So you're about to transition into the dance community... Calling all my ballet / jazz / lyrical / contemporary / etc. dancers: Please raise your hand if you've ever been asked/demanded to "kick your leg really high."
What about being asked to "do a lot of spins?"
Or what about when you see a team throw in a "contemporary" piece into a set? Or when you watch someone do 4 turns in second and pull up into a sloppy double.. *and you immediately turn into Nigel on SYTYCD and judge the heck out of the technique?) Trust me, I feel you.
Whether you're technically trained in the Cecchetti method as a ballerina or you're a studio dancer who has "spun" many times for an audition, your transition into the dance community is definitely going to be a turning point (get it) in your dance career. As is any type of change, it'll be hard.But the rewards outweigh the challenges! Delving into a new style, community, and culture will definitely help you expand as a dancer and as a person. For all you technically trained dancers, here are some tips on how to transition into the dance community!
How To Transition Into The Dance Community As A Trained Dancer
1. Embrace the differences
You may have gone to a studio 5-7 days a week for 3-5 hours a day, working in an air conditioned studio with mirrors and Marley floors. You could have spent more time stretching your feet than you did doing your homework. Your weekends might have been scheduled to the T – beginning in a random city at 8 am for convention and then doing improv competitions later that day for scholarships.
Depending on what kind of team you're on or what classes you take, your dance life can drastically change when you transition into the dance community. You might never step foot into a studio all season. Maybe you're on a collegiate team that can only afford a parking lot space for practices twice a week that start at your bed time and end way past it.
Your weekends might consist of one Saturday or Sunday starting in the morning for your tech time, then practicing, house meetings, eating, mingling, performing, watching the show, awards, eating, then partying. Maybe. Yes these two worlds involve dance but no, they are not the same.They are different in their practices and their establishments, but both of them are equally fantastic. Let the culture of the dance community soak in; be a dry sponge and absorb as much as you can. Try not to go into the dance community comparing it to what your world was for 10+ years. You'll just be a wet sponge spreading germs across a wet countertop. Gross.
2. Keep practicing your technique
In my transition into into the dance community, I had a mild heart attack when I pointed my toes and realized they were not beautiful and winged and arched anymore. I immediately threw on my last pair of pointe shoes and did a short barre in my bathroom, hoping that those 15 minutes of plie-ing and releve-ing were going to bring back years of training on my arches. (Spoiler alert: it did not.)
Aside from just pointing your toes every so often, try to stretch a little when you can. There's no harm in doing some pitches or tilts in between sectionals. You may have been limber throughout your competition dance career, but don't let that flexibility disappear. Before you know it, you won't be able to do your left split that you worked so hard on since the 6th grade.
Also, I'm not saying you're going to lose your core or forget how to spot. However, if you go from turning 203948 times a day to turning -25 times a day, don't be so eager to show off in a freestyle circle by doing a turn sequence you've had down since you were 12. The only thing that'll be down is you. On the floor. When you turn out of control. And the spirit of your studio owner will be shaking his/her head at you. In shame.
3. Embrace feeling uncomfortable
"Don't be afraid of looking weird when you learn a style you aren't comfortable with; you don't have to look graceful all the time. Oh and get used to flexing your feet instead of pointing them when you pick them up off the ground."
– Rachel Fujikawa (ACA, Peninsula School of the Performing Arts)
"You'll probably be able to pick up choreo a lot faster than everyone else but everyone else is going to have that natural groove that you don't have lol."
– Ellen Kang (Samahang Modern, Dance Precisions)
"Be inspired by how talented 'untrained' dancers train themselves to become great dancers and choreographers."
– Jasmine Lin (ACA, Dellos Dance)
Things will feel weird.
Your posture might be super upright. You might not be able to stop doing competition facials during performances. Or you might get frustrated with the fact that you're picking up the choreo but you're not picking up the style.
Unless you're the blessed contemporary dancer that can just morph into any style and look amazing always, dancing will be a lot less fun and a lot more annoying. It happens.
Instead of beating yourself up, let yourself become infected with the movement. Let your body welcome the new styles with open arms (in open second, perhaps?).
Because once that happens, you'll unleash this new dancer who uses muscles you've never used before and listen to music how you've never listened to music before.
The dance community might be the best thing to happen to your personal dance style!
Keep your technique, while exploring new movements!
What are some of the struggles you have encountered learning how to transition into the dance community? Comment and share below!
This post was originally published on June 11, 2015.