
Dance to live another day.
Ignore the disjointedness of this piece of writing and just follow your dreams. If you don't, you will end up in a cubicle with a lot of "what if"'s and "could have should have would have"'s. End the war in your mind and in your heart by creating art by dancing.
Happy dancing, my friends.
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News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!