But What I Really Want To Do Is Dance!

A dancer in leotard and tights holds a single red flower.There’s one email that I get quite a lot. It goes a little something like this:

I am a 31-year old late beginner.

I am an office clerk with a degree in sociology.

I am 24 years old and currently studying rocket science at XYZ University.

I danced for 10 years, quit, and only recently started again.

I’m on the dance team and love to choreograph.

I take class as often as I can fit it in my schedule.

I took dance for 14 years and I regret giving it up when I went to college.

I enjoy rocket science but what I really want to do is dance.

How do I break into the business?

Can you give me tips on where to start?

What are my next steps if I want to be a dancer?

It’s not my intent to make fun of these requests. The pattern is… “I’m currently doing X, but what I really want to do is dance. Is it possible or will I be wasting my time?”

So, how do I answer?

It usually goes something like this:

Professional dancers spend an extraordinary amount of time focusing on their chosen profession. Though they do have lives outside of dance, the day to day life of someone working toward a professional dance career revolves around dancing.

If you want to dance at a professional level, you need to pursue it at a professional level.

What does it mean to pursue dance at a professional level?

It can mean a lot of things but this covers it in a general way:

  • Rigorous, daily practice and attention dedicated to your art form.
  • Continual training and sometimes cross-training to keep you in top physical form.
  • Constant assessment of where you are in relationship to where you want to be.
  • Focused seeking of experiences that will extend and improve what you have to offer as a dancer.
  • Regular quenching of the thirst to see and understand the field and how others approach their art form.

Afraid of commitment?

What’s interesting is that in writing to me, you don’t often say, “I want to be a professional dancer” or “I want a career in dance.” Those that ask, *ahem* dance around it. My guess is that either putting the intention into serious sounding words makes it more real and more scary, or there’s just a lot of confusion about working in the dance field.

Everyone has a slightly different story, and I’m not one to say never (particularly since many dancers have started at 15 to 25 years old – considered late in dance) but still my answer is always the same - see above, if you’ve forgotten.

Inevitably, there are those who respond with a, “Thanks, but…

“…when I said pro, I didn’t mean that I’d actually earn a living,”

“…I wasn’t talking about a career, I’d like to do a few jobs here and there.”

or “…I just want to audition and see where things take me.”

A dose of reality

I am a firm believer that people DO have the power to achieve what they set their mind to.

Setting the mind to something is more than just thinking on it, though! And in dance, more than the mind is involved. The body plays a pretty big role and requires frequent tending to remain equipped for high-level dancing. I believe in dreaming big but your dreams will stay dreams without real action propelling them.

[image] Two dancers lying on the floor, lift their backs into an arch as they reach upward [image]

It is not unusual for a professional dancer (one who IS dedicating their full attention to dance) to pursue secondary interests or take on other work in order to earn enough for living expenses. However, when you’re talking about auditioning, or breaking in, getting gigs, or dance being the thing you want to do, don’t dance around it, you’re talking about a professional career.

Semi-professional opportunities for dancers ARE available but it’s unlikely you’ll be paid much, if at all. The truth is, even professional dancers with companies aren’t guaranteed a salary that will pay the bills. So, please understand that your hours as a semi-pro performer are essentially for fun. Sometimes, you may actually be putting in more time or money than you are getting in return, but that’s what volunteering (versus being a paid professional) is all about. It’s rare for work like this to lead directly to bigger and better opportunities. If your goal is unpaid fun, there are ways to do this at absolutely every level of talent and experience if you look around.

So honestly, it’s never too late, if that’s what you’re worried about.

Now, if you are an amateur wanting to get paid like a professional for something, you must compete with professionals who also want to get paid. Whether it is just a few jobs, a TV spot, or a music video, you will still be competing with dancers who are pursuing dance with all of their energy. If you are not throwing your body and mind into dance with concentrated effort, what are your chances against the people who are? The field of dance is highly competitive.

It does not matter what kind of dance you are pursuing, either. Ballet may hold some of the more stringent expectations of dancers but in every situation (from hip-hop to Broadway) those hiring are looking for people at the top of their game. They want versatility, superior training and skills, and experience. Most importantly, they want people fully committed to dance!

So, what you really want to do is dance…

Does this mean you should drop out of XYZ University and forget your career in rocket science?

Sorry, but no one can answer that but you. We all make choices in life and successful people often make choices that others have deemed too risky or downright stupid.

On the other hand, risky or stupid decisions are sometimes just that.

I cannot possibly advise if you’ll “make it” as a professional dancer. Even your teachers may not be able to advise you (in fact, naysayers are a frequent catalyst and have launched many a career in dance).

Only YOU can make the decision and YOU are the only person that can be held accountable for the outcome.

Get Serious

I can’t become a doctor just by dreaming of it, or by taking a few biology classes, or because I played doctor as a child. It doesn’t matter how good I might be at it or how much “natural” talent I have. I can’t expect to walk into a hospital, operate every once in a while and hope they’ll be so impressed they’ll offer me a permanent position. It just doesn’t work that way.

No matter how often your television tries to fool you into believing that part-time effort can pay off with instantaneous triumph, those that enjoy even just two minutes of fame or success have spent a great deal of time and energy positioning themselves to be “suddenly discovered”.

Like it or not, your dreams won’t happen without getting serious and setting some serious goals.

There are no exceptions to this rule, no way around it, no shortcuts.

Can you have it all?

There are most definitely people who can take on rocket science and dance at the same time. These high-level achievers wouldn’t bother to ask if it’s possible, they’d already be eating and breathing it because they are compelled to.

If what you really wanted to do is dance, you’d already be doing it.

[image] A dancer stands on a beach, posing on one leg with a long scarf extended in the breeze. [image]

Is this supposed to be encouragement?

Every teacher knows that sometimes tough love is required to motivate and educate. The skinny on becoming a professional dancer has been covered in feel-good, but no less accurate articles on this site… here and here and here, for example.

This article may be your kick in the pants.

On the other hand, it may be what you need to hear to realize that rocket science really is your thing and that you are happy to enjoy dancing for the love of it… and for the rest of your life if possible.

How are you spending your time?

So here it comes, what I MOST want you to get out of this article if you’ve EVER contemplated dance as a professional pursuit. And, it comes from a source completely unrelated to dance.

“‘Just do it’ can be excellent advice. If you wonder whether you could write a book or run a marathon, don’t waste a minute calculating your chances. Instead, spend an hour a day on your dream. It’s how I suddenly found myself on a bridge in London, cameras rolling, wondering what took me so long.”

And there it is.

Don't waste a minute calculating your chances

Every moment you waste calculating your chances, asking, or even wondering if it’s possible to have a career or live your dance dream is a moment not spent on making it happen. If what you really want to do is dance…

Just Do It!

swoosh

Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle Suzanne began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. Nichelle holds a BA in dance and is an instructor with more than 17 years experience. She covers dance performance in the Houston area as a freelance writer and balances daily life as a mom to two young children. In June 2012, Nichelle presented the whats, hows, and whys of blogging on a panel at the annual conference for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, to better equip artists and companies for engaging their audience and new readers through online communications and content.
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
Nichelle (admin)
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Comments

  1. now those are true words…

  2. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is an amazingly comprehensive post and one I will link to from my own blog. I firmly believe there is a place for everyone who wants to dance – BUT it may not be the type of company/job/lifestyle a person dreams of. Just as it is for many actors or other artists, a person will have to settle for semi-pro or local recitals, etc. depending on their age and ability. But if you really want to dance, you will do it wherever and whenever you can. Thanks for a great reply.

  3. One of the central tragedies of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s life was her far-too-late obsession with becoming a professional ballet dancer. Despite some talent and a desperate commitment, at 27 it was just too late.

    • nicolette says:

      Not true, she was given an opportunity but passed on it because she had a serious mental illness that prohibited her from doing many things she could have excelled at. She very likely could have been the world’s oldest first-year professional, had she not had schizophrenia. THAT was her downfall, not her age. Maya Plisetskaya retired at 65. Many dancers have careers that last for decades. Why are we continally told that 25 is over the hill?

      • 25 isn’t over the hill. Plenty of dancers continue well beyond 25, something that, as an industry and art form, we could celebrate and appreciate a lot more. Starting at 25 and rising to a professional level is a lot more rare. It’s especially rare in the ballet field.

  4. great advice- just do it, what have you got to lose, a healthier you? enjoyed article,dancin 4x/wk, now. and lovin it, thank u for the 2010 articles, that was great, also. so encouraging and informative.

  5. Loved this piece! Also loved that you featured a photo of one of my Ariel Dance Production colleagues:)

  6. Loved this piece! Also loved that you featured a photo of one of my Ariel Dance Production colleagues:)

  7. Loved this piece! Also loved that you featured a photo of one of my Ariel Dance Production colleagues:)

  8. Amazing post! I so agree with everything here. At first, I was told, if you are on a pre-professional track in your teens you should be taking at least 3 ballet classes per week. So I did just that, I took 3 per week. Then, I realized, AT LEAST was the operative word here. Having started at 13, I realized if I really wanted to make it, I’d need to get my butt in studio FAR more than 3 times a week. I now dance as much I my studio allows me: 13 hours per week. 6 90-min. technique classes, 3 pointe classes, and 1 jazz class. Dedication really is key!

  9. Thanks to all for your comments!

    Leigh, I couldn’t agree more that “there is a place for everyone who wants to dance.” I would love for dancing to be part of every person’s daily life – like reading, or walking, or breathing.

  10. Very true. You must make it happen!

  11. Thanks Beth! Didn’t know that until later but happy that it turned out that way :)

  12. Hi Nichelle, this entry has inspired me to ‘just do it’, thank you. It has also made me think about why some people, ie myself, ask questions similar to those in your entry.

    With regards to myself, I think “Will we ever be able to dance?” is a genuine question which does not always encompass being a paid or professional dancer. Sometimes self-doubt is a manifestation of the fear to be proud that I dance, and to feel like I am not justified in claiming I dance (to dvds in my lounge room this year, due to living in a small country town and having four children).

    If you tell people you dance, they automatically want to know how good, how often, what can you do… and as I just do it for me and my skills are very very basic, I sometimes feel like a fraud or a fool for saying I dance in case I am “caught out” as someone who wants to dance yet can’t. In contrast, if I said I do aerobics, would people go “Oh wow, so can you do the grapevine, or the box? What about lunges and easy walks?”… unlikely scenario.

    Dancing is so amaxing that I believe it is sometimes put on a pedestal as a professional activity for those competent only, and this can make wanting to dance seem daunting. It shouldn’t be this way, and I am justifying my love and passion to myself continually, and hope I can someday be comfortable enough to go out into the world loud and proud and say “Yes, I dance, simply because I love to dance”.

    • Hi Salster,

      Thanks so much for your comment! You’ve offered wonderful insights. I could have been more clear that among my emails, there are definitely those from folks like you who really do just want to know how to improve for themselves, not necessarily because of any professional aspirations.

      Just as you mention, there’s a general lack of awareness about dance and the amount of time, attention, and level of instruction it takes to progress. And I think that that extends sometimes even to the people who are dancing. Emails asking about auditioning or getting work come less often by the folks who are late starters or begin as an adult than from those who’ve been dancing for years or since childhood.

      Dance itself does not belong on a pedestal. All bodies move and I wish dance (and its study) was a more inbuilt part of our lives and culture. If this were the case, there might be more understanding that working as a performing dancer takes a very focused concentration and dedication of resources. It IS an elite group that make it to that point.

      But for anyone, who like you may be asking, “Will I ever be able to dance?” The answer is you already are – dance is a forever process, no point of arrival. Will you ever feel confident and without doubt of your ability…? well, that depends on you and has little to do with how advanced or competent you are or whether or not you’re selected at an audition or what other people think of your dancing. I know working professionals with the same doubts.

      • thanks a ton fur the posts. your keeping my head up high. im a 22 year old male who loves 2 dance a few years back i could only preform a head bob. lol but i litteraly spent hours apon hours. practicing almost literaly 24/7 often spending over 5 hours at a time practicing. still spend thatmuch time. i first taughtmyself to shuffle after i first seen the party rock anthem vid. that video was so fun i just had 2 figure out how to do that. in less than a month i was fluidly shufflin in 2 months i could dance 2 the beats very well. and than i stumbled upon the youtube dubstep pumped up kicks by nonstop. ind i decided i am going to learn to dance like that. at first i couldnt fugure out how to move like that so i practiced the robot fur months figuring out how 2 control my body more like mad chad from step up 3. eventualy i lossened up and it looked actualy fairly impressive. when i first seen t he les twins i imediatly took my dancing to a new level. i had one realization after another. weather it be figuring out how to do a move i preveiously couldnt. or 2 just keep going and never give up i wanted to sometimes. i guess im starting 2 ramble. but what i want 2 say is. iv become a great dancer and ever sence i first started dancing i had intensions on becoming professional. but i dont know how i want 2 perform but dont know how 2 audition. im no good with computers. but even if i never do make it thats alright im never going to stop progressing. every day i entertain myself by dancing and its quite fun to watch myself in mirror lol. but thanks again i read this and i was inspired 2 get up and dance right away. i actualy just finished dancing for an hour and im about 2 continue now lol thanks again. i wish i knew how 2 upload videos on youtube my bro has 2 help me with that

  13. I think this is a beautiful and very true post. It adresses my central problem: fear, wanting to do well and wanting to be sure I do before doing it. I’m a perfectionist, and I have learned in the last few years that being a perfectionist is pointless if it leads you to keep thinking but not DOING.

    Yet, I do have a question relating to becoming a professional dancer at a high age. I am prepared to give it every hour, to work, to jump into the deep. But… if it is just not physically possible to become a proffesional dancer, then maybe I should abandon the dream and pursue one of my other dreams. So my question simply is: is it physically possible to become a professional dancer at age 28?

    Because if it is, then the only thing that detemines whether I really will is my own determination, effort, will, and above all: my actions.

  14. In addition to the above: off course I will keep dancing no matter what, I love it :)

    • Hi Me :) Sorry this is a late response — it’s not impossible to become a pro dancer at age 28. Of course, there are lots of factors – what type of dance we’re talking about is a big one, and also how long you’ve already been working toward the career (it usually doesn’t happen out of the blue, as you probably know). Also, keep in mind that performance careers are relatively short but some dance regularly into their 40s and occasionally 50s. A dancer’s career is full of transitions and even if performance is not the primary mode of work/income, many professional dancers will continue to work in the field. Hope that helps!

  15. Lostboy says:

    Wow! This really gave me the push I needed! I’ve always been the bigger guy out of everyone so now it’s time to crack on with loosing weight and pushing myself to take what I’d say I’m good at and love further!

  16. nothing is truly still says:

    If only I had a pound for every time I had asked questions like these of myself!!! Truly sensible, reasonable yet encouraging words of wisdom, nicely done! I have danced since the age of 7, various styles and continued to alevel, then took a Contemporary Art degree in which a specialism was contemporary dance. Upon graduating, with confidence waning and a tendency to go behind the camera and create films, I found a career working for one of the big charities in trading. I don’t regret this as I had always promised myself that I would take it to degree level if nothing else. Truly I have always been more interested in choreography and making dance as a moving sculpture. I still hold this dream but am lost as to where to begin and my fears lie more with selling myself to grant and bursary bodies. My conflict of ethics with asking for money for an art form is what led me to charity work in the first place. After not dancing for 8 years I began again 2 years ago and now at 32 am wondering… could I still be a choreographer? Should I try to create dance on film? Is there even really a market for this and who would dance for me? Honestly I am beginning to believe that I should just make something anyway and worry about it’s use later on. I guess part of all our fears also comes from the same dilemma all art forms have, which is who are we creating it for? Ourselves or an audience? I guess ideally both.
    Movement is life don’t rest for too long and maybe we should all stop telling people our age ;)

    • Thanks for your response to the article. You’ve asked some big, thoughtful questions with which lots of artists struggle. Sometimes I think artists have become too dependent on public money — I mean, I’d like to see more public money go to the arts but there will ever be enough for all. Some artists are discovering and using more entrepreneurial methods to fund projects – a popular one recently in crowd-funding with things like kickstarter but the limit is only our imaginations, I think. As for dance film, I definitely think this has a growing audience, especially with the accessibility of repeat viewing online. Anyway, I may be giving my thoughts on rhetorical questions, but I want to say thanks for reading and for your kind words. Best wishes to you!

  17. I really like this article. It shows a lot of wisdom. I found your point about goals being realized through action rather than just dreaming to be really important and a real wake-up call. Also, the fact that people who are going for their dreams aren’t generally asking whether it’s possible, but are out there working toward their dreams.

    As an aspiring classical vocalist and also late starter, I think something true about performing arts in general is that unless you love the art such that you want to engage it regardless of the professional level you reach or notoriety you gain, that you likely won’t have enough of an impetus to persevere and do what it takes to make it. Defining specific goals is important (and I’ve been inspired to be clearer about my own), and at the same time you have to want it for its own sake, have to love it for its own sake.

    When my voice teacher questioned whether I’d have time to commit to pursuing lessons seriously given all my other commitments, I told him that I really didn’t feel like I would be happy otherwise. I *had* to sing, whether I technically had the time or money for it or not. (and I really had neither!)

    I do think there’s a difference between reaching a professional *skill level* and actually having a professional career. There are tons of artists of all types who definitely have the skills to work on a professional level, but who for whatever reason don’t really “make it”–at least not big. And there are a lot of factors that go into succeeding at having a professional career that are separate from mastery of the craft. So I think that sometimes people like myself really do want to know how possible it is to acquire high level *abilities* as a late starter regardless of whether we intend to be paid for it. Does that make sense?

  18. hi.first of all thank u for ur useful advices…here’s a question i have. i’m from iran an unfortunately i haven’t well trained for ballett because there are e few teachers here for dancing.i have been dancing and teaching some other types of dance(belly dancing,hiphop,spanish…) for 8years but in ballet i’m a beginner i’m25 and i’m trying to continue this in other countries i can immigrate.dancing is all i am& i’m sure to do it.but i don’t know if i can be well trained and be a ballerina how far can i go can i work with it?what countries in asia have best ballet teachers?isn’t it late?please help me with this
    thank u all in advance

  19. This is a refreshingly honest article. I also believe you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

  20. I have a 16 year old daughter who started dance at 2 1/2, then quit at 11 to do other things (figure skating, acting) and now insists she wants to be a dancer. Knowing the challenges she is up against I am of the opinion that she would be best taking her ballet portion of the training in a school that focuses primarily on training professional dancers such as the local state ballet company’s school rather than a recital/competition business that attempts to do everything (acting, voice, all kinds of dance). I am thinking she should use the latter as a supplemental program for the hiphop and other forms not taught by the ballet school. However, we are not coming to agreement. She wants to join the company at this business ( super expensive) but my concern is that more of the money goes for non- technical training than for getting her skills up. She says she will get performance experience, but I am thinking that performing without skill development would not take her the professional route. I am interested to hear thoughts on this.
    Thanks!

    • Hi Dee! Great question!! And it’s one that I’ve actually covered here: http://danceadvantage.net/2010/05/13/well-rounded-myth/

      I think this will address everything you’ve asked… except how to convince your daughter :) I’ll add that there are some really excellent competitive schools that offer incredible technical training but you are absolutely right that a lot of time and money do go to the less-technical experiences. But this can be true in the ballet world too – ballet-focused schools often participate in examinations and competitions to get their dancers in front of company directors, not to mention elite summer intensives and auditions. So it could just come down to how you want to distribute your money. A great question to ask at both schools is where alumni of the programs are dancing now. The answer usually tells you a lot about what path each is prepared to place your daughter on. Good luck!

  21. Thanks Nichelle! Great article! The seniors that graduated this year.. one went to Knicks city dancers , one boy to Tish, and that’s it. While Knicks has intense auditions, basically they are the filler between the real thing.. the game. So I don’t personally see it as a professional dance company that people pay to see. Most were not headed for the professional world. (more modeling for costume catalogues) At the recital I judged the ballet and lyrical critically and the technique did not come close to the local professional ballet school. No footwork to speak of. Petite allegro close to non-existent. Just some Big jumps and maybe a few double pirouettes. Convincing my daughter will be tough.. sorting out what she says are her aspirations and the track to be a professional dancer vs. joining teens in company will be a challenge!!!

  22. Wow. I’ve read a couple of articles to get myself together. I’m 15 (known for a late beginner.) I’ve dreamt of becoming a professional dancer all my life. My teacher gave me a word of advice. Those words had openned my eyes to reality. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve began then gave up, began again and gave up. This started at the age 11. Yet I had the passion all my life. I just kept on thinking can I do this. I’ve listened to others, lingering onto their words,”You can and you can’t.”, “You should do something else your smart.”. I’ve had the passion, yet do I truly want to pursue it… The answer is yes. Thanks to this article I can truly look on forward. With a positive path. I can finally stay on the path instead falling over. I can finally create the goal i’ve wanted to create for many years. I’ve had created it before, yet I’ve let things get in the way. Now I want to stay focus. God bless you ^-^ for writing this. For helping many and for saving many. <3 You truly are a savior. T^T Thank you again. Ehh… yeah, yeah I know i'm just a kid. I have lots to learn, but I know more than teens my age. I see life differently. I want to stand out of the crowd by pursuing the dream then helping others. ^-^ Again thank you.

  23. I haven’t danced in 10 years. I did every day at school until I had my daughter, who could careless about dance. I never wanted to go pro but I did want to teach. I recently (last week) started taking classes twice a week and I couldn’t be happier. I had become bummed out that my daughter really just doesn’t want to danceand didn’t want to push the dreams of my youth on to her so I guess felt like I couldn’t have dance anymore( oh silly me) but it did make me wonder about teaching, not as an exclusive company more the nonprofit sector / public school. Any advice on how to look into degree programs for dance education?

  24. Good reality check! This has certainly set my actions in motion…THANKS!

  25. Hi! I just read your article and it gave me some hope :) but I’m confused because my situation is different. I danced since I was seven till I was fifteen, then I quit because my teacher was a big time bully (a big portion of the school quit that year, to the point they had to close it down :S) and now I’ve returned to ballet after five years and am working on it 12 hours a week plus doing pilates 2 hours and stretching 2 hours. I can tell you that returnIng to ballet has been what I was missing so bad in my life the past few years. And I have always wanted to be a professional ballerina, but I want to know if that dream is still a possibility. Is it?

  26. Oh I I forgot to put I want to do classical ballet and I wanted to add that I did pointe four years…I don’t know if that matters?
    Thank you :)

    • Hi Majo,

      Being bullied by a teacher can definitely put a damper on someone’s desire to dance. It’s caused many dancers to quit but in other cases it’s only made the desire stronger.

      If I’m doing the math correctly, you are now 20 years old. It is very difficult to start a career in a professional ballet company at 20 or older if you have not been continuously training, moving up the ranks from a pre-professional school to apprenticeship, etc. Most dancers are doing this by age 16-20. You are putting in a good bit of time, but the quality of your current instruction and dancing plus the quality and level of proficiency you reached during your former instruction are factors in where you go from here (there’s no way for me make a judgement on this).

      In terms of this article, I don’t know if your situation is all that different, really! It still stands that you’re wasting energy calculating your chances. If you have any reason to doubt that your current instruction or level of working is not going to get you where you want to go, you’d actually know that better than I can guess. If you really want it, don’t ask; you’re losing time that you don’t have. Take action instead and don’t settle for anything that’s not getting you closer to your goal. And if, after all that work, it doesn’t get you there… have you really lost that much? Is it a dead end? I don’t think so. Just a road to somewhere new that maybe you wouldn’t have expected. Good luck to you!

      • Thank you :) I’m definitely trying harder! The school I’m in now is good so I’ll get good training for the moment. In march I am moving to buenos aires for college and will be attending a school there, I’ll se how that goes :) maybe I could try at the colon theatre ballet whose pre professional school starts between 18 and 22??
        in moments likes this I can’t help but feel a strong dislike for my previous teacher.
        Again thank you so much for the answer :)

        • Yes, I’d definitely investigate any pre-professional training options available. Audition and re-audition if you have to, pay close attention to any feedback you receive. And, don’t hold onto that past too tightly, but use it to propel you forward! All the best to you!

  27. I am a 42 year old autistic woman, and I first became interested in dance when I was 12. In ’81, I went to a local summer festival with my mom, and I saw a group of dancers about my age perform in an outdoor recital. I so wanted to be able to do that. My mom enrolled me Jazz and Tap at Golden’s School of Dance in Schaumburg, Illinois. Little did we know that I was doomed to fail, because…being the sedentary kid that I was, I never in my 12 years developed any of the movement skills I needed to learn dancing: flexibility, balance, coordination, strength, and fluidity. Also, I was dealing with undiagnosed autism. These obstacles were not understood…by anyone. All I knew was that I wanted to be like the other girls…and I couldn’t.

    We started with a beginner class, but it was too awkward to be the only 12 year old among toddlers. There was no other choice except advanced, or maybe it was intermediate.

    The intermediate class was an awful experience. I could not even begin to do the stretches. I did not fit in with the other girls, could not keep up with the class – one girl in particular was a bully – and I always felt unattractive and weird. Outside of class, I did not know how to practice by myself, and I went about it all wrong. My teacher kept telling me I needed to do my stretches, but they hurt so much, I couldn’t motivate myself to do them without guidance or friends. My mom kept urging me to put more effort, but I didn’t know how. In spite of all these disasters, I did manage to perform in a recital with the rest of the class. After lots of fights with my very supportive mom, we finally discontinued the classes in 1983. I felt bad that I could not pursue this dream after all my mom did to give it to me. She bought me the classes, drove me to them, made my recital costumes, went to my recital and cheered me on. She tirelessly encouraged me throughout the whole two years, and I just could not get it together, and neither of us understood why. I still feel bad.

    After struggling with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome all of my life, I was finally diagnosed in 2010. Now I’m unemployed. In my isolation and free time, I recently got inspired to take up dancing again. I think I was inspired by Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”, lol. I’ve given a lot of thought to why I failed at dancing (hence my bloggy response), and now I’m starting to confront all these obstacles with my new knowledge and insight.

    Now that I have the motivation and insight that I did not have as a child, I want to revisit my goal of becoming a dancer. I’m making the best of the resources I have – cable TV and internet workouts and lessons – to re-create my body. I’m still figuring out what work needs to be done, but in reading a lot of discouraging articles, I wonder if I will ever be able achieve an impressive level on my own.

    • Hi Aruna,

      I’m disheartened to find that you consider this article discouraging when it is ultimately meant to do the opposite. However, here and in your blog post you mention that you are trying to reach an “impressive level” of dance proficiency on your own, via cable TV and internet video, and I have to say that if that is what the article discourages you from, then I’m perfectly OK with that.

      That’s because no dancer or dance teacher worth their salt believes you can or will reach your full potential that way. Dance training requires feedback from a knowledgeable and outside eye, which you won’t get from any of the sources you mention. Videos can be very useful as supplementary insight as you pursue in-class training, or a fun way to get some exercise, but they do not stand alone as a learning tool.

      In your blog post you mention finances is the obstacle that’s keeping you from taking class and I can definitely sympathize. Taking classes each week is a financial commitment. But it’s also a commitment that serious dancers make. Dancers auditioning or in pick-up companies sometimes earn wages barely above poverty level and must take (and pay for) classes to stay in top form. They sacrifice much to do so. In addition to the ‘don’t contemplate, just do it’ message, another point in this article is that you’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes.

      You’ve overcome many obstacles before. I know you haven’t had the best in-class dance experiences but it’s worth another shot if you not only want to dance again, but grow and advance technically. Start with one class a week, even if you have to save and scrimp and plan ahead to do it. Observe at multiple studios before you enroll and find a teacher who is supportive and positive and who you think will be a good fit for you. Then, as I said in the final part of this article, enjoy dance for the love of it. You’ll reach a far more impressive level this way than you would trying to teach yourself. I wish you the very best!!

  28. Your piece is amazing! I’m 15, and I’ve been dancing ever since I could walk – I wanted to know if its necessary to know a lot of forms of dance to become a successful professional dancer? I’ve been doing jazz and hiphop, and I’m eager to learn as many styles of dance as I can, but do I still have a good chance of becoming a successful professional dancer if I only specialize in three to four styles?

    • Hi Dee, there’s no cut-and-dry answer to this question, but I think that versatile dancers definitely have more open to them in terms of work. Do they still specialize? Sure. But, having strong experiences in dance forms outside one’s specialty is a big plus. That’s even true for ballet specialists these days! The need for jazz and hiphop dancers to be versed in ballet and contemporary/modern dance, is a concept that we’ve seen played out on television quite a bit lately. Always work on your area of specialty, because it certainly pays to stand out when auditioning for your ideal jobs. However, continually look for ways to fill in the gaps in your experience so that you are more ‘marketable,’ or not at a disadvantage when auditioning for jobs outside your comfort zone. Best of luck!

  29. want to become professional in dance.would like to start my own institute after learning dance very well.

  30. Thank you so much for posting this. I just turned sixteen and I’ve been dancing all my life. I’ve received words of encouragement from countless people who see my potential as well as disheartening criticism that I’m not good enough for my age and that it is too late for me to ever go pro. As I learned more about the professional dance world and as I grew older, I began to worry more and more that I was hopeless. Still, I’d wonder about a few ballerinas that started late and still managed to land amazing careers. Your article has helped me to realize that because I truly love and need dance, I must keep working toward my dream no matter what. Because every moment I waste worrying could be used to work toward reaching my goal. And even if I don’t ever become a professional, my love of dance is a part of who I am. Who knows, maybe I can still make it. Misty Copeland did and she started at 13. “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are.” And like I said, even if I don’t, I want to go as far as I can possibly go because I love it.

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