Words Of Wisdom From The Dance Field
November 8th, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
Want advice on how you can further your dance skills and career? Check out these wise words from some of the very best professional dancers in the field.
Balance Your Time
According to Stella Abrera, principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, having a successful career as a dancer means making sure to maintain a balance between your dance life and your personal life. Abera says you should make time to decompress. You should also take time for your interests outside of dance—cook, read, hang out with your friends, whatever fits your fancy.
According to Celeste Sims, a dancer at the prominent Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, in order to be a dancer, you must have courage. “Dance is one of the most difficult, challenging—and rewarding—professions out there. You’ll struggle with not being the best, and you’ll face impatience, doubt, insecurity, frustration and jealousy, as well as a constant need for perfection and attention. But you can overcome all this,” says Sims.
“Don’t let fear hold you back. Being scared is an essential part of life. If you believe in your talent, you’ll discover that you’re the only person standing in your way,” says contemporary dancer and choreographer Stacey Tookey.
In order to become stronger as a dancer, you must stay positive. “Negativity is not a place of happiness. Positive competition is good, but don’t ever look in the mirror and think, Why don’t I look like her? God made us all different, so each of us has something special and unique to say with our gifts,” Sims said.
Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo, well known hip-hop dancers and choreographers also emphasize the importance of staying positive as a dancer. “Stay focused on the positive things and the rest will fall into place. Make decisions with your heart; it knows more than you do,” they said. According to them, you must also make sure to never let “the envy you might feel for another turn into jealousy or hatred.” Instead, the D’Umo’s say you should channel this negative energy towards your motivation in working harder towards achieving all your dancing dreams.
Accept Failure, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
In addition to staying positive, the D’Umos also maintain that you must understand and accept failure. “Failing once doesn’t mean you’ll fail every time. You will fail, however, if you don’t learn from your mistakes,” the D’Umos said.
According to Sascha Radetsky, a former American Ballet Theatre soloist, success as a dancer lies in trying not to let the small mistakes you make along the way get to you. According to her, these are what further your development as a dancer. “Let the unique camaraderie of kindred spirits give strength to your performances. Remember that to dance at your best, you need to purge your mind of petty doubts and distractions.”
“Work hard at achieving perfection, but don’t beat yourself up. Being overly self-critical works to your disadvantage. (When you roll your eyes at yourself because you messed up a combination, it can be perceived as having a bad attitude.) Lighten up! It’s OK to make mistakes,” says Tookey.
To be successful as a dancer, Chloé Arnold, tapper and co-founder of Syncopated Ladies, says you must be yourself. “Wear your hair big and wild, rock the clothes that inspire you and tap your heart out! Your passion will take you around the world, and bring joy and happiness to your life and others’. Stay humble, be thankful and don’t let anybody steal your sunshine!” Arnold says.
Jessica Lee Goldyn, a successful Broadway dancer, also emphasizes the importance of staying true to yourself, and remembering that no one is perfect. “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect—you’re perfect just the way you are. You’ll never please everyone, so focus on what makes you happy. I know you’ve sacrificed so much to do what you love, and you’ve missed out on a lot socially. But don’t worry about being ‘normal.’ You’re not normal, and you never will be. It’s your dorky, silly, zero-inhibition self that makes you wonderful,” she says.
PeiJu Chien-Pott, a principal dancer at Martha Graham Dance Company, says that in order to succeed as a dancer, you must be willing to challenge yourself. “Great dancers challenge themselves and always push for more. Challenge is what makes you grow and become stronger. Competition, stress and injury are the three most difficult struggles you’ll face. Keep your spirits up! You’ll gradually learn how to adjust. You’re unique—just be yourself,” says Chien-Pott.
Val Chmerkovskiy, “Dancing with the Stars” ballroom pro, emphasizes the importance of being proud, grateful and appreciative throughout your successes. “Don’t dwell on your successes. Take a moment to appreciate them, but don’t let your ego prevent you from seeking continuous improvement and personal growth. Keep expanding your knowledge and always surround yourself with people who share the same ambition for personal development. As long as you learn, you live,” says Chmerkovskiy.
“You’re a work in progress. Have patience. Patience isn’t a synonym for waiting. It requires work, faith and endurance. Work toward what you want. If you don’t have it yet, there’s more work to be done. Study your craft. Don’t rush or give yourself unrealistic time frames. Take the time to do it right. Don’t focus on what you don’t have; this is a distraction. Focus on what you do have, and how to make it better.”
Genni Abilock is a writer for StarQuest. She loves baby carrots, SpongeBob, and playing Frank Sinatra songs on the ukulele.