15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer

Written by Melanie Doskocil, original post found at her blog, Ballet Pages.

1. Dance is hard. – No dancer ever became successful riding on their natural born talents only. Dancers are artists and athletes. The world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Natural ability and talent will only get us so far. Dancers must work hard and persevere. Dancers gBalletive years of their lives plus their sweat, tears and sometimes blood to have the honor and pleasure of performing on stage.

2. You won’t always get what you want. – We don’t always get the role we wanted, go on pointe when we want, get the job we want, hear the compliments we want, make the money we want, see companies run the way we want, etc, etc.  This teaches us humility and respect for the process, the art form and the masters we have chosen to teach us. The faster we accept this, the faster we can get on with being brilliant.  We’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but we can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.

3. There’s a lot you don’t know. – There is always more a dancer can learn. Even our least favorite teachers, choreographers and directors can teach us something. The minute we think we know it all, we stop being a valuable asset.

4. There may not be a tomorrow. – A dancer never knows when their dance career will suddenly vanish: a company folds, career ending injury, car accident, death…Dance every day as if it is the final performance. Don’t save the joy of dance for the stage. Infuse even your routine classroom exercises with passion!

5. There’s a lot you can’t control. – You can’t control who hires you, who fires you, who likes your work, who doesn’t, the politics of being in a company. Don’t waste your talent and energy worrying about things you can’t control. Focus on honing your craft, being the best dancer you can be. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

6. Information is not true knowledge. – Knowledge comes from experience.  You can discuss a task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but unless we get out there and perform we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find opportunities to get on stage.  You must experience performance firsthand to call yourself a professional dancer.Svetlana_Zakharova1

7. If you want to be successful, prove you are valuable. – The fastest way out of a job is to prove to your employer they don’t need you. Instead, be indispensable. Show up early, know your material, be prepared, keep your opinions to yourself unless they are solicited and above all be willing to work hard.

8. Someone else will always have more than you/be better than you.  – Whether it’s jobs or money or roles or trophies, it does not matter. Rather than get caught up in the drama about what others are doing around you, focus on the things you are good at, the things you need to work on and the things that make you happiest as a dancer.

9. You can’t change the past. – Everyone has a past. Everyone has made mistakes, and everyone has glorious moments they want to savor. “Would you keep a chive in your tooth just because you enjoyed last night’s potato?”  Dance is an art form that forces us to concentrate on the present. To be a master at dance we have be in the moment; the minute the mind wanders, injuries happen. If they do, see #12.

10. The only person who can make you happy is you. – Dancing in and of itself cannot make us happy.  The root of our happiness comes from our relationship with ourselves, not from how much money we make, what part we were given, what company we dance for, or  how many competitions we won.  Sure these things can have effects on our mood, but in the long run it’s who we are on the inside that makes us happy.

11. There will always be people who don’t like you. – Dancers are on public display when they perform and especially in this internet world, critics abound. You can’t be everything to everyone.  No matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks differently.  So concentrate on doing what you know in your heart is right.  What others think and say about you isn’t all that important.  What is important is how you feel about yourself.

12. Sometimes you will fail. – Sometimes, despite our best efforts, following the best advice, being in the right place at the right time, we still fail. Failure is a part of life. Failure can be the catalyst to some of our greatest growth and learning experiences. If we never failed, we would never value our successes. Be willing to fail. When it happens to you (because it will happen to you), embrace the lesson that comes with the failure.

13. Sometimes you will have to work for free. – Every professional dancer has at one time or another had to work without pay. If you are asked to work for free, be sure that you are really ok with it. There are many good reasons to work for free, and there are just as many reasons not to work for free. Ask yourself if the cause is worthy, if the experience is worth it, if it will bring you joy. Go into the situation fully aware of the financial agreement and don’t expect a hand out later.

68187381828099862_k2p7ePFz14. Repetition is good. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insane. – If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  If you keep doing the bare minimum of required classes, don’t complain to your teacher when you don’t move up to the next level. If you only give the bare minimum in your company, be happy staying in the corps. If you want to grow beyond your comfort zone, you must push yourself beyond your self-imposed limitations.

15. You will never feel 100% ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Dancers have to be willing to take risks. From letting go of the ballet barre to balance, to moving around the world to dance with a new company, from trusting a new partner to trying a new form of dance, dancers must have a flexible mind and attitude as well as body. The greatest opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable or ready for it.

Blog post shared via The Portland Ballet. To learn more about the CSU Dance Conservatory, visit ballet.columbusstate.edu.

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5 Reasons Your Child Should Take Ballet Classes

Ballet is not a sport, but the study of ballet has many of the same physical benefits you would gain from participating in a sport. Ballerinas spend hours carefully positioning their bodies into various poses, and by holding these poses, the body is able to gain flexibility and strength. Coordination comes into play not only from practicing to coordinate the body parts, but also in coordinating and choreographing movements with music.

The Nutcracker

CSU Dance Conservatory Ballerinas

Ballet Helps Develop Grace

Grace is not a quality often mentioned these days, but most of us will agree, it is a fine attribute — who wouldn’t like to move more gracefully? The various ballet positions were designed specifically to showcase the human body at its finest. Think of the ballerina with her arms straight up — they frame her face. Ballerinas who, in real life are rather short, look tall and graceful as they flutter across the stage en pointe. Ballet class will teach your child good posture as she learns to keep her shoulders back, chin lifted and toes pointed.

Ballet Teaches a Smattering of French

Parlez-vous francais? You will, a bit, if you study ballet. Just as most musical terms are in Italian, most ballet terms are in French (a carryover from the days of ballet’s founder, French King XIV). The standard ballet exercises are still called by their French names. Your child will learn that plie means to bend, pas de chat means dance of the cat, rond de jambe means circle of the leg – and that’s just a beginning.

CSU Dance Conservatory Ballerinas

CSU Dance Conservatory Ballerinas

Ballet Helps Kids Make a Group of Friends          

Rarely is ballet studied privately. Usually classes are held for groups, and the girls and boys bond with each other through the time spent together in the studio. If your child is in a ballet performance, the children will no doubt bond with each other during the rehearsals and performances in theatre. Having a common dance interest brings dancers together, and it’s an excellent way for a child to make new friends.

Ballet is an Excellent Form of Exercise     

It’s no accident that many football players study ballet in the off-season. It’s an excellent form of exercise, and similar to swimming, it benefits participants by helping them develop the elongated, lean muscle mass that most athletes want. The isometric techniques used in ballet develop long and strong muscles and it’s an excellent exercise form for children.

Ballet Develops Discipline        

Most ballet studios are disciplined places. You won’t find lots of running and yelling, but rather children who are going through a set of long-ago developed routines of steps and positions. The process of learning these routines and coordinating them with music, then thanking your teacher and accompanist at the end of class, develops a discipline in children that will serve them well in all areas of life.

CSU Dance Conservatory

CSU Dance Conservatory

About the Columbus State University Dance Conservatory

The CSU Dance Conservatory at the Rankin Arts Center is the official school of The Columbus Ballet with classical ballet training for children 4 years old through adult, as well as lyrical and modern training.

The Columbus Ballet invites CSU Dance Conservatory students to participate in many of its productions, including the annual production of The Nutcracker. The Columbus Ballet company is made up of advanced dancers from within the CSU Dance Conservatory who have auditioned for the company and are on pointe. They perform the major roles in The Nutcracker and spring repertory program.

Available classes include: Move-a-little. Move-a-lot, Creative Movement, Pre-Ballet, Levels 1-6, Advanced Jazz/Lyrical, Modern, Adult Ballet, and Adult Tap.

Visit http://ballet.columbusstate.edu to sign your child up today.

CSU Conservatory Dancers Perform like Stars

Last Thursday night, Columbus State University’s University Hall was packed full of Columbus’ rising stars. Flashes of black leotards and pink tights were flying by my eyes from every direction.  It was the CSU Dance Conservatory’s dance recital and you could feel the excitement in the air.

I went back stage to get a glimpse of the stars before the show. A lot of the little ballerinas were ready to roll and keeping busy by playing games or coloring. The other ballerinas were having their mommies fix their hair. I’m not sure if it is known how difficult it is to put such little thin hair into a tight ballerina bun. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of hair spray.

Lights up! Music on! The CSU Dance Conservatory
proudly presents, the Mickey Mouse Club!

I couldn’t get over how tiny the girls were compared to how large the stage is.  They were ready though. Confident four and five year olds they were. There were a few little slip ups, but it only made the performance more precious.

I’ve been watching the little girls practice over the semester, and their skills may not look too impressive to the audience, but to those that have been watching them throughout the semester it is very visible that their skills have greatly developed.  The girls work together and are a lot more coordinated than before.  What made the show was when one of them would help the other out.  If one of the ballerinas forgot their part, their friend would whisper or point which way to go.  The girls have been working very hard on their recital piece, but like everyone I’m sure nerves got to a few of them.  The audience roared with cheers for the petite ballerinas.  I was no different than anyone else, and clapped loudly and proudly for those girls.  They did a great job!

The program progressed with the beginning ballerinas first to the more advanced.  The girls and boys just only a year older than the beginning class were far more advanced.  It was apparent that their posture and grace was much more refined than girls a year younger.  Their skills and techniques also far advanced.  I was shocked that in just one year, how much the children had learned.

I was just imagining all of the little girls in the five year old class, and how one day they may be skillful ballerinas in only a few years.

I snuck back stage to get a few better pictures.  I’m really glad that I did too, because I could see up close how brilliant these ballerinas really were. I could really see the Conservatory Dancers “En Pointe.” En Pointe means “on the tip.” This is a classic ballet technique meant for the ballerinas to appear weightless. I must say, it truly does make these women seem as light as a feather and as graceful as an angel. It was amazing to watch them perform.  This has taken these young ladies years of practice and dedication, and I believe the audiences’ cheer filled their hearts up with joy.

The part that I loved the most about the entire night was all of the sweet fathers who brought their daughters flowers.  I played soccer, so my father never brought me flowers after I won soccer match, but instead he brought me a hamburger.  I guess if I had become a sophisticated and elegant dancer, maybe I would have gotten flowers too. I think every little girl walked out of that auditorium with a bouquet of colorful flowers from their daddies. It was really great to see parents supporting their children. I think that every dancer that night had to have felt loved and appreciated and hopefully, like a star.

Find out more about the CSU Dance Conservatory classes and summer programs.

— Contributed by Rebecca Holman

Reduce the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s with Dance

Dancing is always a great way to have fun, tone your body and meet new people, but did you know that dancing may also fight the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? I heard about this topic a few weeks ago and thought it would be a good idea to talk to our ballroom dancing instructor, Lee Briggs, about it. Mr. Briggs informed me of a 21 year study done by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City on mental activity that included people who were 75 and older. After studying various activities, such as reading, writing for pleasure, crossword puzzles, cards, etc. and physical activities like tennis, golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise, they found that the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Risk was reduced by:

  • Reading 35%
  • Bicycling and swimming 0%
  • Crossword puzzles done 4 days a week 47%
  • Golf 0%
  • Dancing frequently 76%

Lee mentioned that dancing integrates the mind, the emotions and the physical which the study suggests work together to improve mental health. He said that the study seemed to show that “rapid-fire” decision making is what leads to this improvement. Dancing requires a lot of quick decision making, in both the leading and the following roles. The follower probably has the most benefit due to the fact that they must interpret the signals that the leader is sending them, thus requiring even more quick decision making.

It’s never too early or too late to start strengthening your mind. Lee’s classes at Continuing Education host a wide variety of ages, all there with some type of purpose whether it is for fun or a special event. If you are interested in signing up for Lee’s ballroom dance classes, visit www.ColumbusState.edu/CE or call 706.507.8070

-Kindra Hunter

Swing and Shag Competition!

The USA Grand National Dance Competition is happening in Atlanta within the next few months. If Lee Briggs did great job teaching you shag and swing dancing, maybe you would like to showcase your skill this May? This is a competition for all dance levels and a variety of ages, so there is definitely a spot for you.

Why not put what you’ve learned in your Ballroom dancing classes to use by having some fun in Atlanta. It’s also a great idea for a mini getaway from the ordinary for you and your dancing partner. The competition starts May 24th and last through May 28th. During the weekend you’ll be absorbed with the multiple dance workshops, Ice cream socials, dinners and of course competitions. They even have times open for social dancing. It honestly sounds like a lot of fun even if you don’t dance. Check out their website for more information.

If you have the skill but aren’t much for showing off, this is event is still something you should consider. You could learn a few new steps and meet some really interesting people. The professional swing and shag dance competitions should be quite the spectacle. This is one way to re-energize that dancing passion within you. When you get home from an event like this you might crave for more; that’s why Continuing Education is happy to remind you that Lee Briggs will have more Ballroom dance classes coming up soon. For registration information visit www.ColumbusState.edu/CE or call 706.507.8070.

-Kindra Hunter

The Sounds of Silence

My mother use to tell me that she enjoyed having time to herself. “Me Time,” she would call it. When I was younger, I never understood why she would desire alone time. Who wants to be alone?!  It’s more fun to be with your friends, laughing and chatting about everything under the sun. Now, that I’m a little bit older I understand and thoroughly appreciate “me time.” Silence can sometimes be a blessing. To be able to hear your own thoughts or to be able to read a page from a book only once can feel like a gift granted from above. If you don’t understand the value of “Me Time,” all you have to do is babysit a child under the age of seven and all will be explained.

I babysit a precocious five year old named Audrey Jane. She has the energy of ten children on a sugar high. She talks at 100 words per minute while wandering to the next shiny thing she sees. I’m only twenty one years old, so you think I would be able to keep up with her liveliness, but she wears me out. She asks endless amounts of questions, that sometimes I really have no clue how to answer. She is as quick as a cheetah, running from one spot to the next. My reflexes are tested and I’m trying to grab her before she runs again. I watch mothers with four or five children and I just wonder, “How in this world do you do it?,” then my thought is interrupted with another question from Audrey Jane.

Audrey Jane is an active five year old. She started gymnastics when she was only two years old. Gymnastics was not really Audrey Jane’s forte, and for that I’m glad. That may sound a little mean, but let me explain from the babysitter’s perspective. The gym was always packed full of parents and children. There is clear glass separating the waiting area and the gym so the parents can watch while sitting on hard metal bleachers. Needless to say, it’s an hour of discomfort. Also, every child finds it necessary to scream from their lungs with all the air they have, to ask a million questions about nothing, and cry because they can. It was impossible to read, to study, or by any means even think. By the end of class my head is pounding, my back is stiff, and my butt is numb.

Getting back to the glorious need for sounds of silences, my quiet time is during Audrey Jane’s ballet class. Oh, ballet how you make my heart warm with joy. Audrey Jane began ballet at the CSU Dance Conservatory in January of this year. It has been nothing but wonderful. Audrey Jane really enjoys the class and adores her teacher. The class is very structured and calm, which is something Audrey Jane needs for an hour. I’ve peeked in a few times, and the little ballerinas are all paying close attention to their instructor and eagerly waiting to learn more.

Class begins exactly at 4:00pm and ends on time at 5:00pm. While Audrey Jane is learning to become the next big thing, I’m sitting in the waiting area in a cozy, comfy fabric chair. But wait, what is that I hear? Oh, silly me. It’s nothing, literally nothing. I’m on cloud nine for one whole hour. There are two other mothers that stay in the waiting area until class is over, and each of them have their books or to- do lists. The other mothers leave to run errands or enjoy a cup of coffee across the street. It’s a peacefully perfect hour. The CSU Dance Conservatory is at the Rankin Arts Center, which is conveniently located on Broadway at Uptown Columbus. Some days, I’ll walk across the street to Fountain City Coffee and grab a latte and sit outside on a bench and enjoy the scenery. It’s my one hour to relax, unwind, and enjoy being by myself. No one is screaming in my ear, asking me questions, or needs me for anything.

Other than having my hour of alone time, ballet has taught Audrey Jane to be more disciplined and focused. At gymnastics she was as wild as a monkey. Now, Audrey Jane is listening and learning how to participate with a group. The little ballerinas are also learning their numbers in French. After every class, Audrey Jane counts up to the amount that she has learned. She is now up to the number ten or nombres dix! Audrey Jane is learning the basic fundamentals of ballet, but at such a young age, she is learning much more. Ballet is showing Audrey Jane how to be refined and poised which will assist her development into a young lady.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice the blessings given to us, but I am well aware that ballet is a blessing for both Audrey Jane and myself.

If you’re interested in signing your child up for ballet classes and treating yourself to an hour of uninterrupted bliss, click http://ballet.columbusstate.edu/ for more information.

Submitted by Rebecca Holman

Ballerinas and Their Pointe Shoes

Anyone who is familiar with Ballet knows about the difficult dance routines ballerinas do on their toes. In fact the word, “en pointe,” is French for “on the tips of the toes. “ It’s amazing how ballerinas can build up their strength and flexibility to perform those dances. I would think that their feet must go through many long nights of practice. It appears to me that properly fit shoes and well-kept feet are essential for a good performance. For this reason, I’ve looked into some facts future “en pointe” ballerinas might need to know about their pointe shoes.  I found a few helpful tips online at About.com:

1)     Make sure to get the perfect size when buying your first pointe shoes.  Pointe shoes that are too big or too small can cause injury.

2)     Pointe shoes also have no left or right, making them interchangeable. You want to make sure to wear them as you would regular shoes because they will eventually conform to your feet.

3)     Pointe shoes wear out easily due to the amount of pressure they endure. It’s important to notice when they start wearing out so you can perform with the needed stability.

4)     Let your shoes air out and dry after practice. Moisture from your feet will make the shoes more delicate, and they need to harden up before the next performance/practice.

It must be a very exciting day when a young ballerina gets her first pair on pointe shoes. If you are taking that step toward “en pointe” dancing in the future, hopefully these tips will come in handy. This site also mentioned pointe shoe brands you may want to consider: Capezio, Bloch, Gaynor Minden and Grishko. Remember our Ballet director, Maria Hirsch, is your best resource when it comes to finding what you need for ballet class. Are you ready to take your ballet dancing to the next level?  Visit our website www.ColumbusState.edu/Ballet  or call 706.507.8070 for registration information on future classes.

-Kindra Hunter

Vann, Korky. “Pointe Shoes.” About.com Shoes. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <http://shoes.about.com/od/casualshoes2/qt/pointe_shoes.htm&gt;.