“You’ve got the soul to dance, but no technique.”
After 15 years of dance training at recreational studios, I was ready to choose a college for dance — or so I thought. I came to find that for a prospective Dance Major, the college chooses you. As I auditioned I realized my dance training did not prepare me for real world dance. Colleges were not looking for people to train, they were looking for people to make them look good.
I felt so behind — I knew dance steps, but I was not trained how to properly use my muscles. Some steps I learned were completely incorrect. One instructor at an audition told me, “You’ve got the soul to dance, but no technique.” At one audition the ballet portion was Vaganova, and at another it was Cecchetti and I didn’t even know there was a difference, but I knew something was off and I thought I had lost my mind!
I spent my entire college career making up for lost time. In addition to my regular dance classes at college, I enrolled at local studios that focused on technique. I took master classes, workshops, summer dance programs, and gymnastics. When I graduated in 2006, I finally considered myself a well-rounded, technically trained dancer and confidently went on to secure my first dance teaching jobs and positions performing in dance companies.
If I had to give advice to dancers and dance educators, I would tell them never stop learning. I’ve been dancing in my body for 38 years now and just recently learned my hypermobile joints are due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I am now training my body in a way that is smarter for my particular joints and am able to help lead others who have this similar issue.
Just like dancers who spent most their career using stretching as a warmup, it’s good to keep learning and evolving to maintain our individual bodies, keeping them safe to continue doing what we love for years to come. My warmups now include range of motion, active flex, and core exercises, with gentle movements that mimic what might be covered in class, and I leave the stretching for the end of class. You can always learn something new if you keep yourself open to it!
What advice do you have for young dancers? What have you learned along the way as an instructor? Do you have a story like mine? I’d love to hear it! 🙂